2017 for me was truly a study in contrasts. From the joy of seeing my daughter grow into her first year of life, to the pain of seeing my mother-in-law diagnosed with cancer. Watching my immobile little infant daughter learn to crawl, walk, and run, while observing my active and lively mother-in-law slowly lose her strength. Despite the beautiful new memories that I have made over the year, why do painful and difficult memories linger so strongly while joyful events, experiences, and moments are so hazy and easily forgotten?
Looking at my own life, and especially as I reflect on this year, I feel that maybe part of the reason that it is easier to remember negative experiences is that it is so easy to wallow in self-pity. Without much thought, I'll end up focusing on a situation negatively, wondering how I could have done things differently or questioning why it had to be my family to suffer—instead of quickly moving beyond and thinking positively, and looking at how I could learn from mistakes or make the best of bad situations. Perhaps I find it almost cathartic to dwell on the negatives, to dissect a situation from different angles—but that has the unfortunate consequence of further reinforcing the negativity, making it a more permanent memory in my mind and influencing my thoughts more than I want it to.
That then begs the question, if bad memories and experiences can be reinforced, the opposite should be true as well, right? I do believe that beautiful memories and good experiences can be reinforced in the mind to positively influence thought and outlook, and therefore words and actions. However, making that my daily reality is the hard part. When I look at the past year and as we head into 2018, I want to more easily remember the many good things that God has blessed me with. I want those good memories to be the ones that linger and are easily recalled. It’s true that sadness and sorrow can’t just be avoided, but I want to be quicker about transitioning into the positives of each negative situation—even if the end of the tunnel seems infinitely distant. I pray that God gives my family and me the patience and discernment to be able to look ahead and praise him as much for the journey as for the reward at the finish line. With mom’s illness, there are some hard days ahead but there is also comfort in knowing that rest is there waiting for her.