Towards the end of 2016 I heard Elizabeth Gilbert talking about a new ritual she had started - a happiness jar. I was intrigued. I keep a gratitude journal but this sounded a little different and I thought I'd change the usual practice up a bit. The original intent was that at the end of each day I would write down something that made me happy and/or that I was grateful for that particular day. As always with New Years' resolutions, I was going to do this religiously every single day without fail. Well, that went to shit pretty quickly. I started out with a bang, and then slowed down considerably, but I still ended up with quite a full jar in spite of my perceived failure. I wrote down anything that happened on any given day that made me feel happiness, joy, contentment, or gratitude, or just simply stood out for some reason.
Lesson #1 - It doesn't have to be perfect to still be valuable and good.
Lesson #2 - Failure is in the eye of the beholder.
Lesson #3 - There will be lessons.
I decided that I would sit down and read all of my torn pieces of paper today, this first day of January, 2018. I wanted to look back at 2017 and remember all the magical things that happened. Some might think that 2017 was a shit show - I being one of them - and how could I possibly remember any positive happenings throughout the year, but we all have a choice as to where we want to focus our attention, and I wanted to start the year with fond memories of goodness, kindness, and beauty. I always tell clients - The world/life is hard and ugly and unfair, full of pain and hate and atrocities. The world/life is beautiful and wonderful and abundant, full of love, beautiful people, and amazing experiences. Same world. Where do you want to spend your time? You can't live on one side without the other peeking through, but you CAN choose to spend more time in one area than the other. WORDS TO LIVE BY, IMHO.
I've tried to limit the time that I spend in the back alleys of negativeville. Let's face it - it's unavoidable. With intention and a lot of hard work, I find myself hanging out more frequently in the wide open spaciousness of positive city. Therefore, in keeping with my chosen destination, what better way to begin 2018 than by reading my golden nuggets of happiness and gratitude from 2017 on this New Year's Day morning.
I've been looking forward to this for the past month. I was so excited to read all the things I'd written about throughout the year and couldn't remember because it's been so long. I laughed and cried and everything in between as I read these tiny folded gifts.
Definite themes emerged as I began to read these treasures. Connection was big. Time spent with good friends and family. We can sometimes take this for granted but the time we spend with people that we love is energizing, comforting, and gives us reason to soldier on during the more challenging times. I felt so much pride in witnessing others' accomplishments. Their celebrations of love. The mourning of those that have passed away. Running into old friends. Making new ones.
Lesson #4 - Connection in one way or another really is what it's all about.
An unexpected theme that presented itself was encounters with random strangers. I ended up having quite a few of these encounters. They were all delightful and touched my heart in countless ways.
I met Dance Cellah in San Diego. An older woman that has been traveling the country for 40 years in a vibrantly painted van spreading the word of the Lord.
In the early morning at Mission Beach, Richard would meticulously carve in the sand a variety of lyrics to different songs, or prose from great literature . He wasn't a big talker, but watching his fastidious nature was a sight to behold.
I ran into Bruce and his beautiful parrot Jasmine in front of the capital one day. These beautiful creatures were as friendly as could be and Jasmine even perched on my shoulder for a bit. Bruce makes extra money by letting people get their photo taken with Jasmine.
The unnamed employee at Ace Hardware that went above and beyond to help me fix a faucet issue. I was frustrated and felt dumb because I didn't know what the hell I was doing. With his kindness and patience, he changed the trajectory of my day.
I had the pleasure of an extensive conversation about nothing in particular with an older gentleman standing in line at a coffee shop. Just a friendly and lovely soul.
Lesson #5 - Strangers rock!
Aspiration #1 - Have more encounters with strangers!
Another notable theme was work related. I frequently wrote about how grateful I was to be a witness to the difficulties that people I work with choose to share with me. I also repeatedly wrote about their wins. The good days. Their triumphs. It's both humbling and amazing to get to be present as people share their life experiences with me. I am in gratitude daily for this, and am reminded yet again how much their brave and vulnerable sharing impacts me in positive ways.
The biggest surprise theme in this little endeavor was all of the mundane happenings throughout the year that made such big impressions. So many days I was grateful for a beautiful sunset, or a day where I cleaned the entire house. Walks with the dogs, seeing a woodpecker, the crispness of the air, going for a run, a wondrous blue sky, the roof over my head, hot baths, the dog that pokes his head out of the window and cries as we walk by because he wants to say hello so badly. A kind word from a friend. A song I haven't heard in a long time. The discovery of a new song. Accomplished goals. The 2017 Painted Lady butterfly infestation that lasted for weeks and was so fucking amazing! Seemingly little, inconsequential things that were consequential enough to somehow register at the end of the day.
Lesson #6 - You will be surprised.
I also realized that quite often I reflected on how when something bad had happened, I was always grateful that it wasn't ten times worse. I felt very content - A LOT. Happiness is not something that is sustainable 24 hours a day, but contentment is. Contentment is when things are okay, despite the highs and lows. I'm okay. Things are okay. Today was a good day.
Lesson #7 - I have a lot to be grateful for and joy is abundant despite current happenings.
I will continue this ritual going into 2018. I can't wait to see what I'll have to be grateful for moving ahead and the lessons that I'll learn. I invite you to try this. It's not a big investment but the ROI is off the charts.
Happy New Year!