Do human beings ever realize life while they live it?
I first met this quote from Thornton Wilder’s play Our Town when I was about 11 years old. I remember watching Robby Benson and Glynnis O’Conner in the 1977 made for TV movie of the stage play. The story, especially the entirety of Act III - Death and Eternity, left a deep impression on my 11 year old self.
A brief explanation of the end of Act III...
Emily, played by Glynnis dies in childbirth and as she is laid to rest with her ancestors and fellow townspeople that have passed before her, she begins to ask questions about life, living, dying, death and eternity. She is granted the opportunity, although strongly advised against it, to go back and relive one day. She chooses her 12 birthday.
Curious side note:
As I type this, I notice for the first time, the connection of my age at the time to Emily’s revisit of her 12 birthday ......this fact may also be playing a role in the impression this play made on me.
End curious side note.
Emily returns to her home on her 12th birthday and she does indeed learn that it is very painful to go back as she observes the ordinary life of people going about their every day doings and not paying attention to the world around them.
“I can't. I can't go on. It goes so fast. We don't have time to look at one another. I didn't realize. So all that was going on and we never noticed. Take me back -- up the hill -- to my grave. But first: Wait! One more look. Good-bye , Good-bye world. Good-bye, Grover's Corners....Mama and Papa. Good-bye to clocks ticking....and Mama's sunflowers. And food and coffee. And new ironed dresses and hot baths....and sleeping and waking up. Oh earth, you‘re too wonderful for anybody to realize. Do human beings ever realize life while they live it? —every, every minute?”
The answer she receives is ...
“No. Saint and poets, maybe .....they do some.”
Do human beings ever realize life while they live? - every, every minute?”
Realizing life isn’t just for the saints and poets.
My 11 year old self made the decision after watching Our Town that first time, to begin creating active “rememories” - to pay attention to my people and my experiences the best that I could. I use the words “the best that I could” because I know too often, I also got caught up in the ordinary every day and forgot to pay attention to the ordinary every day.
Silly side note:
“Rememory“ is the non-word I made up that means to step out of the moment for just a moment to try to keep the feelings of the moment alive in my mind a little longer.
I do actively use my non-word “rememory” and often find myself explaining to people that I know it is a non-word.
End silly side note.
I now understand all this time, I was practicing the art of savoring.
Savoring is the act of stepping out of your experiences, to review them and then take the time to appreciate them while they are happening. According to Wikipedia, savoring is the use of thoughts and actions to increase the intensity, duration and appreciation of positive experiences and emotions.
Fred Bryant, Ph.D., co-author of the book: Savoring: A New Model of Positive Experience says ...
”Savoring can help us counteract the natural human tendency to focus more of our attention on the negative things in our lives than on the positive things.”
He also states...
”We must not make the mistake of waiting until we have no negative experience in our lives to begin savoring ....... Our challenge is to prioritize savoring, even in the face of adversity - indeed especially in the face of adversity - for that is when we need it most.....”
Savoring is the act of being mindful of the good stuff that is happening to you even when not everything is great in your world.
Here are four of my favorite types of savoring:
Luxuriating (Pleasure) - What do you do to help you feel good in a moment?
Marveling (Awe) - What are you noticing around you that helps you to feel awe and wonderment?
Basking (Pride) - What makes you feel proud?
Gratitude (Giving Thanks) - What are you grateful for?
I enjoy practicing all of the above depending on the day, the activity, or the moment.
When cleaning my house, I will regularly practice luxuriating. I set the timer for a certain amount of work to be done and then I will reset the timer for a brief interlude of luxury like a cup of tea or an episode of one of my current TVs shows.
I marvel at a lot everyday ...... the morning sky, the evening sky, the color of the grass, the flowers that bloom, a beautiful day, an act of kindness.
My basking usually comes in moments when I am thinking about my children and all that they are and all that they do, and all that they are becoming.
And gratitude always.
When do YOU actively practice savoring? How do YOU actively practice savoring?