The good things

I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m ready for this holiday break. Events and issues have been coming at me fast and furiously lately, and I’ve been feeling a bit overwhelmed. Even though many of them–but not all!–have been positive, I could use a breather to digest everything. I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed.

Maybe it’s the approaching Thanksgiving holiday, but something reminded me of an exercise a friend recommended years ago. I found myself in a particularly low spot at the time, and she wanted to help me find my way out of the pit. She started with a simple plan: every night before I went to bed, I had to write down five things for which I was thankful. They could be big or small, but they had to be real. Even if all I could find was that I was thankful that the day was over, I needed to record it. I also had to promise to read back over the cumulative list each day.

I’ll admit, this sounds rather corny. I certainly didn’t see the value in the exercise when my friend presented it to me, but I grudgingly agreed to try. At first, this plan went as I expected. It felt contrived and I really couldn’t see the point. Gradually, though, something shifted and finding the good things became easier. Some days, my list included 7, 10, 13 items. More powerful than writing them down, though, was reading back over them the next day. I began to see the good things that punctuated my life. Even on the days when they were nothing more than tiny grace notes, actively and purposefully recognizing their existence had an effect on my general outlook.

Somewhere along the line, I stopped making my list. I made it through that particularly bad time, so the daily recording of good things didn’t seem as important. As I sit here today, I wonder why not. Though I’m in a much better place, I’m pretty sure this exercise could give me the daily breather I need without waiting for the next holiday vacation. Five minutes of positive reflection each day can’t hurt.

So, on the cusp of Thanksgiving, I’m going to reinstitute my daily list. The first installment is below, but I don’t plan to publish it regularly; I’m just hoping it will make you think about yours.

In no particular order:

  • My ten-year-old daughter makes me coffee every day and delivers it with genuine cheer.
  • The smell of a new book.
  • My son’s dry humor and quick wit.
  • The opportunity to write articles for a magazine. Seeing my name under the title would be reward enough, but I’m getting paid, too!
  • The thrill of making up clever rhymes and using them to banter back and forth with smart alec friends.
  • Long runs.
  • The brilliant color of sugar maples on crisp fall days.
  • The hive mind I share with my brother.
  • Cake and milk.
  • The thrill of knowing there really is such a thing as a long-lost uncle (and cousins, too!).
  • A friend (RK) who holds me steady.
  • A friend (SW) who makes me laugh.
  • A friend (MJ) who values my opinions.
  • A new friend (MC) whose company I enjoy.
  • Black licorice.

Funny–once I get started, sometimes it’s hard to stop.

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