In late December it is common for many people to look back at the past year and to reflect on the good memories and the difficult challenges that one has gone through. We've all experienced some hardships and some happiness across the past 12 months, and these things are worth reflecting on and learning from. But I am trying something a little bit different this year.
I'm thinking about people I've met from this past year who I would have liked to have talked about with my father. My father passed away in January 2021. While it's almost been two years since his passing, I still think about him often and miss being able to talk with him about what's going on in my life.
When my father was alive, I would often tell him about the people that I met in my work or in my community. He always seemed to be interested in my accounts of new acquaintances. When I spoke with my dad about new people I noticed several positive outcomes:
The conversation with my dad helped me to think about these people in a deeper way. As I talked about them, I got to know them a bit better.
It helped me improve my retention of the details of their life or their story. This was extremely helpful the next time I saw them as I could better recall these details and connect with them.
It encouraged me to stay positive. I didn't want to share negative interactions with my dad as that seemed a bit petty and came across in a judgmental way. Hence, when I shared with dad I typically highlighted an individual's good qualities and avoided discussing their problems.
As I was reflecting about this recently, I realized something surprising.
When someone we love dies, we don't simply lose their presence or the input they give us. We actually lose many of the benefits we derived from sharing with them. In other words, when my father died, I no longer had the ability to talk with him about the new people I met in my life. And by not being able to talk out loud to him I lost much of the three positive outcomes listed above.
Now I'm fortunate to have a loving and insightful wife who is a great listener. I typically share with her about the people I meet and the interactions I have in my day. However, I miss the additional advantages I gained from having another conversation partner. Most of us share with our spouse in a way that is different from how we share with a parent.
So as I reflected back on 2022, I thought it might be powerful to get my dad's help once again. For the past couple days during my daily commute to work, I've tried to take some time to think back on some of the people I've met this year. And as a positive exercise, I've shared these memories out loud as if my father was riding in the car with me.
This has been a powerful way to reflect on the people I've met this year as well as to achieve some of the benefits we get from sharing out loud. And of course, it's also a great way to remember and honor my dad. I hope this way of looking back at 2022 will be as helpful to you as it has been for me.