Where the hell is it now? The best day of your life. That whole twenty four hours of unrestrained bliss. I could name a few events that might be up there for me, my children’s births, my wedding, a journey home, a reunion with people I love. These would be the perfectly framed pictures on the walls of my life, but they are not what shaped me the most. Not what gave me the battle scars and frayed edges.
When my youngest was six months old, we went to a studio to have baby photos taken. When I got the pictures back I was horrified to discover that they had photo shopped her strawberry birthmark out. The big fat love heart shape right between her eyes was missing. It never occurred to me that someone else might see it as ugly. When I asked why, they told me that “people want to have memories that look perfect.” When I consider my “perfect moment memories” they are not my most precious. They are beautiful yes, but these are not the times that stopped me in my tracks, made me reassess my course, or propelled me forwards, but I can pinpoint the moments that did.
They are less photogenic, these were the ugly babies. The agonizing seconds that expanded into hours. The times when the earth decided to stop spinning on its axis. Where my world hung in the universe, waiting to come crashing down on me like a huge wave. They were the moments waiting for someones very last breath and then afterwards struggling to find my own in the same way ever again. The long drifting days chewing on doubts and second guesses. The impossible choices. People that upped and disappeared. The holes they left. Imperfect lives that were constantly tempered and changed. A work in progress, where we all just wave our arms and scream, “look,still alive!”
The things that seemed insurmountable at 16, feel ridiculous now,(oh to write a letter from my future self.) If I wanted to connect with truly a ‘best day ever,’ I would have to look much further back, swimming underwater in a green lake, hanging upside down on the swing set, getting an enormous stick of rhubarb and a cup of sugar all to myself, constructing a monster sand castle on a family holiday. Some people think our early memories stick because times were less complicated, less frantic and I think that is part of it, but perhaps there is more.
I wonder if as children, our thoughts were just simpler. We were better at being absorbed in the moment more completely, our imaginations engaged and our minds wandering. We find that hard to achieve now, we have lost the ability to lose ourselves (oh the irony.) We are such a long way from who we started out as, its hard to recognize who we are any more. We look back at ourselves, fuzzy figures on the distant horizon. We are still there somewhere aching to play. Its hard to see ourselves as children, splashing in the ocean, running so hard that the wind roars past us, holding shells up to our ears, to hear the blood rushing through our veins, there are distractions, the expectations and the loss of connection to our feelings. We didn’t lose it, that desire to play, to just ‘be.’ We never lost it. We just put it down somewhere when everything else got too heavy and forgot it. We just need to retrace our steps on tip toe to find it, back to the place we were.