I often find myself wondering just how many people go through the events of everyday life on autopilot. How many people can remember the little details of watching their children grow? Can they remember that the sun was shining, or what the breeze felt like on their faces as they watched their children hunt for eggs at an Easter party? Do they remember in detail the way their children smiled and squealed? When a wife or husband dies suddenly, does the spouse remember the way the other smiled as if they were there again? Can they almost feel the warmth of their body when they had embraced? I wonder how many people end up wishing they had paid better attention to the finer details in life. I took my children to the park one beautiful fall evening and taught myself a very important lesson. As I watched my children run to the playground at my apartment complex, and as an unemployed single mother and full time student, I found myself thinking about how I was going to pay this months bills, what was I going to make for dinner, and how I was going to get enough energy to write the English Composition Paper that was due tomorrow. It saddened me when I realized how fast they were growing up and how I was missing it! Then it hit me like a lead brick! I had been so worried about the stressful little details of my life that I couldn’t remember the important details of my children’s lives! You know the details that make up our memories! I couldn’t remember the expression on my daughter’s face when she opened up her presents at her last birthday party. I realized really fast that I was missing out on these things as if I hadn’t been there simply because I was too busy just trying to survive my life instead of really living it. I was on auto-pilot and didn’t even realize it until I snapped myself out of it!
I made a deal with myself. I told myself that I had to stop in moments like this, actually live in the moment, and pay attention to the more important details in life. I forced myself to feel the cool breeze that gently brushed my face and contrasted with the warm sun which tickled at my skin. I listened intently to my children’s laughter, to their squeals, and to my son talking and cooing softly to himself! My five-year-old daughter Grace had made her way to the swing set as I sat down on the hard and cool metal park bench. She was pumping her little legs and swinging back and forth as high as she could. Her long, shiny brown hair trailed behind her like a silken scarf on a breezy day. As she was looking up at the autumn sky with her crystal blue eyes, I remember thinking, she’s been through so much in the few years she’s been here and yet she looks so relaxed. As I sat watching Grace I heard my three-year-old daughter Abigail let out a squeal as she flung herself upside down on the monkey bars. While she was still upside down she was just letting her body swing back and forth with the most wicked and happy grin on her face as her curly brown hair bounced wildly! “Watch me Mommy!” she squealed as she sat up and did it again as her black-brown eyes danced with life! The thought that immediately came to mind was this one is going to be my wild child! At that moment, my twenty-month-old son Joseph jabbered something softly to himself as he grabbed a fistful of the warm sand he was sitting in, and was letting it sift softly through his tiny hands. I could almost see his mind working under his bleach-blonde hair as his blue eyes watched the sand flow from his fingers as it sparkled in the sunlight. I instantly knew that someday I was going to miss days like this when their innocence won’t flow as freely.
Later on as we walked back to the apartment I noticed just how at peace I felt. For once I didn’t feel as if the weight of the entire world surrounded me. I mind felt clear and I was happy for the first time in a long time! I realized that as we get older, because we worry so much about every detail in our lives, we forget how to stop and just enjoy the moments in life that now seem like a gift to me. Children come by this naturally, but as we become adults we have to be consciously aware of it. I remember that day, and many other’s, in detail to this day because as I was living the moment I paid attention to every detail of the experience. I engrained the memory in my mind. I remember exactly how my children smiled, the fine lines in their faces, the way their laughs sounded, the way the sun and breeze felt as I watched them play. You see, memories are like photographs in our minds in that if we pay close enough attention to the details of the moment and engrain them into our minds, those memories will become a permanent photo in our minds to be held in the album that, when we are older, will be defined as our life. I know that day will always be with me in my mind, even when my children no longer are. I routinely find myself storing away details. Whether it is the way my husband’s body feels when he is curled around me or the look on his face when he smiles at me, and even the silly things my children do or say. We only get moments like that once and you can either keep them forever or forget them. Sure, we can go through life wishing we could do this or that to live our life better and with more freedom and fun! If we dwell on the way our lives aren’t instead of enjoying the way are life is we won’t be able to look back and remember the times we wished we could have back, simply because we spent so much of our lives focusing on what we didn’t have to enjoy making the memories that will last a lifetime! So here is my challenge to you, don’t worry so much about the ‘what ifs’ in your life, and find the good in the life you have and take as many mental photographs as you can. Someday the memories might be all you have.