I just spent the afternoon playing outside with the two-year-old daughter of a dear friend. We all spent the day at the pool in the summer sun as the little one fed the dog potato chips and chirped with delight as the day’s events unfolded.
My friend and I are five years apart in age and have known each other for the last 15 years. When we first met, I was the one who was married with young kids and now she is married with a young child. This week I am about to celebrate my youngest son turning 18, which marks a big milestone of my two children being legal adults and here she is with her day full of sleep schedules and snack containers and diaper bags.
My friend also lost her father almost a year ago, and this month marks 10 years since I lost my father. So as we were sitting around today we both reflected on what it would be like for our fathers to see the type of parents we are today.
This juxtaposition is a reminder of the memories that happen in the everyday moments. The Bottom Line on Top of this episode is taken from the old adage that says: The days are long, but the years are short.
Part of this comes from the brain’s ability to store what we call memories. In fact, true short-term memory really only lasts 15-30 seconds. Think of all the information and cognitive data that your mind takes in each second. The mental purging process is critical in order for you to function given all the stimulus surrounding you.
There isn’t really a need for you to remember what you had for lunch two years ago or what gate number or train row you were at the last time you took a trip. Most information is disposable.
When we refer to long-term memory, most of the time we’re connecting that to emotional or intellectual memories – these are the pieces or snippets of recollection that tie to feelings, certain events, or aptitude. The other part of long-term memory is episodic memory, which are the learned skills that help us navigate and adapt to skills like driving a car or using a computer. Both are fluid and can and do evolve, and each serves a purpose for both functional and social purposes.
The takeaway from this episode isn’t about the brain’s ability to collect and connect memories. Rather it’s about the space required for cognitive connections to form, expand, and strengthen. It’s hard for any of those to happen when the minutes are mashed together in a hurried pace or when they are stretched in between the empty calories of on-demand entertainment.
Episode 60 talks about the immediate physical and mental benefits of having a day to play. In my experience, whether planned or spontaneous, the days where there is shared play often tend to create new and rich experiences that stick in our life timelines.
So as you’re contemplating whatever is ahead for you today, this episode is a gentle reminder to make more room for the Who’s in your life instead of all the What’s. We won’t always know when it’s the last time we have a chance to make a memory with someone or in someplace.
Be where you are. Put technology away. The rest will wait. It always does.
Say the words. Take the pictures. Spend the time. Do the things.
In a couple of weeks, the two-year-old’s mind may not remember the details of this day today, but next time we see each other, she’ll point and smile at me like she did today (probably at my dog more than me, but that’s okay, too.) The point is, it’s remembered in some form. Details are simply data. Memories are recognition of what and who we experienced.
When you have a chance to choose between something to do or someone to see, choose where you will be remembered. I’ve never found that option in the menu of a streaming device or the bottom of an email box.
As the title character in the movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off said: Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around every once in a while, you could miss it.
And sometimes the best person you can spend time with and make memories with is yourself. No one will ever be as memorable, so make sure you make time to take good care of you – first. The rest, it will follow.