Make Life Memorable
Vanderkam’s next lesson centers on creating moments that warrant great memories. This is my specialty. As a photographer, I’m constantly looking for ways to document my kids in a unique and beautiful way as a creative outlet. It brings me joy.
In recent years, I’ve heard some speak out against the curated versions of life people share on social media. I don’t subscribe to this belief, instead I believe that social media users who share the most beautiful parts of their lives are doing their part to commemorate the things they want to remember. I hope that seeing the images I share brings you joy and inspires you to create and document your life, but more importantly, I adore looking back at our posts from a year ago or more. Facebook has done an amazing job with its Timehop feature.
‘If it brings you joy, celebrate it!,’ is my motto. Upon reading this chapter of her book, it helped me voice my thoughts here a bit better.
Our Three Selves
One of her most poignant points for me was when Vanderkam outlined that we each have three ‘selves’: the past self (which we remember fondly with nostalgia), the present self (which for me is often running late and short on patience), and the future self (which I idealize as having more time and energy). She says, “Bliss is possible in the past and in the future, but seldom in the present.” This seems so basic and obvious when I read it, but again and again I plan events and then am disappointed by the outcome, hurt that my children didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought they would , annoyed that my husband would hardly try whatever new dish I’ve made, and frustrated at myself for ‘losing it’ over something that should not get the best of me. But this lesson reminds me to give myself grace. Give it time for the memory to form–for the very best of the moment to rise to the top and stay at the forefront of my mind. I try to find gratitude in the parts that went well and dwell on the positives. So the lesson, I’ve realized, it to go ahead and plan the event, load the kids up in the car, pack the snacks and the sunscreen and the towels and the water toys and the snacks and the water and the camera. Forgive yourself for yelling at the kid that forgot their shoes, and know that what you are doing is beautiful. Or will be one day when you look back and remember the warm sun on your body, you’ll laugh at the thought of a kid without shoes hopping around on the sand, you’ll remember cold watermelon and the sound of squeals and laughter and the rest will fade away.
I recently attended a discussion at our church with our youth pastor about raising great kids in society today and he lamented a recent lock-in at the church where he had to reprimand several junior high kids sternly. He remembered this moment at the event with frustration, but the kids recounted the lock-in as awesome and a highlight event of their time at church. We all frame and remember things differently. We get the opportunity to curate memories for ourselves and, to a certain extent, our children–through photography or scrapbooking or journaling or home videos–synthesizing down the hours of time that could be mundane into distinct points of memory. And I think we can help our children foster this skill with a gratitude practice. After most vacations, or even at random times during the summer, I have the kids draw or paint their favorite parts of a trip or an adventure we had. I include these drawings in our family yearbooks (note to self: add a photo of this to this post).
For some events that are traumatic or tragic, every detail may be seared into our memory forever. But for the things that we do have control over, we can choose to curate adventures and memories to build a life worth looking back on with gratitude and love.
Think back, what memories are most vivid for you? What events stand out about the last few weeks? Do you remember them fondly?