It was one o’clock in the morning, and my daughter was stirring. I realized it wasn’t quite our wake-up time, and I sleepily picked her up. I could blame myself -- maybe she woke up after I gave her some ice cream last night or maybe her nighttime routine was off because of an impromptu trip to get said ice cream? Really it’s probably her molar teeth pushing through (growing up is hard work). At this time in our daughter’s life, my husband and I roll with the uncertainty.
I can tell you with all honesty that I used to dislike these middle of the night moments. Maybe even dreaded them. In my selfishness, I'm not a person that can operate well on a small amount of sleep. But also I'm a restorative person. What's wrong and how can I fix it? Not knowing this for my little one can send me into a tailspin. Why is she still crying? I gave her XYZ and that's always worked, or insert wise baby website here told me a solution.
Oh my stars, how my sweet mind has shifted, and by grace I've been given a new outlook. A few months ago, a wonderful woman asked me to think about my 80-year-old self. When I closed my eyes to envision this, I saw myself sitting next to my husband, and we were watching our family (children, their spouses, grandchildren) laughing loud and loving hard. I looked at my children's faces and saw joy. I looked at my husband and saw more than 50 years of better, worse, memories, hard work, commitment and dedication. I looked at my able body and saw a well-loved, yet fragile being. Then, the woman guiding me through this exercise asked me to open my eyes and journal about what I was doing today to get to that vision.
Deep breaths. Gracious me. What am I doing today to get me there? I started to look deeper at my vision. When I looked at my children and their spouses, I saw relationships thriving because we modeled marriage and therefore our children desired marriage. Likewise, when I looked at my children taking care of their own little ones, it told me that my husband and I modeled parenthood in such a way that our children wanted to lead a family. In my vision I also had an able body -- strong, nurtured and cared for. So what exactly was I doing every day to get to this vision?
I used to pack my personal schedule with things that made me feel like I was on a hamster wheel -- just striving to get somewhere but going nowhere. My family lacked my attention. I was nurturing things, not people. I was accumulating stuff, not cultivating relationships. I was focused on the next big thing, instead of the thing right in front of me. Being present sometimes meant having my phone in hand while responding to emails and texts or simply scrolling social media for a mindless break from it all. This 80-year-old self activity helped me to see that every decision I make is attached to an arrow, and I needed to ask myself- what direction were my arrows leading me?
Y'all. I'm not perfect, but since I walked through that activity, my life has changed. I make room for what matters most. My focus is on my husband and daughter, cultivating relationships with friends, working hard at my job, modeling self-care and serving in my community and at my church. I may be a little tired from middle of the night wake ups up with my little lady, but now I see it as getting extra time with her. I now try to put my phone away in our bedroom when I get home so I'm not distracted by the world when my world is right in front of me. I started to be more selective with my extra commitments because I knew those wouldn’t fulfill my 80-year-old vision. I continue to make healthy behavior and lifestyle choices so I'm preserving my body as best I can. I feel confident and unashamed in making these decisions, because I am making what matters happen. And friends, when I am 80, please just make sure I am dressed in a monogrammed sweater, still sweet and sassy, with a perfected recipe for shrimp and grits.
Rachel Anne Hopper serves as an associate director of housing and residence life at Texas Christian University. She has been part of the TCU family since 2007 holding multiple roles within the Office of Housing and Residence Life. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with friends and serving in her church and community, but most of all, she enjoys her moments with her family. Rachel lives with an attitude of grace, gratitude and grit, and believes she should end each day on empty- fully giving her all in every situation.