I used to be a huge journal junkie.
Soft covers, hard covers, moleskins and tiny notebooks, baby notecards and giant sketch pads. All my unkempt feelings and exploding rants held together with firm bindings and acid-free paper. I had a collection so big you could have glued them together and made a DIY hipster coffee table.
A statement piece.
Look at all those words! Smashed together under our craft beers and giant plates of hummus! Let’s spin some hipster vinyl right now, because hey man, we’re contemplating the mystery planted beneath that giant slab of vintage glass! I wonder what is IN those pages, man.
I’ll tell you. Handwritten monologues filled with the minutia of my banal suburban life. Rants about my neighbors, what my daughter refused to eat at breakfast, the difficulty of parenthood, the loneliness of marriage, and all the bad sex we weren’t having. Small house problems and big house problems, and all my unfiltered angst in ALL CAPS.
My whole life documented with sharpie pens and rollerballs and dull pencils depending on my mood.
It was exhausting. Literally.
Maybe it was therapeutic. A place to dump everything and take it out of my brain, piece by piece, to make room for new things to take root.
Or maybe I was just farming the same land over and over, planting the bitter moments far and wide until there was an entire forest with nothing but tragedy.
Until one day, I quit.
I quit writing it down. I quit hashing it out. I quit sliding my dull pencil across those pages in the holy name of introspection.
Instead, I put the latest half-filled book into an overflowing box filled with other journals, cleared my nightstand and went to sleep.
And it felt like Freedom.
Woke up the next day, made fresh coffee, walked out the front door and slow-jogged the circle. The fresh morning air, the cool spring sun on my face, it was enough. For the first time in a while, I was feeling the world around me without thinking about it.
I’d become so self-evolved that I was just self-absorbed. Thinking about me and my sad feelings, ruminating my life and my problems over and over. For years.
Then I got into the gratitude business.
Because gratitude is one of the best ways to establish a life-giving story, instead of a life-stealing story. Gratitude protects us from slipping into despair, from tending our fears and anxieties.
Life doesn’t stop. But you get to decide where to shine the spotlight.
It’s about building your story, creating a history for the future you.
You get to write, direct, and edit your own life story. Track the moments that are beautiful in your day. Catalog the laughter and the relief, your friend’s text, your daughter’s funny story, the food on the table at dinner, the green grass beneath your feet, the warm sun on your face, fresh towels in the bathroom.
You get to decide what ends up on the big screen, and what ends up on the cutting room floor.
After a full day of broken people and difficult coworkers and true loves walking on and off your set; after all the messy scenes and beautiful scenes and straight up horror scenes, you get to decide how your story rolls out.
I started small. Just a few bullet points, no sentences allowed. No reflection. No insights. It forced me to find moments that were indisputable gifts.
- Amazing tacos for dinner
- Hiked the hill with T.
- Rocky chasing squirrels
- Clean sheets, omg
Other days were harder. Like the morning my mom passed away last February, me and my daughter in New York, catching our flight home at dawn. Tears falling in a packed plane full of strangers.
- Final breath this morning
- Fresh fallen snow for miles
- Blue skies, clear sunrise
- Free from suffering
- Uber driver, celebrating his kids
- Me and H, homebound
This has been a tough year by most counts. But I’ve got this collection of beautiful moments — ones that remind me of laughter, and beauty, and celebrations, and so much goodness in my own life that it screams victory. It’s a library full of courage for the dark days.
That’s the beauty of building your own Gratitude Story. Soon you’ll have page after page reminding you that your friends came through, that God showed up, and that even though you spent last Saturday crying on the laundry room floor, some people happen to think you are downright spectacular.
It’s right there. In writing.