Cherish the Memories

art christmas and 2016 new years eve

Soon the dismantling will begin. Trees with sparking lights will vanish. Fancy holiday wrappings and greeting cards with lovely sentiments will be relegated to recycle. The last of the Christmas cookies and honey crusted spiraled hams will be consumed and radio stations will return to normal programming. Although the physical evidence of the wondrous holiday season will no longer be evident, we can carry the memories with us in our hearts.

I’m a memory keeper. On Christmas day, relaxing in a cozy setting content after consuming our fill of food and drink I began the process.

Two Cappucinos

Tell me your stories I urged my friends. Mentally rewind the year, stopping to pause and reflect on the highlights I coaxed. Then I peppered the group with questions like what was your happiest moment? When during 2015 did you experience your proudest moment? Give me a teachable moment. I longed to share in the events of their lives now considered history.

Smiles began to appear all around. As my friends entertained us with some milestone moments, we all basked in the glow of happy times to be forever kept in our hearts.

One friend deferred explaining he rarely looks back. Cheers to those individuals who excel in living life by staying in the moment. Certainly I could not argue with the wisdom of residing in day tight compartments. Being present wherever you are both physically and mentally is commendable. I applaud mindfulness. In my coaching practice I preach it. But, my philosophy is a bit different. I believe life is about balancing the moment and the memory and that is where I try to live.

What is the point of making memories if they are never revisited? On a physical level, isn’t the reason we snap a picture to capture the moment? Isn’t the point of the clicking the shutter to retain a glimpse for posterity?  Don’t travelers journalize to document their experiences then share the journey with friends upon their return? My belief is that 2015, or any year, should not to be tossed aside lightly. Granted there are times in life when we are happy to see December 31st arrive so that we can start anew, yet within each twelve month period we all experience some joyful moments.

Want to end the year on a high note? Make time to recall the best of 2015. Reviewing those magical moments offers a sense of wellbeing and encourages your inner optimist.  Then move on and embrace the New Year.

Magical New Year theme background, pine cones, coffee, cookies on wooden table

My wish for you is that 2016 brings you wondrous moments of great joy. Capture them and hold them close to your heart.

Daily Kindness…No Strings Attached

Give Concept Clipped Cards and Lights

The Thanksgiving leftovers have long since vanished from the fridge; except for one cookie so beautiful I cannot bring myself to even remove the wrapper. A local pastry chef worked her magic creating that sweet work of art.

In addition to the cookie, I have another remnant from the past holiday. This one I created, it is intangible and something I will continue to possess.

Cookie

You see, this year I decided to put a spin on my usual Thanksgiving outreach. Rather than expressing my thanks to friends and family via Facebook posts, emails and colorful Hallmark cards, I spent Thanksgiving and each day since then executing actions that might elicit thankfulness.

Don’t get me wrong, gratitude was not the objective, actually quite the opposite. My premise was to focus my energy into random acts of kindness, no strings attached, no thanks required or needed. Okay, here’s the catch. Thinking up nice things to do for others is the easy part, executing is the fun part, but truly not caring if the deed ever gets even a small nod of thanks, is the hard part. At least it is for me.

For example, I am a very considerate driver. I happily wave people into my lane. I hold the door for others, in the grocery store I reach objects from the top shelf for strangers, let them cash out in front of me when they have just a few items, I volunteer at events and engage in community outreach. I do whatever I can to accommodate those around me, but I must confess I crave just a little payback. I silently fume a bit when a simple thank you is withheld.

My attitude changed earlier this month when I read this line from a prayer: “Blessed are those who give without expecting anything in return.” Okay, got the message. I needed to change my expectation. When I pondered this quote from Timber Hawkeye it really put me to shame: “Give without expecting anything in return. That is unconditional kindness…everything else is ego.” Oh, I am so busted. Wanting something in return was a way to feed my ego.

I’ll keep challenging myself daily to want nothing in return. Motivation to give should be pure and free of expectation. The good news is, I’ve been getting it right lately and realize there is an inherent payback.

Pear representing the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

The act of giving provides me with an enhanced sense of peace, love and joy. Thankfully, that is more than enough.

Getting to Your Genuine Happy Place

Happy woman holding balloons and jumping in the air
Years ago when I first heard the expression, “fake it ‘til you make it,” I shuddered. Acting in a fake manner seemed so disingenuous. Somewhere down the line I must have experienced an “aha” moment finding some value in revisiting and applying a false front.

Perhaps it was the Dale Carnegie course I took decades ago. Prior to delivering a two-minute speech, a speaker was to stand at the back of the room and upon being introduced run up the isle clapping and acting enthusiastic. Let me repeat those key words: acting enthusiastic. Trust me, when I stood at the back of the room preparing to take the spotlight, I felt anything but enthusiastic. Terrified, mortified and horrified maybe, but far from excited about public speaking.
Scared woman portrait
After the 12-week course came to a close, I realized the Carnegie people had it right. Forcing yourself to smile, clap and jog your way to the front of the room did help in minimizing the jitters. Drawing yourself up, pulling your shoulders back and remembering to take a few deep breaths aids in conjuring up a smattering of self-confidence.

My older and wiser self still gives credence to the “fake it ‘til you make it” maxim, but I would temper that piece of wisdom by advising you can take the acting element only so far. Did you know many people can spot a fake smile? According to Psychology Today, a fake smile is evidenced by a contraction of the zygomatic major muscle. A genuine grin, dubbed a “Duchenne” smile, named after the French doctor Guillaume Duchenne, a student of the physiology of facial expressions, involves both voluntary and involuntary contractions from the zygomatic major and the orbicularis oculi. Think about that next time you plaster on your “say cheese” smirk when encountering your boastful bore of a brother-in-law, or any personality type you prefer to avoid.

What should you do when you’re not feeling the love? Examine your motivation. If you have to spend an afternoon with your bigheaded brother-in-law to appease your sister, own it. Chase away the negative emotions by acknowledging you are doing something nice for your sibling.

One last thought, zygomactic major and orbicularis oculi are difficult to pronounce and harder still to remember. The next time something arises making happiness a stretch, just focus on a pleasant thought like your next vacation, a great evening
Daughters Kissing their Mother on the Cheek
or a kiss from a loved one and smile, smile, smile. Your next smile might not be fake at all.