“The moments of happiness we enjoy take us by surprise. It is not that we seize them but that they seize us.” — Ashley Montagu, British-American anthropologist and humanist
“Go tell it on the mountain — over the hills and everywhere.”
The clear, strong voice rose above the din of the school bus. I looked up from my Hardy Boys novel. Bob, the bus driver, peered into the large, rectangular mirror above his head. It was Janie — sweet, shy Janie who had suddenly and unexpectedly burst into song.
Within moments, Janie’s sister, Lynne, joined her and by the chorus, three neighbouring sisters Florence, Margaret and Joanne had added their voices to the impromptu choir. Soon everyone on the bus was listening or singing along. The vocalizing continued with If I Had a Hammer, Four Strong Winds and Michael Row the Boat Ashore, and only ceased when the girls reached their individual drop-off points. Though I was young at the time — only about in Grade 5 — I knew I was experiencing something special — something precious. It was a one-time-only event, or at least I recall only one instance of the joyous sing-a-long on the ride home.
Of course, we could truthfully say that every moment of life is precious — infinitely so. I had a friend who was often heard to say, “Every day above the grass is a good one.” As for me, I keep an hourglass on my desk and often turn it over to allow the sand to flow. The hourglass reminds me that my time here is limited; there are only so many grains of sand, only so many breaths and heartbeats allotted to me (or you). It is a reminder to make the most of each moment.
A Spanish proverb states, “There is no happiness — there are only moments of happiness.” Most of us think of precious moments as the birth of a child, a wedding, holiday or special time with friends and family, and those moments certainly qualify. However, precious moments can also be events that catch us unaware like the sing-a-long on the school bus. I don’t think a single person got off the bus that day without a smile on his or her face.
The challenge for us therefore becomes recognizing and embracing precious moments as they unfold. Unfortunately, most people only recognize that which is precious in retrospect or when someone later declares to them, “That was a remarkable experience!”
Looking back at my childhood, it was seldom the big events that stayed with me — however enjoyable, celebrated or pride-worthy — but the small, seemingly insignificant moments that upon careful examination and reflection yielded the greatest lessons and formed the fondest memories. These simple and unadorned, yet infinitely precious moments transcended the common and took me to a place of higher learning, awareness and understanding.
Why do we miss so many of life’s precious moments?
The answer is quite simple: we’re just not paying attention. And yes, there are a lot of justifiable reasons why our attention is diverted, and those reasons most likely include work, family obligations and day-to-day living.
The truth is most of us just aren’t that self-aware. We become so invested in old patterns and daily routines that life just carries us along – much like the sand in my hourglass — until the last few grains of sand fall through and we are left to wonder where all the time has gone.
We can change this outcome by learning to live each moment to the fullest and we can do so by building our self-esteem and working to enhance our level of personal awareness.
People are always saying we must live in the “now” in order to truly appreciate life, but how can we do that?
Is there a secret — a technique – that can stir us from our usual perch in the past or future and allow us to settle into this moment? From my experience, the only way to remain in the now is through perseverance – a sincere desire to be consistently in the moment.
That said, here are a few thoughts that may help you to remain grounded and aware.
• You only have so much time on this earth. Wake up and start living!
• Open your eyes and see the magic. Einstein said, “There are two ways to look at life. One is as though nothing is a miracle; the other is as though everything is.” Everything around you is a miracle (and everyone). Open your eyes! Watch, see, acknowledge and experience.
• Choose to have a positive attitude. Be a day-maker, not a day-breaker.
• Laughter is precious — share it with those you love.
• Be adventurous! Bring excitement into your life and create rich memories.
• Smile. Smiling opens doors, builds relationships and invites new people into your life.
• Love the people who are close to you and tell them how much you love them.
Italian poet, novelist and literary critic, Cesare Pavese once wrote, “We do not remember days, we remember moments.”
We spend so much time striving toward and preparing for life’s big moments that we sometimes overlook the smallest ones that make the biggest impact. To recognize and be touched by life’s precious moments, learn to listen to your heart and live purposefully and courageously.
I learned, much later, that for Janie, singing was an outlet — a way to escape the challenging times she faced at home and at school. The times she felt most burdened were the times that she sang the loudest. I think there’s a powerful lesson we can learn from Janie’s example: to cherish our precious moments, enjoy them to the fullest and go tell them on the mountain.
Murray Fuhrer is a local self-esteem expert and facilitator. His new book is entitled Extreme Esteem: The Four Factors. For more information on self-esteem, check the Extreme Esteem website at www.extremeesteem.ca.