Sometimes I feel like this is Instagram’s world, and I’m just living in it. Don’t you?
I mean, I can fight hard against it and lecture my kids on the dangers of social media all day long. Yet, still, I find myself on the lookout for the best moments. You know the ones… Where the lighting is just right and everyone is smiling just so. Where my skin is blissfully clear of pimples and wrinkles and my hair has just the right amount of bounce.
These moments have me on high alert, poised and ready to capture them, filter them, hashtag them, and then post them so I can preserve these memories of my #bestlifeever for all to see.
Because that’s what making memories is all about, right? Perfect lighting, great smiles, and clear skin?
For me, personally, writing about memories is ironic at best. Mostly because I have what can only be described, without exaggeration, as the world’s worst memory.
The Important Moments of My Life Are Safe in My Heart
After years of functioning on overload carrying school schedules, practice dates, work email reminders, and all the things, I feel as if my brain has said, “Sorry, no more.” At this point, it just refuses to keep things inside. I have giant gaping holes in my memory. I forget entire conversations, events, and major milestones in both my life and my children’s lives. It’s funny, except that it’s not. Because I really can’t remember much.
But because my memory is rife with holes and empty spaces, the ones that do stick around tend to be vivid and poignant. They’re there, rumbling around in that crowded brain of mine, for a reason. They’re typically strong ones; not just thoughts, but feelings, smells, sounds, and emotions.
And, oddly, they have almost nothing to do with anything that would fit on my Instagram feed. There’s no aesthetic. They don’t look a certain way or depict my life as my carefully curated social media image would like them to. They’re not about the lighting, the event, or even, if I’m being honest, the big things. The strongest memories I have are nondescript snapshots of the most ordinary of ordinary days.
In fact, when I think about it, they’re not Instagram worthy at all. Yet, like this one, they stand so vivid and bright against the backdrop of my life; they are more feeling than memory.
I’ll Never Forget This Ordinary Day
It was one of those magical early spring days, the air still and lightly sweetened with the fragrant honeysuckle and earthy, freshly-mowed grass. In the background, spring’s symphony—the quiet whirr of lawn mowers layered against the gentle chatter of birds in the trees—hummed. The sky, brilliant blue and cloudless, seemed heaven adjacent, high and vibrant as if God himself painted it that day. The air was full and alive, pulsating with possibility and energy. It enveloped me with its whispered welcomes and hellos.
It was a rare half day of school. It felt slightly illicit to be out in the wild so early in the afternoon, not stuck in a musty, old classroom struggling through nouns and verbs or worse, fractions. And that feeling of getting away with something naughty, something dangerous, gave the world a cracked-wide-open possibility, as if it was ready and waiting for me to touch it, feel it, and taste it. As if the world was mine for the taking.
The garage door—a heavy, old, solid-wood door with chipping paint and a makeshift growth chart marking the years and the inches—slammed behind me *BANG* as I left, catapulting me into the world. Walking, merely walking, was not enough. It wasn’t big enough. Free enough. Wild enough for this day, for me. So, instead I skipped a frantic haphazard path down my long country drive, waving to my dad, who was perched on top of his mower tackling our overgrown front lawn, as I went.
I was ready. This day was mine.
The strongest memories I have are nondescript snapshots of the most ordinary of ordinary days.
There Is Great Value in Memories We Can Feel
It’s very important for you to know, dear reader, that I do not remember where I went that afternoon after I left my driveway. I don’t remember what I was doing or who I was with. I remember only the scents, the sounds, the sights, and, most importantly, the feeling of those few fleeting moments. That’s it. But that doesn’t change the fact that this memory is a precious treasure of my childhood—coloring an entire period of my early days with its magic and possibility. This memory is alive, more felt than remembered. It’s living breathing realness, as close as you and me.
I am somewhat obsessed with the old lady version of myself these days. I wonder about her, worry about her, and find that, even more than cultivating a life for my present self, I am trying to create life for her to be proud of. And when I think about Old Lady Meaghan, I somehow know she will be starving for memories just like these, the ones she can feel rather than remember.
She will crave these tiny snippets because they have the power to transport her back to the moments of her life in a way no picture can. I know she would trade a life filled with occasional Instagrammable highs, like fancy vacations and luxury cars, for one million little wonderful and beautiful ordinary moments, just like these. These are the things we remember. These memories of seemingly-nothing moments that mean the world at the end of our days. They are the meat of life.
And the saddest part is, we’ll miss them all if we’re too busy with our face in our phones, trying to make everything fit perfectly into the tiny squares of our IG life.
Instagram Can’t Capture the Real Magic of Everyday Life
The best moments of my life are the tiniest snippets of the most ordinary days. They aren’t the huge events, the life changers. But the thing about my best memories is they are so breathtakingly ordinary that time can stall, nearly stop, right around them. They are snapshots of moments so intense and poignant in their ordinariness that they barely would even register in the world of social media. Yet they are precisely the ones that matter the most.
They’re everyday walks with my dog and my husband.
They’re Tuesday night dinners with all of the kids home, chatting at our kitchen table.
They’re late nights stargazing on the driveway with my kids and their friends.
They’re long afternoons at the mall with my soon-to-fly-the-nest teenage son.
None of these moments made it on my feed. None of them had good lighting or a monumental event tied to them. None of them were on the ‘gram. They were my actual life, moments when I was so intensely present that I could soak up every detail, sound, smell, and feeling for long enough to allow them to imprint on my heart. They are the things I want to remember when I’m looking back at my years as Old Lady Meaghan. This is the life I want to live.
The thing is, these moments are carved into stone in my memory because I was completely and totally there within them. I wasn’t trying to capture the perfect shot to commemorate. I was fully living in the present. And that’s what we miss when we’re trying to preserve it all for the ‘gram… the complete immersion in our lives. Sure, pictures are great, and there is nothing wrong with snapping a few for your feed, but the fiber of our lives is woven with the memories of our best moments; the ones where we’re the most present; the ones we felt most alive.
At the end of our days, I believe the memories we’ll crave most are the ones we can feel, not see. The stroll down memory lane we’ll want to take is the one that travels through our sweetest moments, the small ones, the ones that pepper life with goodness and light. We’ll want those 3D, in living color action sequences of our ordinary lives, not our highlight reels. And while I will always love a good Instagram feed and a filtered picture of a beautiful moment, what I really want is a fully present life filled to the brim with everyday magic, just like this.
None of these moments were on the ‘gram. They were my actual life, moments when I was so intensely present that I could soak up every detail, sound, smell, and feeling for long enough to allow them to imprint on my heart.
These ordinary moments that Meaghan speaks of can become quite extraordinary if we find real purpose in them. Watch this video as another one of our writers shares how she’s learned to make the most of those simple moments in life…