“Life is a collection of moments.”
– Someone’s Instagram caption, probably, paired with a picture of the back of their head as they look out onto a teal blue sea. Or, a message embroidered on a pillow in a suburban mom’s house that is being meme’d by their teenage daughter on TikTok à la this video.
To be fair (and less cynical) it’s a true statement, and maybe a helpful mantra if you’re trying to practice mindfulness and live in the present.
But as I reflect on the moments that comprised my past week, I frustrate myself with my tendency to subconsciously filter for the “significant” moments, and then to attribute that week’s meaning to those few recollections. For example: if there was a week I got a promotion at work, that would be the first moment my brain would focus on, and I’d quickly categorize the week as “good” or “successful.” Similarly, if my brain cannot immediately access any “significant” moments, I write the week off as “uneventful” or “just another week.”
Sometimes, as I sit in bed with my journal on a Sunday morning, trying to draw writing inspiration from the events of the past week, I hear my brain saying, “Well, good luck finding something to write about – nothing of note happened this week.” AKA: “Your week was full of insignificant moments.”
But – this thought is a wonderful example of a way in which, if I stop to think about it, my experience contradicts my thought pattern.
In reality, I have found the most joy in recounting the “insignificant” moments through writing: the way you can make them expand, take up space, even tell a story. When I go back and read my old journal entries or blog post drafts, it’s the ones in which I talk about “insignificant” or mundane moments that make me smile or laugh. I didn’t appreciate at the time how much recounting those moments gave them new life, or how much I’d enjoy reading them later on.
When I googled “Life is a collection of moments” in the hopes of finding amusing ironic content (such as the video I shared at the beginning of this post), I did find a lot of that. But I also found a quote by Amit Ray, an Indian author and spiritual master known for his teachings on meditation, yoga, peace and compassion.
“Life is a collection of moments,” he writes. “Mindfulness is beautification of the moments.”
If I’d come across this quote in the context of an Instagram post or a pillow platitude I probably would have rolled my eyes and moved on with my day. But because I came across it in this context of writing this post, I found myself nodding and mumbling “so true, so true” to myself.
Really, though – that quote describes what I experienced when writing about the insignificant moments. The act of paying attention to those moments through writing made them beautiful, and some of the best writing I’ve read is that which takes the small moments and beautifies them through attention and language.
I guess what I’m saying is that you can write about anything, really. And that I shouldn’t be afraid of writing about the mundane because it brings me joy which, at the end of the day, is basically the point of it all.
In the spirit of writing about the mundane (and in case you have nothing better to do with your day and therefore wish to keep reading), here is some writing I did a few weeks ago about various “insignificant” moments:
1. The only thing I love more than a good scone is an eating establishment with a punny name. This week I had the good fortune of enjoying both simultaneously when I came across a bakery in Berkeley named “Sconehenge.” Incredible. If there’s one way to guarantee my business it’s having a clever name. As I entered the shop I imagined the opening a small café at Stonehenge named “Sconehenge” (imitation is the sincerest form of flattery) and excitedly shared my newfound dream with Thomas. I could already picture the tourists lining up for my world class blueberry scones. Thomas, however, was quick to burst my bubble: “But in England they call scones scons, so your pun wouldn’t work.” Goddammit, he was right. Determined not to let his pessimism ruin the moment, I ordered a package of four blueberry scones (one for now, three for later) and enjoyed buttery taste in my mouth.
2. I’m never good at starting things. For example: I only started writing these words because I wanted to hold Leslie accountable to writing something. I suppose most of us need extrinsic motivators at the end of the day. Anyway. It had been a while since I made any art, mostly because I make up dumb excuses in my head as to why I can’t (“my supplies are out of reach,” “you are bad at painting anyway”). So I was grateful for an extrinsic motivator that came along this week in the form of my mom’s impending birthday. It was just what I needed: a concrete deadline by which I needed to have a homemade card finished and mailed. On Thursday morning – having left the task to the last possible day by which I could mail the letter and trust the USPS to deliver it on time, of course – I sat down with my coffee and pulled my watercolors out from under my desk. Within 30 seconds of dipping my brush in water and putting it to the paper I was glad I had started. The watercolor palette, full of bright colors that I tried my best to turn into flowers on the paper, had been a gift from my sister and put a smile on my face as well. I felt surrounded by reminders of love and tried to put them from my heart onto the page.
3. My work days have been long and stressful. And most evenings when I desert my laptop (for a few minutes, at least, in an attempt to mark some sort of end to the day before inevitably checking my messages an hour later) I turn to the next task at hand: dinner. On Wednesday evening I found myself still in a meeting at 6:30pm, entirely distracted by thoughts of hunger and what we had in the house that I could quickly turn into a meal. Imagine my surprise when, in a move that was totally out of character, Thomas texted me (from the same room, of course) to let me know that he had ordered us burritos and was going to walk to pick them up in a few minutes. T!!!!!! Coming through!!!!! As I closed my laptop just before 7pm I thanked my lucky stars for Thomas and – more importantly – a big ass burrito.