Journaling for a [Different] Reason


   Matt and my in-laws enjoying the moment while on our Alaskan cruise
I have a lot of time to think in the quiet of the morning–5:30 A.M, and no one is stirring but me. This morning, my mind was strangely pulled to one particular autumn day when I went horseback riding with a friend. This was years before I got married, and I remember thinking over and over again on that golden fall day, “This is what a perfect day looks like.” Aside from longing to experience that kind of perfect day again (and soon!), I found my mind wandering to the journal where I had recorded that particular memory.
Over the years, I’ve kept many different kinds of journals. In 8th grade, I kept a journal of all the compliments I received so that my struggling self-esteem wouldn’t take a total nosedive as I struggled to accept my emerging adult self. In high school, I kept a journal with several of my closest friends, and we all took turns writing in it and passing it on. In college, when I was in the thick of dating, I kept a journal of moments I didn’t want to forget–getting asked out by a crush, how it felt to ace a particular exam, building on a new friendship. (It was in that “moments” journal that I’d recorded the perfect autumn day story). And then I realized something.
I don’t think I’ve ever kept a gratitude journal.
Maybe it’s because everyone is always talking about gratitude journals (and I like to be different), or maybe it’s because I think I already try to find gratitude daily anyway, but the truth of the matter was this: I had never actually made a habit of sitting down every day and writing what I was thankful for.
At least not that I can remember.
I started pondering this morning while I drove through foggy fields and passed farmhouses just waking up that I needed to give this whole keeping-a-gratitude-journal thing a try. Lately, I’ve found myself vacillating between constant anxiety and/or constant busy-ness, and those moments when I’ve had some time to unwind, I’ve often used them to complain about everything under the sky that’s stressing me out. And I’ve been beating myself up a bit too because I had all these big goals for myself at the end of this year–I wanted to do NaNoWriMo (write a novel in the month of November), take the GRE, get ready for grad school . . . and with everything going on with my job, it became bluntly transparent that there was NO WAY I was going to be able to do any of those things if I was wanting to keep even a shred of sanity.
So I guess this is my compromise: I know I need something that will help me to relax and better appreciate this time of my life rather than simply stressing out all the time and wishing for summer to be here already. I know I need some kind of personal goal to work towards (because that’s just how I function and how I tend to get fulfillment). So there you have it then: I will be keeping a gratitude journal. And I haven’t hammered out all the details yet (like whether this will just be a mostly-on-old-fashioned-paper thing, or if it will be a new-fangled-keep-myself-accountable-on-the-blog thing. Either way, it’s something I’m going to try out.
My gratitude journal for today (I’m cheating a bit because some of these are events that happened yesterday):
*I had a student bring me in a bag of homemade caramel popcorn for a late Halloween gift. I am thankful I have students who want to show their friendship towards me with food.
*Since I was absent on Wednesday, I had many students come up to me yesterday concerned with why I missed school. Many of them, upon hearing that I’d been sick, wished me a speedy recovery and gave appropriately sympathetic remarks. I appreciate the fact that my students notice when I’m not there, and that many of them prefer having me to a substitute   🙂
*I’m grateful that my mind was in a pondering mode this morning. So often, I find that my thoughts are just endless playlists of to-do lists and worries, and I am thankful today that my mind was well-rested enough to peacefully meditate on the past and the present.
*I ate 1.5 avocados yesterday for dinner (lightly salted), and both were the perfect ripeness and texture. Each creamy green bite reminded me of my mission, when I would receive great sackfuls ot fresh-picked avocados from my friends’ trees. I am thankful that I still have access to many of the foods that remind me of El Salvador.
*Last night, my husband waited after our activity with the youth at the church to make sure that I had a ride home, even though the young men got finished quite a bit earlier than we did. I am grateful to a husband who always considers my needs.
What about you? What are you grateful for today? And have you ever kept a gratitude journal?

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