Photo by Alex Blăjan
I was chatting with a Dad at his son’s birthday the other day, and we discussed how quickly the last four years had gone, but then how it also seemed just like yesterday when we were in the local maternity ward. And I heard that old saying reverberate in my head, ‘The days are long but the years are short’. The proverb frequently offered to us by well meaning older people to try and soften the blow of the everyday. But it’s true. Four years have flown by. I have a beautiful, intelligent, cheeky 4 year old girl, but I don’t have 4 years, or even a years worth of memories.
Why? The everyday. The everyday that often begins before the birds are up and ends well after they’ve nested for the evening. The everyday where the weight of parenting, the pressure and responsibility of raising two children, sometimes feels far too heavy. I often catch myself watching the clock, counting down to school time, or bedtime. It’s hard work. And when i’m offered some version of ‘the days are long but the years are short’ I can be less than receptive!
The everyday grind does something to me. It dulls my senses and has me rushing robot-like through the days chores. Life passes me by. If i’m not careful, I’ll go to sleep in February and wake up in December.
But occasionally I get it. I get what the well meaning older version of me is trying to say. Sometimes after a long day, when I just need a moment of silence, I get it. I notice something. Usually something small, barely perceptible, and for a second or two I am there, in the moment. Present. Not wishing for it to be gone. Not wishing for them to be older. Or the day to end.
- The way the sand feels between my toes, gritty and cleansing
- The way my older daughter flinched and caught her sister in the waves at the beach.
- The feeling of the dirt between my fingernails and how I’ve grown to love it
- A clean face that only an hour ago hosted smears of icecream and smiles
- The way the trees in the backyard filter the sunlight.
I get that it’s these small moments that count. Each one, builds upon another, to create a week, a year, a lifetime of moments.
When we are present for them. Because when we are present for our moments our memory bank fills up.
Mindfulness techniques have been associated with improved memory ability in multiple studies. A review of 22 studies on mindfulness and it’s effects found that the early phases of mindful meditation practices (those that teach individuals to focus attention) could enhance our working memory and some executive functions.
I don’t know about you, but I want a full memory bank. I despise the fact that I can’t remember many of the milestone moments in my children’s lives. Like the moments either of them said their first discernible word, or when they starting crawling.
I’ve lived so many years of my one and only life in a blur. A fog. Life has carried on around me. I’ve let life wash my downstream, usually without the energy to even try and grab a branch. I’ve accepted my ‘lot’ and lived many many ‘groundhog’ days. Wishing and hoping for better, or more, but not changing anything.
I remember a few points in the last 40 years where I’ve managed to pop my head above water and realise with utter horror that several years have passed. Gone, barely traceable and completely irretrievable.
The pace of life around me is too fast for me now and more and more I find myself craving small moments. I find peace in a moment. A moment where if I ground myself in it, and not the past or present, it will last. The moment will imprint in my brain and be available for loan from my memory bank later.
But I didn’t one day wake up this new mindful, aware person, noticing all the tiny but important moments. Nope. Unfortunately not. It does take a bit of grit to get there. But now that I’ve seen the power of a tiny moment I know what I prefer.
I want to notice the small things that life has to offer. The little moments that carve out the weeks and years. I want to be present for them. To be fully engaged in my life now, not a bystander and certainly no longer willing to be carried downstream to wherever life wanted to take me.
These are the five things i’m doing in 2018 to make it my most memorable year yet.
- Utilizing guided meditation. I have the Mindspace app on my phone and i’m halfway through the introduction set. These guided meditations are only 3 minutes long. It’s hard not to find a spare 3 minutes in your day!
- Thinking small. I don’t want to think big this year. I want to think small. To notice all the little teeny tiny things in my life. This is just one of the mantras or mindsets that I want to carry with me through the year.
- Mindful seeing exercise. All you need is a window with a view. You look outside and without labeling or categorizing anything you notice colors patterns and textures and shapes. The key is trying to notice the view from someone who is unfamiliar with it.
- Five senses exercise. I was introduced to this by my friend who is a psychologist after telling her about recent panic attacks. This mindfulness technique is very useful for people suffering from anxiety. You simply stop whatever you are doing and ask yourself what you see, feel, hear, smell, and taste.
- Gratitude. I really want to work on my gratitude practice this year. It takes less that 5 minutes to jot down three things i’m grateful for in my diary every night when I hop into bed. This practice helps us to intentionally recall moments from our day, strengthening those memory muscles. And it also gives perspective. It’s not hard, even after a bit of a shit day, to be grateful for the clean air to breath, the trees in my yard, and my healthy family.
I hope you can be encouraged to start you new year by thinking of the small moments and doing what you can to make this your most memorable year yet!