I made a discovery last week: I don't fully experience an event until I've had time to process it—ideally, to write about it.
When I'm preparing for a trip, people say, "You must be so excited to [fill in the blank]." But I almost never am. Doing something is rarely exciting; having done something is what thrills me. I've always thought this to be weird, and even felt guilty about it. How crazy is it to appreciate an experience—even one I really enjoy—only when it's over?
The revelation I had last week is that it's all a matter of processing. Experiences bring a flood of sensory information that needs to be dealt with, and if I don't have that opportunity, the pressure builds up like a bad case of indigestion. This is why, for example, when I'm away from home for an extended baby-birth visit, I will sacrifice an hour or two of much-needed sleep to write a blog post. If I don't, more often than not my mind will rebel and not let me sleep anyway.
When I write about an event—even if the writing doesn't actually take physical form, though that's best—the experience coalesces into something coherent and memorable. That's when it becomes real.