It’s possible that I have the worst memory of anyone I know. I don’t remember dates, people, places, memories, moments – none of it. It’s as if my brain has reached its storage capacity and all memories stored here need to be purged and saved to an external brain storage device before anything new can be uploaded. It’s terrible. And I think it’s the reason why I feel the need to write so often now. It’s easier to remember when you have the story to remind you.
If you were to run a movie directly from the memories stored in my brain, it would undoubtedly play out like a disturbing mystery. Fleeting moments, nameless people, strange places and puzzling emotions. I imagine it would have a dizzying effect on anyone trying to watch. But the moments of clarity – those random vivid memories – would keep viewers fascinated…or at least I like to think they would.
Two of my most vivid memories happened years apart but were oddly similar. One involved my mom, the other involved my sisters. In both memories, I recall staring at both my mother and my sister in awe.
The memory of my mom started out on the back lawn of my cousin’s new home. It was a magnificent home out on Long Island; Southampton to be exact. My cousin was hosting a dual celebration: his 40th birthday and his retirement from the working world. Yep, you heard right – he was retiring at the ripe old age of 40. Go ahead, say it – what the f….?
The memory of my sisters started out inside the new home of one of them. My sister had just purchased her first home and was beyond thrilled. The other was in the midst of a terrible divorce. It was a difficult time for her. The disparities in their lives at the time were enough to make you stop and think what the f….?
What makes these memories similar in my mind? Both my mom and my sister found themselves caught in the happiness of others. They had two choices: they could smile and offer congratulations and then immediately begrudge that happiness, offering a multitude of reasons why they didn’t deserve it or how they had done nothing to earn it. Or they could bask in the happiness that had been earned and truly was deserved.
Both of them chose to bask.
I love those two memories. The memory of my mother sitting back on a lawn chair in my cousin’s yard, looking around at the success that she didn’t fully recognize was his until that moment. She was glowing. She was so proud. She was so genuinely happy for him and she wished over and over that her own father could be there to bask in that happiness. My sister, too, was so proud and so genuinely happy to share in our other sister’s happiness. I think those memories have stuck with me because the pure goodness of what they felt is so unusual.
We humans seem to have a general distaste for the happiness of other humans – don’t you think? It’s somewhat fascinating to think that social media sites, like Facebook, are so popular. Why are we hooked on them when we experience a collective eye roll whenever anyone posts anything positive about their life, their marriage, their kids? Would we prefer to hear about each others’ misery?
I, for one, prefer to catch the glowing outer edges of other people’s happiness. It brings a little bit more happiness into my own life and – if memory serves me right – its worked well for my mom and my sister.