When I was a little girl, I had a bottle cap collection. My older sister’s boyfriend had collected literally hundreds of different bottle caps and then lost interest. You know, the kind from a glass soda bottle you have to take off with a bottle opener? It was cool because it was his, and I was only 11.
I was the happy recipient of his collection and continued to add to it as I grew older. Eventually, those bottle caps filled a small trash can- a decorator can, of course, and I was proud of it…..for a while…….and then I discovered boys, make-up, music, started dating, and couldn’t tell you where it ended up. Last I saw it; it was in the basement. That’s the way with many collections.
We collect photographs of our family. I have many photo albums, and I treasure them. Some collections are truly precious. One of my favorite photo albums is the very first one I made. It was a gift for my husband, a memory of our time together. I think it was a gift for our 10th anniversary- so there was much history there. In our first ten years, we had five children, bought a house, became active in a church, a new community, made many friends, and had some beautiful experiences. That album is a treasure! Still today, I love to savor and re-experience those times together.
Are you a collector too? People collect many things- postage stamps, quilts, baseball cards, photos. We also collect experiences, beliefs, and opinions throughout life. I wonder, what’s in your ‘life collection’? Is it filled with lessons learned, great experiences, and memories of loved ones?
In my study of Transactional Analysis, I learned the concept of collecting “brown stamps.” A “brown stamp” is an unhappy memory or perceived injustice one chooses to keep. Perhaps I felt disrespected, ignored, or slighted in a relationship. Maybe I was falsely accused. A brown stamp would be the memory, emotion, and thoughts that go with the negative experience.
We create a figurative ‘brown stamp’ album when we hold on to those negative experiences. Our collection can become extensive as we move through life. We may regularly take the album out and ruminate over it, re-experiencing the pain of those times, feeling the hurts and anger all over again.
We all hold on to some brown stamps, even if we don’t mean to. That’s part of being human. However, one of the keys to happiness is not to create a brown stamp collection that we regularly peruse and savor.
Choose instead to create a collection of happy moments. They make beautiful albums. Maybe you could include life lessons and gratitudes along with those happy memories. You could decorate the corners of the pages with humor- it will make everyone smile.
Sure, life has its ups and downs, but why collect the downs when they don’t make you feel good? I’m not asking you to bury your head in the sand. It’s great to learn from the down times, thank them and send them on their way. But what if we collected life lessons and gratitudes instead of the sad/angry/begrudging memories?
Life is full of moments.
Let’s choose to create and collect the happy, grateful ones.
Here’s to creating a ‘life collection’ that will shine light to all!
All my love,
CMH Coaching for Life
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