When I came home tonight, I had an email from the mother of my boyhood friend. So strange to hear from her after all of this time. What, maybe ten even fifteen years. And I wasn’t entirely sure how she found my email address, but I was so incredibly happy to hear from her. Her note, maybe only three lines, cracked me up, starting with, “Do you still make houses out of cardboard boxes in the basement and hop over the fence on Walden Place to go to our house?” It reminded me of a time when people weren’t consumed with discussing the economy and ten o’clock seemed really late. A time when I could wade down the creek all day, making up stories and coming home to my mother’s delicious chicken a la king out of a can with a finale of an ice cream sandwich. I remembered back to when as an only child, my parents were the first to divorce out of anyone I knew and going to my friends house, filled with kids and cats, laughter and shouting and always sticky counter tops, I felt as if I had a family. Not mine, but I fit in somehow. And then the memories just came flooding in, of Halloweens and ghost stories and pizza on Friday nights and sleepovers with games of Monopoly until three in the morning when his mom would come in and tell us we were rolling the dice too loud. We grow up too quick. We grew up too quick. But the reality is, I have almost just as amazing times now as well. Now I eat chicken fingers and spinach dip with my friends after going dancing, and I drive to the casino with my wiser friend listening to The Body Heat soundtrack, coming up with strange book ideas. I laugh so hard at my own stupidity with my friends and plan trips for the future to Vegas and Hawaii.
In the last year, with my mother’s death, one no one saw coming, I have realized how entirely short life is and that as she often said, we’re on borrowed time. It’s these wonderful moments that make us embrace tomorrow in hopes of living better and enjoying more. But in this sorrowful economical crisis, which quite frankly I’m tired of hearing about, it should make us all focus on the free moments that don’t cost a thing. The times when our children jump over fences to their friend’s houses or stand in front of the house waiting for the bus in the dark before Spring comes to town. These are the things that truly matter, not the Rolex watches and Prada handbags. All of those things are wonderful, sure, but do they really amount to anything. Really?
So I’m incredibly thankful for this small gift I received tonight. Because it’s put me back on track and reminded me of what really is important. My mother’s wishes for her funeral were simple, written on a small piece of paper with a smiley face and pinned to a vintage 60’s Indian beaded dress. “Put me in this dress, with a garland of daisies in my hair and sing Moon River with a guitar at my grave site, please.” Well, she got her wish. What are the simple things we want, or forgot that we wanted, that we aren’t chasing anymore.
As therapists, we focus much too much attention on the negative memories of the past indicating they have more significance than the pleasant memories. If you are following my blog, you know that I like to give assignments. From now on, everyone should get a journal and keep their assignments in their journal, as a written collage of their collective thoughts and dreams, something to look back on and be proud. After reading this, write down several happy and joyous, specific memories from your past. Things that make you smirk, or even tear up a little bit because you forget them. It doesn’t matter if the list if six or twenty, what is important is that they say something to you. They speak of who you were, or more importantly, who you remain.