Recall and Savor Milestones of All Sizes and Shapes

Memory can be fleeting at this age. Some details are reinforced with each telling while others fade, maybe lost forever.
Yet, we dig into our memory pool to mark milestones— happy and sad--a big birthday or anniversary, the loss of a loved one, a book published, a tennis or golf match won, a marathon or triathlon finished, a dragon boat race furiously paddled to commemorate survival. A good race time may make such events more memorable.

Yet, over time, it’s so easy to forget what really happened as we retell stories to others or in our heads, how we felt, who was with us, how we celebrated and so on. Some of us have trouble even recalling how we marked small milestones even recently.

Consider the pandemic and the three years that it upended all our lives. When was our first Zoom for work or pleasure? What was our first meal out at a restaurant or our first trip on a train or airplane? How many Covid shots have we received (answer without looking at your cards with dates)? When did you stop wiping off mail and newspapers and venturing into grocery stores again? Or even when did you maybe stop wearing a mask—perhaps, you still do at times?

It’s not that we have to write down every detail or keep a daily journal, but these milestone remembrances add color and perspective to our lives, like markers along a highway in a journey to somewhere, even a place that may not be important, except it’s an integral part of the direction of our lives.

Memories often dictate how we may deal with current and future events. Many of us are lucky to be marking 50th anniversaries. And we say any anniversary is cause for big cheers, even the first year or 10th of a special friendship; it doesn’t have to be a romantic liaison. The same goes for the big birthdays, which seem to be happening more often as time passes quickly. And here too every birthday is worth marking, not just the ones that end in a “5” or “O.”

Sad events are also worth noting as we’ve seen on Facebook as people post how many years it’s been since a parent or spouse may have died or the anniversary of their birthday. Remembering those we’ve lost helps us remember them and keep them in our mind’s eye. Over time our feelings about these sad passages usually evolve with grief generally turning to gratitude for a life well lived and how we fit into it.

Special friendships still part of our lives are certainly worth noting. Margaret and her childhood bestie have now been friends for nearly 70 years. Barbara remembers when she and a childhood acquaintance began the start of their close friendship, after their 40th-high school reunion. And Barbara and Margaret recall the start of their work partnership that morphed into an important friendship more than 36 years ago. Where did those years go?

While we may put more stock into the bigger milestones, we believe at this stage of life, it’s important to savor every single day and find joy with the happy events and reflect on the sad ones, too. Doing so adds a nice rhythm and balance in our lives. It helps us take less for granted.

As we look back, some of the smallest moments now pop out as so much more important than when they happened in terms of how they’ve helped us become the people we are. Maybe, traveling several days alone in a foreign country when she was in college helped Barbara learn to navigate new places and meet new people with less trepidation for her future multiple moves beyond her native New York City. Maybe Margaret’s trip to Europe as a teenager for two months with her bestie that they paid for with their own money earned working summers, showed their parents that they could survive on their own and be successful. They got lost in Spain yet figured out what to do.

Even important conversations have been worth recalling, as those with a favorite teacher or mentor at work may have changed the course of your professional life and pushed you in a different direction or convinced you to stay on course. Or did a certain job help you to look at the world and what you were doing a bit differently? Those may not be typical milestones yet how they affected you may have offered the same effect. They made a difference in who you are and your life.

Do not forget the small stuff. It doesn’t sound important, yet time spent with a third grandchild is noteworthy for Barbara especially when he first recognized her and called her by her name. Some of the most important milestones in Margaret’s life were spent interacting with children whether as a big sister, aunt or tutor.

As you think about how you want to mark what’s coming up in a month or year or even longer, know that it doesn’t have to be spent doing something big, splashy and expensive. A quiet dinner, a drive to a new destination, just being with select friends and family and having good meaningful conversation and laughing a lot will mark the occasion for the joy you experienced. The more joyous milestone remembrances we have, we believe makes us much luckier than we ever imagined.

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