2016: beautiful, amazing, difficult and I don’t remember most of it.
I think sometimes our memories distort the truth. There is the story we tell ourselves and then there is what actually happened. I am willing to bet that the majority of the 365 days of your 2016 were filled with a multitude of tiny, beautiful, amazing moments…and you don’t remember most of them.
This past week we were up north staying with my parents for a few days for Christmas. While we were there I wanted to pull out some old home movies. I have memories and feelings from growing up, but it’s always good to see what reality looked like. So, I pulled out some of the home movies from 1990–1994. I would have been aging from 11–14. Amazing years for any kid who is moving from being a child that is a product of your parents into starting to have your own identity. Plus, 1990–1994 was the best 4 years of music since the 60’s, but that’s just my opinion. (Seriously…look at this list, it’s insane how many great albums came out during those years).
Back to the home movies, there was footage of family Christmases, grandma and grandpa’s anniversary parties, shots of the old house we lived in, the normal family stuff. Then, mixed into these family videos were “movies” that I had made. There was one where I convinced my sister and cousins to make this movie about a genie, complete with commercials. Another was of my friend Shawn and me pretending to be on the show “Cops”. There were houses being built all around where I grew up so we would sneak into those houses and pretend to do a drug bust. Another was just me holding a classical guitar, lip syncing to a song from a band called Sometime Sunday (Think Christian Pearl Jam rip off band). Complete with guitar solo. One more was of me spending a good 15 minutes fighting “invisible fighters”. I wanted to be a stunt man back then, and this could have been my audition tape. I don’t really remember making any of them. Especially the genie movie. I spent a whole day creating a movie with my cousins and sister at my grandmas house and I have no recollection of it. Nothing. That’s too bad because it looked really fun!
The things I remember about myself during these years are that I was shy, that I didn’t want to upset my parents or teachers, and that I was a good little boy who did what he was told. I didn’t want to rock the boat. As I pushed play on these old videos, what I saw was not the story or even the feelings I remember. I saw a confident, enthusiastic, sometimes annoying (I was 13, give me a break!), super creative kid who was loving his life. He wasn’t shy or embarrassed about anything that I could tell. There were definitely a few traumatic events sprinkled throughout those years, but they were not the norm. The norm was a loving and creative childhood where I was allowed to create in a safe environment. The problem with the brain is that negative things imprint immediately and we barely even remember the positive things.
I heard about an exercise that said to really remember a positive experience you have to focus on it for 15 seconds or more with no distractions. I have tried to make it a habit to actually stop and listen to the kids when they are playing or even arguing in the other room. I have even counted to 15 as I listen, to try and make these moments imprint. We really have to focus on the positive to train our brains to think that way. Then contrast that to the one negative comment someone makes about you or your work and in half a second you remember it for the rest of your life.
The point is this, 2016 was an amazing year. You will probably be able to easily recall some tough times, there were probably a few, yep that’s life. What you won’t naturally remember are the 37 Tuesdays where you sat down for dinner with your family and smiled and laughed about the day. You probably won’t easily remember that funny thing your dad said the last time you saw him. You probably won’t remember that perfect dinner you had with your wife back in January. You probably won’t remember that hi-five somebody gave you at the right time on a random Monday afternoon in April last year. But all those things were there staring you in the face.
This year, when those good things happen, breath them in. Try to focus on them for 15 seconds or more and let your brain soak them in so you will actually remember them. They are what life is actually made of. Those moments are the fabric, those moments are reality. Cheers to the multitude of beautiful little things that will happen in 2017, enjoy it.