In 1997, Sarah Ban Breathnach’s book, Simple Abundance: A Day Book of Comfort and Joy hit the world at large via Oprah. And at age 21, I was an avid Oprah watcher, eating up all the “spirit” filled wisdom that was new to the show. I really enjoyed the book, but the author’s idea of keeping a Gratitude Journal is what I ingested. The two month challenge of writing in it every day, naming at least 5 things I was thankful for that day, turned into four months.
I recently pulled out my Gratitude Journal and a CRAZY good realization hit me hard. My outlook on life shifted to focusing on the good, just as the author promised, that much I have known since writing it; I’ve even talked about the subject of a gratitude journal many times in church lessons. BUT in reading my journal after all these years, I discovered that 4 month journey was the act of switching train tracks in my life.
As I rummaged through my Gratitude Journal, I realized this written history and the immediate few years afterward contained the events lodged in my mind as the happiest memories of my previous marriage. That new way of thinking learned from journaling is THE main reason life since then was bearable during times when it shouldn’t have been. Why 12 years of marriage to my first husband sustained much happiness despite the rugged undercurrent of his addiction. It’s the reason the marriage lasted 12 years and not 5. It’s the reason I survived betrayal and divorce without pummeling a few someones when I was entertaining thoughts of it. It’s the reason I can still have hope of getting pregnant after many years of endometriosis. And it’s what led me to choosing to travel, go back to school, write to my heart’s content, and on to living in a space that contained Alan in it.
Maybe I remember those years with fondness more than any of the other 9 or 10 because I documented my feelings and events. Or maybe I was so focused on looking for the good in those few years that they stand out. Either way, the challenge of keeping the journal was a seemingly small choice that ultimately helped me to believe in and see a wonderful life.
Leo Tolstoy wrote, “True life is lived when tiny choices are made. Tiny choices mean tiny changes. But it is only with infinitesimal change, changes so small no one else even realizes you’re making them, that you have any hope for transformation.”
Maybe I would have arrived at this particular place in the present a different way or eventually, but if that were the case, I would be denying all the little happenings that guided me here.
Because of this realization, I’m taking on a new challenge. It’s a project I’ve done a few times, but I’m altering it–blogger style. Sarah Ban Breathnach calls it an Illustrated Discovery Journal. I have used the idea in my family, with my church young women groups, and on my own over the past 13 years since I first read about it in her book. It’s a way of exploring yourself, your passions, your dreams and putting them in a visual format to look at and encourage you “to thine own self be true.” It’s another way of setting goals.
An illustrated discovery journal entails gathering images and sayings from magazines, catalogs, cards, books, photographs, anything that strikes your fancy for any old reason. After collecting these items, they are formed into a collage on poster, binder, journal, scrap book, etc. in an artistic way, including adding art of your own. The idea is to create an extension of yourself. It’s fun, especially when you see the dream fulfilled.
Here’s my latest collage created as part of a FHE goal setting lesson we had. I hung this on my bedroom wall to remind me of my goals.
My version of the journal or collage this time will include putting things on paper at times, but mostly it’ll be in this here blog. I’m calling my year-long project my Small Choices which has been designed to help me achieve three main goals: 1) maintain focus on my life/passions/dreams as opposed to comparing myself to others, 2) blog more often and regularly, and 3) track those seemingly small choices to see where they lead after one year. So, yep, this is my committing to the world that I will do this for one whole year. Go me!
I very often get these grandiose ideas and then peter out on them after time, so I’ve thought of a few ways to help me stay on track.
ONE: Alan. He writes in his journal nearly every day and has done so for over 20 years. If he misses writing one or two days, he always goes back and writes an entry for that date he missed, as if it were that day. If he can do that, why can’t I? That’s what I’m telling myself.
TWO: As a guide, I will stick with Sarah Ban Breathnach’s illustrated discovery journal suggested topics. If I get stuck, I’ll refer to her follow-up book to Simple Abundance called, Something More: Excavating Your Authentic Self which I’ve been reading. Each of my posts will fall under one of the following categories (which will be explained in detail as I post about them):
– Authentic Success
– Authentic Style
– Return to Self
– Spiritual Journey
– House of Belonging
I never want to stop learning and evolving. The Small Choices project is my effort to evolve in a focused and positive way, just as my Gratitude Journal helped me do 13 years ago.