When my daughter was a baby she napped in the stroller. One time. This may stand out in my memory because it was so unusual. Or because I savored that wonderfully long nap in a babyhood troubled by chronic illness. But I think it’s because I consciously chose to hold on to the memory.
That day I pulled the stroller gently into the backyard. Tiny spring wildflowers sprouted everywhere in the expanse of weeds we called a lawn. The honey locust trees were in bloom, making the air smell particularly sweet. As I sat there watching my oldest child play and my daughter sleep, an ice cream truck passed a few streets away, adding a magical tune to the afternoon. The springtime smells, the sun shining on my little boy, the soft untroubled look on my baby’s face, the complete peace of sitting on the back step are still with me.
Our lives are stitched together by what we notice and remember. Look back at any particular phase of your life. What you recall is constructed from what you paid attention to. Each moment there are sights, sounds, tastes, thoughts and feelings unique to your experience. The way you pay attention to those elements forms your memories. The shocking part? Looking back and realizing how few rich and full memories we really form.
That’s because we only really latch on to memories when we pay attention. When we’re engaged in the moment. Recall the last really memorable meal you had. It probably wasn’t one you ate in the car or standing at the kitchen counter. It was one you savored with full awareness of flavor, texture, scent. Most likely there were other important elements as well. Perhaps it was a meal shared with a new friend or made from a challenging cookbook. Perhaps it was a last meal you had before a loved one passed away, a meal you now try reconstruct in detail.
It’s easier than ever to miss our own lives. I’m guilty. Large chunks of mine have drifted by unheeded. Sure I was there. But I was distracted. I was multitasking. I was rummaging around in the past or fussing over the future rather than paying attention to the moment.
I won’t delude myself into believing that I have the capacity to stay in the moment. But I can try. And because my daughter has just come into the room I’ll be turning from the computer now to hear about her day.
Maybe Next Time courtesy of PORG