I tend to get prickly about such things. I really would like to wander in and out of the best day of my life without marking it as such so that I don't think everything is down hill from there. Really, the wedding day is the best and then that marriage part, watch out, that's really gonna suck? At 22 I was still pretty immature, so I would spout off about this to anyone who would listen. Now, I'm a bit quieter and more thoughtful (I hope), but I'm still chewing on this idea.
People told me the day my son was born was going to be the best day of my life. Well, THEY were a bunch of lying liars. Oh my gosh it was horrible, and so was most of the next few months. But slowly, after I came out of the fugue state of his infancy, I realized, I was having a lot of best moments of my life. Of course I was also having a lot of worst moments of my life...and sometimes those happened in the same day! (See the following TedTalk for some "science" about this.)
Now, I'm trying to find a way to present the conclusions that I've drawn without wandering into the cotton candy lollipop land of the cliche. The first thing I've noticed is that I need to pay attention, and that the attention paid to a moment or a day can make it special. For example, I cook 99% of the time and my husband cleans up after. Each time I cook there is a chance for someone to say "yum" (if I've pulled it off) and validate my efforts. I pay attention to the fact that my husband cleans and make sure to thank him, sincerely, and in front of my son, and I pay attention to how much nicer and easier that makes my life. I try to pay less attention to the fact that he hardly ever wipes off the stove top. I certainly could choose to, and choose to complain about it, or I could just include that little bit in what I do.
I find that the attention I pay to the good moments allows me to focus on what's happening now. When I am thinking about my phone, and my email, and work, and packing lunches, I can miss "now." Obviously, there's not a choice sometimes. And, I only have one child right now, so that might make a difference too. What's happening in any given moment isn't always great. But when it is, I'm paying attention.
So I try to pay attention, try to pay attention to "right now", and I try to acknowledge the best moments out loud. When my son says "please" or "thank you", while expected, I try to thank him for his kind words and good manners. When he helps clear the table, while expected, I thank him for being such a helpful part of our family team.
I really don't care what the best day or best years are, I'm finding so many more "best moments" this way! These moments strung together make for a rich life and one in which I actively practice gratitude. These moments are not on European vacations or victorious soccer matches...they are happening every single day. And since I've been paying attention to more of the good moments in more of my days, my whole life has seemed brighter. I would like to add that I pay attention to more moments with my husband than just how well he cleans the kitchen (I mean, seriously, Stephanie Coontz was right about Chorenography) but I think he would prefer I not discuss him much on the blog!
Some recent "Best Moments"
1) After bedtime my son yells down the stairs about Where the Wild Things Are: "I abhor this book. It's just about a little boy who does mean things. Then his mom tries to give him time to think about it and get better. And in his imagination he tries to be better, but I don't believe it. And I don't think it deserves the Caldecott medal!" (Yes, I realize he doesn't know that the Caldecott medal is awarded for illustrations...but the indignance is delicious!)
2) Engaging with questions like, "Okay, so if there have to be male ladybugs (even though they are called ladies, which is weird) because each thing needs a male and a female to reproduce...then the first human who was ever on the planet couldn't have been born. How did humans get here?"
3) In the bath, "Do you know that I have my own world? It is the Land of Imagination, and when I go there it helps me to find Pretend."
4) Taking my son and a friend to the lake to play in the sand. They spent the entire day getting filthy and squealing with joy while I read a book in the sun. Every few moments I thought to myself, "I am here. This is joy."
5) A recent goodnight snuggle:
Me: "I love you buddy. Our family is so special."
Him: "Yeah. You know, every day is like Christmas. I wake up in a new day, and I still get to be in this family."
Best. Feeling. Ever.