Barbara Delinsky tells the story of a poor woman who enriched her life, not with travel or meals out, but what she called her pearl necklace – strung with warm moments and good memories, “beautiful memories strung together on a fine strong thread.”
I have long been in the habit of counting the blessings of each day before I go to sleep. I try to think of at least three warm encounters each day. It turns out that the good memories are never the work I have got done or even a meal out. They are always small encounters, words of generosity that spotlight the essence of being human.
After reading this, I want to collect real jewels from my life, to be touched and savoured in memory. The trick will be to notice them when they are happening with all the sensory detail and store them for recall. But also to go back, perhaps a pearl at a time, and remember some of the highlights. Some I had the wisdom to know were unique, sharply defined or bathed in emotional sunlight. Some I have to go back and polish lovingly to reclaim their glow.
The first one I collected on the fly was a night swim, the pool's underwater lighting softening the shadows, trees feathering the nearby gardens and the sky immense and jeweled hanging above us. A moment for the soul, which linked back to dipping under an African Sky, where skeins of stars spread intriguingly, subtly different from our northern sky, and palms loomed blackly by.
So now at night I count the pearls, the moments of warmth, the touch of a hand, kind eyes. Now, reading Positivity by Barbara Fredruckson, I have added her suggestion of also counting my own acts of kindness, the rubies. I never counted my acts of kindness, considering that self-aggrandisement, so I never noticed them. Now I can see the circle of grace, the ebb and flow of kindness and be thankful.
And rarely, there are the diamonds, those moments of unity, flow and perfection that occasionally stud our lives. Then self is set aside and life is sharp focused, concentration lasered and one is truly alive.
Barbara Fredrickson has a test to see your positivity-negativity ratio – www.positivityratio.com. Research shows it's best to be over 3:1 She also has many ways to increase our ratio.