I began drafting a blog story about my “gratitude journal” over the Christmas holidays, but I never edited or posted it. Then, I learned from American friends with whom I shared a post-Christmas vacation that my journal is “old news” in the U.S. Apparently, Oprah covered this concept while I’ve been away…maybe I started about the same time Oprah did, I don’t know. Though I risk being mundane, I’ll share my story anyway. Not a single one of the three people I traveled with is actually “doing” a gratitude journal, so perhaps Oprah isn’t enough alone to inspire social experiments. I invite you to read this story, reflect on your own experience and then consider starting your own secret “gratitude” journal. The abundance I’ve begun to experience amazes me.
I visited Accra in March 2012 to check out the degree to which I might choose to come here full-time for a year. I was enjoying lunch with an emerging friend who received a text as we waited for our bill. The email prompted Mary Kay to go to someone’s blog post, a person telling her own story about things she appreciated. The blogger recommended keeping an “Appreciation” or “Gratitude Notebook.” She advised numbering entries and writing big and little things you notice and appreciate, from 1 to 1,000. Mary Kay, the emerging friendship with whom became my own gratitude # 3, noted with a smile how intriguing the invitation sounded. I quickly jumped in suggesting we could reach 1,000 by Christmas easily – if something seemed amazing or felt fulfilling in any given moment, write it down.
#1 the mustard-vinaigrette salad dressing
#2 the light streaming in through the window
#6 the ability to be in Accra in the first place!
I started my list on a napkin and continued until I got home to the U.S. where I had a small spiral notebook in which to really count and write. The first few weeks, everything I paused to appreciate seemed to feed other things I could notice. Appreciating the light in yesterday’s window helped me to notice today’s light and ask myself if I enjoyed it too. And, I decided on the very first day that I didn’t want any rules about what “counted,” so if I appreciated another salad dressing tomorrow, I could write that down just as legitimately as the original dressing. The “same” joy I got from laughing with Sam, Ben or Alana one day was actually unique compared to the joy I felt the next day; each experience built upon my previous joys with them and with others rather than feeling “the same.”
Noticing and noting felt exciting; it turned daily routine into an inquiry – what could I find and appreciate? It was a game.
I lost the spiral notebook several months later. Maybe I reached 200, maybe 175, but I started back at 150 with a new spiral just to be sure I wasn’t cheating myself.
161. Lots of quarters to give the man who was begging
163. Computer died before I got to Ghana
172. My new laptop that other people can configure to look like my old one!
One day, when I must have felt especially sad or mad, I found myself writing down “oxygen” as something I appreciated. Implication? One gets creative when necessary in this kind of process! Even when I’m miserable with the humidity, I can appreciate that the fan stayed on for several hours before the power going out. Or when the gecko comes through the crack between the window and the screen, I can still appreciate the vast space between that wall and my bed! My only rule is that I genuinely appreciate whatever moment or feeling or experience or recollection that I’m noticing in the instant I’m noticing it.
215. This morning’s breeze and birds
244. Cool breeze through yesterday and all night
278. This morning’s cool breeze
281. Cool morning breeze and the stillness, non-motor, sounds of the rural-ness of Berekuso
291. The dry breeze blowing through this room
336. This morning’s rooster sleeping in until later than usual so that now at near 7 a.m. I can hear him in the morning’s dry, cool breeze and appreciate his role in nature
The more I notice, the more senses I awaken to noticing.
279. Exquisite cup of Ethiopian coffee
422. Fresh smell of pineapples!
435. Sound of fierce rain on the roof
444. Smell of clean clothes
479. Cool morning air on my skin as I wake
481. Songs of the roosters
487. Being ‘Auntie Mary’
488. Theory and language to help me make sense of my experiences
491. Cold sweet soy milk on ripe banana and granola
521. Hot shower with good water pressure and clean, quality tile under feet
566. The sound of wind under the wings of a bird
And I appreciate people in service-roles, ordinary items, and responses of others and myself even more deeply.
524. A life guard on duty freeing me to enjoy the warm ocean
555. Purity of a tin roof shed as I’m caught in pouring rain…
556. The school girl who joined me there – we smile at each other
593. Red beads – 20 strands of them!
606. Jeannie’s voice in my mind, cheering me on to exercise
622. Moments I perceive students to be respectful of me by way of wanting my feedback or my opinion – Mercey, Angelina, Henrietta, others whose names I do not really know
629. Chocolate dripping from my bite of pastry!
640. Systems and routines that help me feel centered
670. Moments of connection
I only reached the early 700’s by Christmas, including that morning:
720. The loving care with which Esi prepares fruit
721. Symmetry of giving Mary Kay a gratitude notebook tonight since I started this one last March!
738. Smile and joy in writing this blog on appreciation
Consider starting. Perhaps you will list 1,000 before next Christmas. Or maybe you will simply reclaim things you already know you cherish –
743. Magnum double chocolate ice cream bars!!
745. Arrival of friends I haven’t seen in months
It’s working for me.