I have a memory that I keep in my heart and often bring to life. It is from long ago. My father and I are sitting in the kitchen of our home on Northdale Street, just the two of us in the quiet of night. I am six years old and he is thirty one. We are at the table drinking grape juice with only the night light on the stove providing illumination. We are smiling and laughing. It feels good to be there with him. I can tell that both of us are happy and content. I can’t remember our topic of conversation but that doesn’t seem to matter. I only recall feeling at peace and wanting to linger there just a bit longer.
I have had many such moments over the years when I wanted to stop the ticking of the clock so that I might have more time to enjoy a special moment. It seems as though the childhood of my two daughters sped by far too quickly. I loved the simple times that we shared especially in the lazy days of summer when we were able to sleep in and had entire days before us to roam and find adventure. I remember stopping with my friend Linda for shaved ice snow cones on Old Galveston Road after swim lessons and traveling with Mike and the girls to the mountains in our Chevy truck. There was the year when my children and I read A Tree Grows In Brooklyn and pronounced it our all time favorite novel with tears rolling down our cheeks. I laugh at the thought of the day when we so enjoyed the movie E.T. that we returned for a second screening after dinner so that we might share our new favorite film with Mike. I loved the evenings when I sat in the front yard watching all of the neighborhood children run and play until the moon and the stars came out while laughing at the stories and wisdom of my good friends, Carol and Betty. Those were some of the best times of my life and I often wish that I had lingered just a bit longer when I was in those moments.
I have been on vacation trips so incredible that I never again wanted to return home. Seeing a rainbow in Glacier National Park as we rounded a curve in the road brought me to tears. Walking with grandson Andrew along the beach in Chatham still makes me smile. Remembering the spiritual conversations that I shared with Jack under the ancient trees of Yosemite National Park is a priceless treasure. Watching Ben and Abigail play so joyfully in Central Park or Eli and Ian romping on a rocky beach near Seattle are pictures to comfort me even when times grow difficult. Ringing in the New Year in Austria with Monica and Franz comforted me at a time of change and loss. If I had the power I would have stretched out those hours so that they would not have gone by so quickly. I would have stopped the clock and lingered longer.
Have you ever noticed that when we are experiencing pain, suffering or death even the seconds seem to stall as if time has decided to stand still to mock our suffering? We feel as though we will surely collapse before our trials are over. It is then that we find solace in harking back to thoughts of the good things that we have experienced, They remind us that life always has a tendency to work its way back to joy. Sadly we can’t seem to stop the advance of the hours when we are the happiest but we can bring pleasant images to mind anytime we want or need to do so.
We have no guarantees of what tomorrow or even the next minute will bring but we always have our memories. Even those who become afflicted with Alzheimers are often able to recall the distant past even when they no longer remember what happened only days before. Perhaps it is the mind’s way of helping us to cope. By thinking of the beauty and blessings we have known in the past it becomes easier to deal with even a difficult present.
When I was a very young and inexperienced teacher I often judged the success or failure of my day on the basis of how many bad events had occurred. I did that as a young mother as well. Over time I became happier and more productive by instead harking back to the positive things that had occurred. As I reflected on them I realized how much more often they occurred than the horrors. All and all if we linger just a bit longer when we are enjoying life that moment will imprint on our brains and serve us well in the future.
We all have many struggles that overwhelm us. We grow fearful and sad. We wish for success, money and good health. We run in a rat race and accumulate possessions that ultimately grow old and worn. We soon realize that our happiest times are often so simple: seeing our babies for the first time, getting an unexpected hug or kiss, laughing until the wee hours with friends, feeling rain on our faces, reaching the top of a mountain. Our stresses usually come from forgetting to linger longer in a joyful moment.
A good friend recently wrote a blog dedicated to showing young mothers how to give themselves the gift of enjoyment in the moment. Perhaps each of us should begin a daily ritual in which we set aside a few minutes to be totally free of any but beautiful thoughts. It may be exercise that brings us to our happy place or music or even reading from a special book. We can meditate or write in a journal. Sometimes just sitting in silence is all that we need. We owe it to ourselves to take the time to linger longer. The more we do this, the easier it will become to relax and be present in an untroubled state of mind.
I must admit that I am someone who too often measures the merit of a day by the number of my accomplishments. I have difficulty slowing my pace and relaxing to the point of inactivity. I often feel that I am being selfish to lavish the gift of time on myself but I know full well that it is one of the best things that I might do. In being wholly in a relaxed state of mind I find clarity of purpose and energy to face any problems before me. I in fact become far more productive and tend to stew less over my own predicaments. I give myself oxygen first so that I will be useful to others who may need my help.
Find those triumphant memories that bring a smile to your face. Let them envelop you until you are certain that you will always remember how good they felt. Carry them with you as reminders that you have lived a good life and that you have been, are and will always be loved. Accept the offers of friendship and caring that are extended to you. Don’t be afraid. Just be sure to immerse yourself in happiness and linger just a bit longer.