A few weeks ago, out of the blue, I had the idea to make a list of moments in my life I’d like to go back and experience again. I guess that is in keeping with my penchant for waxing nostalgic; I have written frequently about how much I enjoy reminiscing about life events spanning childhood through five minutes ago. Perhaps I was born a memoirist- I have found that preserving and documenting memories, and later pulling them out on a whim, is one of my favorite things to do.
Ever since I was struck by this epic inspiration, I have been mulling over which memories would make the “Do-Over List.” Some of these moments were obvious: my wedding day, the moment I met my daughters for the first time, (preferably ten seconds after pushing them out of my body- the preceding hours I could do without.) my husband’s proposal, and others were more subtle, and would likely not mean anything to anyone other than me. But I noticed a common thread- the experiences I wished I could relive were all moments in which I felt thrillingly, unmistakably alive.
Several of them, like the more traditional moments listed above, had a lifelong impact on me, and were clear turning points in my life. Others were nothing more than a night of intense laughter, or reckless hedonism, or indulgent frivolity. But I return to those memories because, for whatever reason, in that instant they filled me to the brim with vibrancy.
- A night of talking all night with my college roommate, taking turns reading our writing aloud to each other.
- Stumbling upon a restaurant with an incredible backyard, filled with outdoor toys and a live bluegrass band- dancing with my preschooler while sipping a lavender-infused vodka lemonade. (yum!)
- The first vacation I can remember being old enough to wander freely around the lake resort with my cousins- high on the experience of exploring with freedom.
- Sunbathing in the backyard of my childhood home with my mom, listening to the Indigo Girls and spraying lemon juice in my mousy brown hair.
Suspending reality for the purpose of speculation, should I be granted my cerebral vacation and allowed to re-experience the events on my “Do-Over List,” I would want to recapture them exactly as they occurred. I would preserve the authenticity of my memory and change nothing. Perhaps it should be called a “Do-Again List” instead.
If I could go back and do something over, I would simply do it again– I wouldn’t do anything differently.
I would highly recommend, just as a fun exercise, that everyone make a “Do-Again List”- the caveat is that you choose moments you’d like to re-live, but not situations you wish you had done differently.
- Your first kiss (or at least the first one that didn’t completely suck)
- A favorite family vacation
- A surprise party your friends threw for you
- A concert or play you were in, in which the audience was blown away; or for those who are less athletically disgraceful- a winning play… or something that sounds more sports-y.
What moments shaped you? Which memories do you ache to experience just one more time? And why would you want to go back there?
This brings me to a question I ask myself frequently- Why exactly do I find it so fulfilling and enjoyable to get lost in my memories? Some of them happened many years ago, but I find just as much satisfaction from perusing a photo album from a year or two ago and gushing over how much my children had grown, and how edible/brilliant/gorgeous/breathtaking they were at that stage.
Does that mean that I have a hard time staying in the moment? Do most parents have a hard time staying in the moment, and if so, why is that? I find it equally tempting to list the moments that I am looking forward to- the next vacation, holiday, date night, visit from my parents…
I think for me, a vague sense of underlying anxiety permeates my life as a parent- Am I doing this right? It often feels that there is so much at stake in all of our daily choices- and at times, there is. When I look back at photos of my wedding day, or even my natural labor and childbirth, I have the luxury of knowing that it all turned out OK. In each of those scenarios, the sense of “aliveness” was pulsating in every second. It was thrilling to be there, participating in events that would alter me forever.
But when I look back at these memories, I have the benefit of knowing “how they end.” Think about it- have you ever enjoyed watching a movie for the second time, because you knew you could relax a little bit, not having to sit on the edge of your seat and bite your nails? You can still savor the action/plot twists/hot actors, but you don’t have the stress of wondering whether everybody dies at the end.
I think that’s why it is so rewarding for me to reflect on past experiences with my children; the pressure is off for me to not f*ck it up. This makes me worry a little- am I cheating myself out of the opportunity to be truly present with my kids in the moment, because I am preoccupied with how the story ends?
So I’ve invented a little exercise to help remind me to stay present when I am on an adventure with my family- be it at the grocery store or on a Disney Cruise (sigh!) Sometimes I have a hard time moving beyond the chaos, or overcoming the frustration that this “epic family memory” isn’t going as planned thanks to somebody’s meltdown or bathroom emergency. The next time I am in the moment, actually making memories, I am going to pretend that I know how the story ends- peacefully, smoothly, and happily. Perhaps if I tell myself, “This is all going to turn out all right,” it will take the pressure off and allow me to savor the moment more thoroughly.
If I were a teacher, here is the homework I would give you:
- Make your own “Do-Again” list and try to figure out which moments you’d like to revisit and why.
- Try to transcend your daily stresses by pretending you have already “seen the movie” and you know how this episode of “Going Hiking With My Kids” ends- beautifully.
On an exciting note, one moment that definitely made my list was my Listen To Your Mother Denver experience… and the You Tube Channel is now live! You can check out my video here: (she suggested nervously)
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