When my eldest was little, probably around two and a half, I took him to an amusement park about two hours away. We went, just us, and spent the day wandering around doing whatever we wanted. Of course there were lots of crazy-long lines and super overpriced food, but there were also lots of sweet moments in the midst of the crowds.
(Mind you….this was WAY BACK when with my first and only child…when I had energy and stamina and could go more than 1.5 hours without a bathroom break. This was when I was super mom and looked for awesome things to enrich my child’s life. My other two children did not, sadly, receive super-mom treatment. They got “mom-playing-zone-defense-and-surviving-but-loving-it mom.)
One of the last things we did was ride the Balloons. It was just some brightly painted fake baskets that were attached to big bulbous hot-air-balloon type things and they twirled around a center pole in a circle some distance from the ground. Not super exciting, but perfect for a little one. Anyway, as we circled around with the wind blowing in our faces, my baby boy laid his head against my arm and said, “This my best day, Mommy. This my best day.”
When I think back on that day (which is usually when that now-teenager is expressing his disdain for my very existence) I think it’s pretty interesting how that little boy focused on what was beautiful and fun to him. He doesn’t remember the huge pressing crowds. He doesn’t remember the long hideous lines or the lack of seating at restaurants. He doesn’t remember sobbing in utter exhaustion on the two hour ride home because we were utter toast. Instead, his memory extracted and fixed on the “best” moments. Even days and weeks later he referred to his “best day” and told people about the amazing balloons.
Have you ever been given the question: “What was the best day of your life?”
Top responses to this include things such as:
“The day my child was born.”
“The day I married my spouse.”
“The day I graduated from college.”
“The day I sold my first book.”
….or some variation thereof.
But here’s the thing. If we could go back and truly re-live every second of those days….I don’t really think that the entire day would be the greatest!
Let me explain.
I love my boys. Lots. But the actual day of their birth was more painful and exhausting than it was awesome. Sure….it is a beautiful miracle….but it freaking hurts. And my firstborn was 6 weeks early so I was terrified. My second came a bit early and it was 3 in the morning and I was referee-ing family at the same time I was birthing a baby and it was not overly pleasant. I was happy they each boy was here, but scared to death as they were whisked off by the doctors to the NICU and the nursery. Those days? Truly not my favorite. But…I remember a time after each of them had gotten home and were relatively out-of-danger, when I had physically recovered and had several successful diaper changes, when I could pause and savor their little fingers….and that was the sweet best moment.
My daughter is one of the most precious blessings in my life….and I knew that from the start…but the day I saw her was not a “best day.” She was not happy to meet me. She was scared and–frankly–so was I. The first four weeks after bringing our daughter home from Guatemala she cried. Literally. Nonstop One of the workers at our house actually quit because she “Couldn’t stand the noise.” But I remember a little over a month later, cuddling on the couch with my three children and having them all happily watching some silly show and laughing together….and that was the sweet best moment.
So maybe a “best day” is really when the sweet moments outweigh the bitter ones. Or maybe a “best day” is when something happens that ends up eventually being one of your most precious memories. I just don’t think it’s a day where all 1,440 minutes are bliss-filled and wonderful. But just stop for a minute and think of how a child’s mind might comprehend it; they have the ability to focus in on a beautiful moment and allow the preciousness of that small chunk of time to melt outward and color the moments and hours surrounding it. In other words, a marginal day with an amazing moment can become a “super good day” in their memory.
What if we, as adults, consciously tried to do this? What I mean is…what if we purposefully scrolled through everything that happened to us in a 24 hour period and deliberately picked out the good moments? What if we focused so hard on those pleasant times….that the not-so-pleasant ones faded far into the background and our “average” day became “pretty darn good”?
Maybe if we did that over and over again at the end of every day (or even every experience!) then eventually looking for the “sweet spots” would become a habit. If we could make our cynical adult memories more like the fun-focused memories of children….then wouldn’t we have a lot more “super-good-days”?
This isn’t a new idea….this training of our minds to see the good things. In his letter to the Philippians Paul tells them:
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” –Philippians 4:8
I’m going to go even farther and say that I believe this would even work to our advantage on those terrible-horrible-no good-very bad-days as well. In almost every seemingly awful situation….some gilmmer of good can usually be found. Sometimes focusing on that one little thing can help make the rest of the experience…if not good….then at least bearable.
If we can train ourselves to pick out the good points–to focus on the noble, pure, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy–then theoretically the yuck of life would fade a bit more into the background and leave us with a little more happiness.
So I think that maybe I will stop defining my days as “good” or “bad”. I think that instead I will look for the sweet moments in each day. I will find the good feelings and memories that exist within situations and events, and put my focus on those specific times. Because you know what? I have a lot of good things in my life. Sure…I have had some not-so-good moments as well…but when I hit 40(ish) I learned that my brain has a really limited storage space. I need to be picky about what I allow to stay in there.
God has given us a lot of sweet moments. When we think of them…when we place them in the forefront of our brainy storage banks…there’s a pretty good chance they will overrun and outweigh the harder times. So overall, with Paul’s childlike focus, maybe instead of trying to find our “best day”, we can see that, so far, we’ve had a “best life.” And you know what? There’s more to come.