Tag Archives: memory

In Honor of Mother’s Day, One of My Happiest Memories of My Mother.

Today is Mother’s Day in the United States and Canada.

Some people think it’s ridiculous to celebrate holidays like Mother’s Day and Father’s Day – that these are just commercial holidays forced on us by clever marketers. But I think it’s nice to be prompted to think lovingly about your mother and your father, and the mothers and fathers in your life.

The other day, I was contemplating (as I often do) an observation made by my spiritual master, St. Therese of Lisieux, in her extraordinary memoir, The Story of a Soul.

While writing about being blamed for things and scolded for little transgressions in her convent, she noted, “I noticed this: when one performs her duty, never excusing herself, no one knows it; on the contrary, imperfections appear immediately.”

So true, right? You do something perfectly and reliably, nobody notices. You make a mistake, everyone complains.

This is particularly true of parenthood, which involves a myriad of tasks, small but pesky and relentless, that need to be done without fail. “I packed lunch for four years,” a friend told me, “and all I hear about – to this day – is that time in first grade when I forgot to put in my son’s dessert.”

It’s true that parents don’t get a gold star for everything they do right, but often, just hear about it when they mess up. But it’s also true that, as my mother once told me, “The things that go wrong often make the best memories.” Here’s an example.

Of the countless times in my childhood when my mother drove carpool, or picked me up to go to an orthodontist’s appointment, or wherever, I have only the haziest recollections. All I remember is the time when she was very late picking me up. But this is an important memory.

It was a very snowy day when I was in grade school — fourth grade, I think — and my mother was late. She’s completely reliable, so I was anxious about the fact that she wasn’t there, and I was embarrassed about being left over when all the other kids had gone home, and I was worried about what would happen if she didn’t show up. She didn’t come, and she didn’t come, and finally I was sent to wait in the library, in the main building of the school, until someone came to get me.

It got later and later. I could feel the building emptying out. Still no sign of my mother. The snow was getting heavier. I was getting more and more anxious.

Finally, I saw my mother coming up the steps to the library, and I had to fight back the urge to burst into tears from sheer relief. I was so happy to see her! She was staggering under the weight of my sister, who was probably four or five years old, both of them covered with snow, and she was slipping around on the unshoveled walkway as she battled her way to the door.

And I thought to myself, Nothing can ever stop my mother from coming for me.

I remember that her car had become stuck on a patch of ice, but I have no recollection of what happened next. Did my father come to get us, did the school receptionist give us a ride? I’ve never asked my mother about that afternoon, so perhaps my memory isn’t even accurate. But that’s how I remember it.

And that’s how I think about my mother.

Agree? A Song Can Fix a Particular Year in Your Mind.

“Songs last forever. They fix particular years in your mind.”

D.V., Diana Vreeland

I certainly find this to be true in my own life. Like a scent, a song can instantly transport me back to a particular time.

Agree, disagree? What songs have proved particularly powerful in fixing a particular year in your mind?

For Podcast Listeners, Something New! First Mini-Episode to Make You “A Little Happier.”

My sister Elizabeth and I are having so much fun doing our weekly podcast, Happier with Gretchen Rubin.

And I’ve found that there are some powerful ideas about happiness, good habits, and human nature that don’t quite fit the structure of the show.

So, for listeners who’d like to start their weeks with a little boost of happiness, I’ve started doing “A Little Happier.”

Each Monday, I’ll release a little bonus episode — maybe 2-3 minutes long — to help launch the week.

I’ve always been intrigued about how much we love stories, and in the end, how we learn best from stories, so these “A Little Happiers” will feature a story from my life, or something I’ve read or observed, that make a point about happiness. They’ll often feature one of my “Secrets of Adulthood” — the things I’ve learned, with time and experience, about how to be happier.

I love all teaching stories, koans, parables, aphorisms, maxims, epigrams, proverbs, and the like. A Little Happier is another way to explore the power of story and aphorism.

I hope these mini-episodes will help you start your week…a little happier. Let me know what you think!

Agree? “The Best Kind of Laughter Is Laughter Born of a Shared Memory.”

“Playful arguments would become fits of uncontrollable laughter, and, like magic, that experience would be crystallized into a private joke, and the private joke would get boiled down to a simple phrase, which became a souvenir of the entire experience. For years to come, the phrase alone could uncork hours of renewed laughter. And as everyone knows, the best kind of laughter is laughter born of a shared memory.”

–Mindy Kalin, “Some Thoughts on Weddings,” Why Not Me?

How I love the work of Mindy Kaling! Everything she does.

Agree, disagree? There is something special about an inside joke.

Podcast 51: What to Do If You Can’t Remember a Name, Why We Should Plan to Fail, and Adult Coloring Books.

It’s time for the next installment of  “Happier with Gretchen Rubin.

Update: Elizabeth is in her new office in the old Animation Building on the Disney lot. As promised, here’s a photo of the Seven Dwarfs building. If you want to see the trailer for Elizabeth’s new show, The Family, watch here.sevendwarvesbuilding1pix

We got a huge response to episode 48, when we talked about the “Sunday Blues” or “Sunday Dreads.” Listeners suggested many thoughtful solutions for dealing with them.

Try This at Home: Disguise the fact that you can’t remember something important about someone—such as that person’s name. Lots of strategies—and we’re asking for more!

Better Than Before Habits Strategy: The Strategy of Safeguards. It helps us to plan to fail.

Listener Question: Terry from Walnut Creek: “How do I keep up with phone calls and voice mails from family members?” Terry mentions that she’s an “Obliger” in the Four Tendencies framework. If you want to learn more about the Four Tendencies, and take the Quiz to find out your Tendency, go here.

Elizabeth’s Demerit: Despite the fact that Elizabeth lost all her photos when her phone died many months ago, she still doesn’t back up her phone. Bonus demerit: I don’t back up my phone either! Yikes.

Gretchen’s Gold Star: Adult coloring books! I’m going to buy one for myself. Are you a fan?

Bonus: Check out Quiet, the new podcast by Susan Cain, the author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, about being the parent of introverted children.

 

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