Sometimes I wonder what periods of our lives make us who we are. Is it childhood or adolescence? Are we shaped by our years in college or as adults? Truthfully, I don’t think it’s of these things. I believe what builds human beings is really just mere seconds. Those moments that happen so fast along with our spontaneous decisions or reactions are what change us.
I think back on all the years, and I can’t really recall a decade that was defining for me. What sticks out in my mind are the minute glimpses that didn’t seem so important back then.
For instance, that day back in the early eighties when, in a state of utter disgust with my summer, I decided to walk to the library and hide from the world instead of going to the pool. When my mind changed the direction of my feet, I never would’ve dreamed of the home I would find amongst the written lives of others. A few years later when I put my hands on the bindings of Mrs. Dalloway instead of my usual reading material I couldn’t have possibly known how far Virginia Woolf would follow me through my life.
They were split-second decisions, really. I didn’t think deeply about why or how. I just reacted.
It was much the same with other things…not really decisions or reactions, but moments that, without my consent, developed who I am.
The soured sweet smell of coffee and tears as he held me for the last time. The scent of fresh-cut grass hanging in a veil around me, the humidity dripping from my forehead, as I walked away for good. The long, lonely sound of a train whistle calling in the distance when she passed away. Tiny fingers intermingling with my hair as a cheek like silk rubbed my face.
All these flashes in time—my memory book of life—have helped define who I am. My mind travels back to the knowledge of my senses when I wonder what really matters to me. It wasn’t the 80s or the 90s. It wasn’t my 20s or 30s, a job, or college that made me who I am. Rather, it was all those increments of time almost too small to measure that I never really knew mattered in the moment.
Looking back, I realize how easy it is to take for granted all the little things in life. Last goodbyes, stolen glances, and loving smiles all fade so quickly, but they’re really what compose our lives.
We get so caught up in success at work or some other arena in our lives that we often forget the importance of savoring the moment. How many of us really take the time to absorb our surroundings? We truly let ourselves become lost in a forest of trees without appreciating the beauty within.
There is beauty in nearly everything if we look closely enough, even in bad situations. We see the tragedy of a relationship ending, but don’t see the beauty in the strength it takes to walk away. We hear the storm, but rarely take the time to fall in love with the steady beat of the rain hitting the roof. A loved one dies and we mourn the loss without celebrating the greatness of the life we enjoyed with that person. What we really forget is that the great things in life don’t always jump out and grab us. We have to change our perspective to find the beauty.
Focusing on the negative parts of life is to sell ourselves short on happiness. When I think back to all the negative things in my life, the lesson I’ve learned is that life is too short–too fragile–to look through darkened windows. Those striking moments I’ve experienced are far more important than the damaged, ugly times. They’re what make me happy. Moreover, I know to look for them now instead of waiting for them to come to me in future memories.
I hold onto the good things. There is no need to grip the demons. They visit frequently enough. The wonderful things in life, though, they’re sparse. So, why let them go? Why put them into some file folder in my brain only to be used when it’s too late to rejoice in them? I use them now. I’ll use them in the future, too, but tomorrow isn’t a promise. Tomorrow is a day I hope for. Today is solid. Today is happening. Today is the day to be happy, and when I think back on all the yesterdays I threw away to worry or mourn, it makes all the tiny pieces of beauty I can find today much more precious.
Tammie Niewedde shares her life with 24, 21, and 16 year old sons. She also has a 2 year old grandson whose energy level reminds her exactly how old she is (40, and she owns that proudly!). In her home, you will find a 120 pound fur factory named Dexter and a few cats whom have decided that she is merely their staff. The root of her love for books, writing, and animals comes from being a child whose only siblings were books and her animals. She is a full-time student, mother, coordinator of all that is chaos, and a hopeless list maker. Most of her writing is creative non-fiction that describes her real life adventures. Her acerbic, biting sense of humor may capture your heart, or it may induce rage. Nonetheless what she writes is true to life. You can often find her hanging out with the kiddos, studying, reading, writing, and making lists…of everything! You can find her on Facebook!