One Way to Boost Happiness? Connect with My Past.

Last weekend, I went to Washington, D.C., to attend the reunion of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s clerks.

This event made me happy for many reasons. I was thrilled to see Justice O’Connor. I loved catching up with many old friends and acquaintances. I enjoyed walking around the halls of the Supreme Court building.

And the entire weekend reminded me of the usefulness of my resolution to Stay connected to my past.

I have a terrible memory of my own past. I can barely remember my childhood. I have few memories from college and law school–though once I got married I got the advantage of being able to consult my husband’s memory. Many of my resolutions–like Keep a one-sentence journal or Keep photos or Take tourist photos of my own life–are aimed at helping me remember my own past.

Because I’m not a lawyer anymore, it’s especially easy for me to lose touch with my lawyer past. My husband and I met in law school–you can see photo highlights here–but he’s not a lawyer anymore, either.  Or perhaps it’s more accurate to say that we’re not practicing law any more. Once a lawyer, always a lawyer.

I like being back in that environment, to get to listen to law talk and hang out with lawyer friends. It makes me feel more connected to my past, which makes me feel more rooted, more…coherent.

Whenever I’m trying to decide how to spend my precious time, energy, or money, I ask myself a series of questions. “Will this broaden or deepen my relationships?” “Will this contribute to an atmosphere of growth in my life?” “Is this a way to ‘Be Gretchen?’”  and “Will this help connect me to my past?

How about you? Do you take steps to try to stay connected to your past? Do you worry about losing touch with some part of your past?

I write a lot about the importance of keeping memories strong throughout Happier at Home.

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Note about the photograph: you may be thinking, “If the reunion happened in Washington, D.C., why is the New York Public Library in the background?” Well, you probably didn’t think that, but for accuracy’s sake, I’ll point out that this photo was taken in New York City a few months ago. Here’s a picture I took at the Supreme Court: SupremeCourt

  • sopranomom

    I heard Justice O’Connor speak 5 years ago in Tempe. Her speech about the importance of lawyers giving back to the community was very motivating. Just the fact that I remember the topic is indicative of how good the speech was! My husband is the lawyer, but I very much enjoyed the conference for which Justice O’Connor gave the keynote address.

    And yes, connecting with my past absolutely boosts my happiness. Once a year a group of my high school friends gets together for an afternoon. It an important connection for all of us even though (or perhaps because) we graduated over 37 years ago. I feel the same way about seeing my cousins at a family reunion.
    Thank you for your blog that gets me thinking about what happiness really is and how I can boost it through concerted effort!

    • ashilario

      yeah giving back to the community is awesome

  • Sniggdha Jauhari

    Any connection, should ideally, boost happiness. but what happens if the past brings sad memories: memories of what should have been but could not be……

    • Louisa

      I agree. Sometimes I’m better off not thinking too much about my past. I have very happy memories of my stepchildren as little girls, for example, but they view their childhood very bleakly, and in fact now have no contact with my husband and me. So thinking about those happy days of their youth is very painful. I find living in the present or making plans for the near future is much more positive for me.

  • ashilario

    I did connect with a couple of church friends from my youth. I enjoyed talking to them. They were very lovely people and I got more motivated to take care of my “spiritual” self.

  • peninith1

    This is something of a vexed subject for me. I have my 89 year old Mom living with me these days. Talk about connecting with the past! Sometimes it’s a gift to hear stories from HER past that I might never have been able to hear before. Sometimes it is a not so pleasant trip back to my own past. Sometimes it is shared memories of my home town, people there, the church and the school. Often it is her memories of World War II in England. I’m a little bit hyperconnected at the moment. I do realize that there is privilege along with the drag of the past–but I long for a little more of the present, as well.

  • peninith1

    But let me get off my personal issue for a moment and say, Gretchen, I agree with you that REUNIONS are great! I avoided my High School reunion for 25 years, and now I know better. It is lovely to get back together with friends who remember you ‘when’! It is amazing how resentments and embarrassments evaporate and people are ready to embrace one another and share memories.

  • Kolade Timi

    At times, we have a past that revokes some sad and though memories and we are obliged to always leave such behind us and move ahead with new and fresh realities. I have some great friends in my academic days but I get to understand that these are people that we are destined to meet but not to remain connected for life. I continue to make new friends and discover new horizons in people and this has really helped me to focus on a brighter future .

  • boyblue

    I never connect with my past – in fact, I feel as if I’ve spent my entire life escaping from it. I’m not sure that’s entirely a bad thing, as there’s lots of baggage there.

    That said, I do sometimes wonder whether I could find my way back and reconnect with the good parts.

  • Marjorie

    I was born and raised in Calgary, but moved to Denver 27 years ago. Connecting with my past has always been a priority. I’ve managed to get back 2-4 times/year, even when our kids were young and the hassle/expense was big. They grew up knowing their cousins. I still get together with my childhood friends at least twice/year. Even so, I know it’s going to be very painful when I lose my parents because I left. Visiting isn’t the same as living there. :(