So, I’m a little obsessed with striving to be an thoroughly observant person. I hate it when I miss something in any and all situations, no matter how subtle. You know those magazine brain teasers? The ones where there are two almost identical photos, with slight changes? Your job is to notice and get all the differences between the two images. If I miss one, I feel like I’ve let myself down! Yeah, really. Like I said, I’m a little obsessed.
This push to never miss a single little thing comes from my personal fears. I am the granddaughter and daughter of men who grappled with Alzheimer’s disease in the latter years of their lives. I don’t recall a time in my life when I wasn’t aware of the fact that people I came from and loved somehow forgot where they were, who they were and who their loved ones were. It’s the thing that haunts me, hurts me and drives me to obsessive observance.
I carry two calendars with me at all times: an electronic one in my phone and a paper one. I make daily to-do lists and check them over and over again. I journal regularly about the events and feelings I experience in my daily life, as a way to memorialize them permanently. And, just last week, when my very pregnant brain totally forgot my acupuncture appointment, I was incapable of simply shrugging and blaming “my failure” on pregnancy. Instead, I’ve been closely watching myself for a week for signs of forgetfulness. Yeah, really. I’m that obsessive.
These are the unpleasant aspects of being driven to forget nothing. But, having sharp observational skills isn’t all bad. I’m very aware and have a sharp ability for noticing details. I have a photographic memory and can recall tiny little memories and facts about beautiful (and mournful) moments of my life, which makes me a very self aware and emotionally intuitive person. I’m the holder and keeper of all useful information, for not only me, but my husband as well. And I often impress friends and family with my keen memory of the old, faded and often insignificant things that happened more than two decades ago. “You have such a good memory!!” people marvel and exclaim.
So, to recap, I can remember stuff. What was missing was me truly noticing all the small, quiet, good and happy things that happen on daily basis. We all experience these small and seemingly insignificant joys throughout the day that bring us happiness and make the day better: a favorite song played on the radio; a few moments of peace in the middle of a crazy day; a stranger smiling and complimenting a well-put-together outfit as we walk by. These little things happen, bring us joy in that moment, and are then usually promptly forgotten forever. Why? Because we’re wired to hold on to the big stuff and, unfortunately, the bad stuff. But tiny l
ittle joys and fleeting moments of happiness we let go of.
A year ago I decided to focus on the small and simple, and to never taking anything joyous for granted again.
Next to my bed, I now keep a small beautiful glass jar, a pen and a box of notes decorated with Eiffel Towers (being a Francophile brings me joy daily of course). At the end most days, as I prepare to go to bed, I take a minute to write a list of the little things that brought a smile to my face on that particular day. They’re not ever the big things, and that’s on purpose. The list is meant to honor the quiet moments, the stuff that my brain might not keep a record of for the long haul. Some might call this a “blessings jar”. I call it my “good things” jar.
When this year began, I spent a gray morning reading my tiny little folded messages from the not too distant past. And guess what: magic happened. Those otherwise insignificant and long forgotten moments of joy came rushing back, warming my heart and making me happy once again that I am obsessively aware and observant about all that goes on around me. Yeah, really. I’m a little obsessed, and that can be a good thing.
Don’t just hold on to the big moments, the obvious times of happiness. And, definitely don’t just hold on to what hurts and teaches a valuable, if sad, lesson. Try to find a way to revisit the small things, the fleeting moments, those little times that make you smile, make you dance and bring you joy for a second before passing and becoming forgotten. Do it, not because you’re a little obsessed like me, but because it will enrich your life.