Today, I want to share one way that I'm using the lens of gratitude to catch a few of the everyday stories around here.
Back in April, I watched a live-streamed talk that Brene Brown was giving at Omega. In the talk, she mentioned that one common theme among people living wholeheartedly is a practice of gratitude. This might mean that they literally keep one of those gratitude journals that Oprah helped make popular in the 90s, but it could also mean that they are able to access gratitude as they move through the day-to-day stuff.
[I want to be one of those people. Even though sometimes the word gratitude bugs me. But then I remember how I've learned that gratitude isn't an invitation to say everything in your life is fine but it is an access point to joy.]
I've kept gratitude journals a few times in my life. Inspired by Sarah Ban Breathnach, the first Christmas after college I made gratitude journals for all the women in my life - from my close friends to my grandmother. In the first few pages of the journal I explained how to keep the journal (write down five things you are grateful for each day) and then I wrote a few pages of the reasons why I am grateful for that person. I remember being so happy to give them to my loved ones that I practically vibrated. They were my first truly handmade gifts since ornaments I made when I was 10.
When my grandma died, that journal came back my way. I'd like to say that she had filled the pages with her stories and everyday gratitude, but the other pages were still blank. This did not surprise me. I think this can be a difficult practice to begin and then maintain, even though the evidence is there that it can literally change your life.
Over here, when I am neck-deep in the toddler stuff and the life stuff, it can be a bit challenging to remember that sometimes moments are full of ease...that sometimes the day goes just the way I hoped...that often there is more joy than intensity.
My mom keeps saying, "When you have a good time at a restaurant with Ellie, write it down. When she says, "Juice," write it down. When she tells you she wants to take a nap, write it down."
And when she's said this, I often think, "I'll get right on that. Right after I tackle all the other stuff that is on my list like planning next year's retreats, writing tomorrow's blog post, and trying to remember to take the clothes out of the washer before 24 hours passes and I have to rewash them."
Here's the reality though: My mom is actually inviting me to do what I already do, notice the simple moments and the beauty found within them, but to come at it with more awareness to how much Ellie is growing each day so that when the day has more frustration than ease, I can still see the bigger picture. (When you have a toddler, your world can get really really small.)
When I was having one of my "okay, maybe I could start writing this down in more of a mindful way" moments, I came across the new "documenting" section at Paper Coterie and found this "Daily" journal.
At first I thought I might be making just be another excuse to get another journal (ahem), but the simple layout intrigued me as did the ability to personalize it. I added my own photos (there are a few different photo spreads inside like the one at the top of this post) and I was able to remove the quote in the inside cover and add my own words.
And I've been using it for a few weeks now. I keep it out in the living room so I can grab it at the end of the day when Jon is reading to Ellie, and I just make a simple list of what today looked like. Everything from the bliss of taking a nap when she does to the joy of a meal with all of us together at the table to honest statements like, "Today was kind of crap as the electricians left a huge mess in the backyard, but I am one day closer to having my new studio."
What I have noticed so far is that when I see the photos on the front and inside of this simple book and I turn to the page to make my list, my mind clears just a bit. I begin to breathe from my heart, and I come back to myself. Plus, the notes are a great place to find stories to add to Project Life.
Edited to add: And this is what I know: If you peek in over here at my site you know that I notice and document the everyday through my photos and words, whether on my blog, at Flickr and Instagram, and through other projects I do. It is kind of my thing (as my new website tagline suggests). But there is something about documenting in a simple list that is helping me, the mama of a two year old, drill down to the even simpler moments to celebrate: when she uses words, when Jon and I connect through just sharing a bowl of popcorn, when Millie rolls her eyes at Ellie...the even simpler moments that push me to know we are doing okay over here. Sometimes you just need a simple list.
Do you keep a gratitude journal or daily list of sorts? How? What do you use? I'd love to know.
This weekend, Paper Coterie is having a pretty incredible "Christmas in July" sale on gift cards; the intention being that you buy gift cards now knowing you will be purchasing holiday gifts (like cards or other fun things) in a few months. You can use them for anything on their site. I'm thinking about creating a few new gratitude journals and sending them out into the world to my kindreds this holiday season.
Note: Because I'm using several of their products almost everyday, I decided to become an affiliate for Paper Coterie, which means the links to their site are affiliate links.