"The happiest of lives, seen in retrospect, is but a collection of odd little moments."
I don't remember the author of this quote, one of my favorites. But I do remember the moment I first saw it. It was one of three quotes, written in elegant calligraphy on a postcard, sent by my then principal who, though not given to intimate conversations, was obviously concerned about my emotional state at that time. In the throes of a devastating divorce and wallowing in self-pity, I was sure I would never be happy again. And, I am embarrassed to admit, I let everyone around me know it! Ad nauseum!
This quote in particular, and the fact that this reserved woman had sent it, caught me up short. That night I began to capture the odd little moments of the day that might give me, even for a second, the hope that I could be happy again one day. Night after night I persisted, not noticing that eventually, the little lists developed into a gratitude practicel.
In the almost 40 years that have passed, I have continued to list the odd little moments, sometimes in a journal dedicated only to that. Sometimes I've included them in my daily journal. Sometimes at night, sometimes the next day, but rarely with a lapse of a couple days. During the happiest periods of my life, during the difficult - the suicide of a friend, the death of my parents, Cat Scratch Fever (yes, there is such a thing), my cancer, John's. During all the transitions. Some days it was a stretch to recall even one positive moment, let alone the minimum of three I set myself. Some days I could, and do, list ten.
These days, when I am learning to deal with issues related to the short term memory lapses that develop with aging - where did I put my glasses, what's that actor's name, why did I come into this room, etc., etc., - remembering these special little moments has taken on a new relevance. (It's not my memory that's going, it's just the retrieval mechanism that falters now and then.) And oddly enough, these little moments can come more easily. Sometimes almost unbidden, reminding me that I've been blessed. Odd little moments, like -
- digging a tunnel in the snow drifts of my childhood
- being asked to sing for a Halloween treat
- hunting for Easter eggs
- holding my baby sister for the first time
- winning an oratorical contest
- being elected to the prom court - yup, me!
- coming upon a tree laden with blue birds and years later, another laden with monarchs
- waking up from a tent in Alaska and seeing the top of Mt. McKinley, quickly covered by a layer of clouds
- my first piece of Godiva chocolate
- the moment I met John
- the first time he said, "I love you"
- hugging a tree
- bursting into tears at the sight of the David
- stumbling, almost literally and certainly unexpectedly, on a relative in the Sicilian hometown of my grandparents
- flying in a helicopter down the face of a waterfall in Kauai
- holding my breath as a butterfly rested upon my hand
- the news that I was cancer free
- the news that John was cancer free
I keep a list of the most significant of these moments handy because it can be too easy to remember old hurts, or dwell on current aches and pains, or worry about future loss and decline. Far too easy.
* Does anyone recognize this quote, and it's author?