The Happy Jar
For those of you who receive my newsletter, (and if you don’t, go sign up right now!) you may recall a piece I did at the beginning of 2013 about keeping a ‘happy jar’. The idea was to start in the new year, and write down every time something makes you happy. It may be a big important thing like a new job or a new house or a new baby, or it may simply be the sight of a puppy, or a plastic bag blowing in the wind. (American Beauty reference there, folks.)
At the end of the year – preferably on New Year’s Eve – you’re supposed to open the jar and read all your happy moments, and remember that, despite the constant refrain to the contrary, maybe it wasn’t such a bad year after all.
I was in transit on New Year’s Eve, and away from home for a couple of days, so I finally sat down on January 2 and opened my jar.
There weren’t any real surprises, most of the happy moments I recorded I still remembered. But then I wondered if that was because I had written them down in the first place? You know, like when you write a shopping list but then leave the list at home, but you still remember nearly everything on it?
So I’m thinking it was the process of writing down the happy moments that made them stick. For that reason alone, I think it’s worth continuing the practice through 2014. What you focus on expands. I was looking for happy moments, noticing them more often, recording them, and reflecting on them.
I should add here that I do realise some years are genuinely tough – I’ve had my share of them, and no amount of positive thinking is going to eradicate them entirely. Many of you may be well and truly glad to see the back of 2013, and for completely valid reasons.
But stop for a moment and think back – was it really the whole year? All 365 days? Should the entire year be considered a write-off because some of it, even a lot of it, was difficult? Isn’t that like throwing the baby out with the bathwater? The division of years is somewhat artificial anyway. The Mayan calendar followed a 2-year cycle; the ancient Romans had 8 day weeks. (Yes, I can hear you all, what you could do with that extra day …) Gradually, over centuries, we got better at calculating time, and we ended up with the current system, one so precise it only has to be adjusted by a single second every 18 months or so.
Which leads me to my other big revelation of 2013. There are 24 hours in every day, no matter what. Okay, so that doesn’t exactly put me in the running for a Nobel Prize, but it’s an important concept to grasp. You see, no sooner do we get to the end of January that the rumbling begins about how fast the year is going. And with each passing month, that rumbling builds, until come October/November we are united in one desperate chorus – Where did the year go?
I do understand that as we get older every year is shorter in proportion to the rest of our lives, and I know the pace of life grows ever faster … but there are still 24 hours in every single day, and everybody, no matter how rich or poor, has the same 24 hours to spend. So around mid-year, when everyone was lamenting that the year was half over, I chose instead to see the calendar as half full. As July rolled over into August and then September, I welcomed each month, and I tried to make the most of them. Maybe the year didn’t go any slower, but it didn’t go any faster either. It just was what it was. Three hundred and sixty-five, 24-hour days full of lots of happy moments, big and small, of family, friends, work, challenges, joys … life.