I Wrote Down One Blessing Each Day During 2016. Here’s What I Learned About Life.

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A social media post last December suggested writing down good things on slips of paper as they happen throughout the year, placing the slips in a jar, and then going through them when the next holiday season rolls around.

I decided to take it a step further. I pledged to write something good about every single day of the year – 365 blessings — instead of recording only intermittent positive events. Rather than wait for something good to rain down on me, I wanted to be proactive about gleaning goodness out of each day.

And besides, I know myself well enough to know that occasional notes would probably fade into the background quickly as my year filled up with inevitable busyness. I would have to make it a daily habit, like brushing my teeth and walking the dog, in order to stick with it.

My plan was simple. I would write a good thing every day on a little piece of paper, fold it up, and put it into a wicker basket I happened to have, which was about the size of a loaf of French bread. Every day, no matter what. And at the end of the year, my husband and I would open up all 365 pieces of paper and enjoy the happy memories.

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It was only a few weeks into the project when I found myself having to count up the already-folded papers in an attempt to determine if I had already written that day’s entry, or whether or not I remembered to do it yesterday. I knew that would very quickly become cumbersome, and I needed to create a sure-fire plan to make sure I didn’t skip a day.

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Here is how I made it work: I cut up and dated the slips of paper ahead of time, and kept them in order in a magnetic clip. I know from experience that the easier I make a task and the more I set it up for myself ahead of time, the more likely I am to follow through.

There is always plenty of letter-sized paper printed on just one side in my recycle bin, and reusing that for my good things seemed like a sensible plan. It took very little effort to fold and tear a half sheet, or even a full one, at a time. I folded and tore them in half, then again, and again until the small slips of paper were each about 2 1/8 by 2 ¾ inches. Perfect.

Next, I took the time to write out the days and dates along the top of each one. Wednesday, March 2. Thursday, March 3. And so on. It was worth the extra few seconds it took to include the day of the week, because it is so easy to forget the date when one is caught up in a topsy-turvy day.

I kept these in a place where I was guaranteed to see them at least once a day, which for me was on my refrigerator door. Its prominent location mattered less after I developed the habit of filling out a slip of paper every day, but I did still need an occasional reminder throughout the year.

It was an easy task to sit down and prepare a few weeks’ worth at a time while waiting for the canner to process or listening to the radio, and having them done up ahead of time was the reason I stuck with it for the whole year. For me, that was the whole secret to making it work.

calendar-1022088_640Recording a year of good things has been a powerful experience. I have been amazed at and humbled by the volume of blessings that are heaped on my life, and frequently had to write really small and squeeze cryptic sentence fragments up and down the margins to fit it all in. If there were several good things that happened in one day—my husband got his annual raise at work and the first spinach came up in the garden and my cholesterol went down on my latest lab work—I did not limit myself to one good thing. It would have been reasonable to choose just one good thing per day, but I did not want to leave anything out.

I made up my own guidelines to this project. Did I cheat when it came to timeliness? Sure I did! I would sometimes notice on a Monday evening that we had never filled out Sunday’s good thing, and would do them both at the same time. Once in a great while I got as far as two days behind, but never more than that. As long as a slip of paper ended up in the basket for every single day of the year, I would consider it a win.

The only other real rule I set for myself was to never use a “backhanded” good thing. By that, I mean something that went on paper as good but was in fact simply a veneer on bad. For example, “I fell and scraped up my shin but did not hurt the other leg,” or “The dog was sick on the rug but at least it was not the new carpet in the study.” I made a point to write about something else entirely on days like that, something which was not tied to a negative event but instead stood alone as a good thing.

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The one exception I made to the stand-alone good thing rule was the day my husband was badly injured while using a circular saw. It was a traumatic day in our lives, to say the least. It would have felt disingenuous to write down something like “got the pole beans planted” on a day like that. What I did write was how glad we were that he was not hurt worse or that he did not suffer more loss than he did. After all we had been through in the past 24 hours, our good thing did not need to stand alone in order to be a sincere expression of gratitude for grace.

What I Learned

Some days were hard. Few people lead lives without challenges, and coming up with a good thing at the end of a rough day can tax even the most positive-minded among us. Sometimes I had to dig deep and came up with only bare basics—the sun shone, the unfriendly kitty suffered me to rub his ear, or a hen laid a perfectly shaped egg.

I learned to seek out the good things as I went about my day, making a mental note of my delight in finally laying eyes on the elusive pileated woodpecker who had been laughing at me from the opposite side of the tree trunk for days, or the way the aroma of lilacs swept me off my feet from across the lawn, or a loving comment in an email from a friend.

For much of the year, it was mundane stuff. Great checkup at the audiologist. Got a call from my sister. Did some work on the trails. Bought some yarn at half price.

In retrospect, it strikes me that most of life is mundane. While some years bring huge happy events such as weddings and births and travel and new homes, most of our lives set forth a lot of joy in tiny increments. It is those little things, scribbled on little slips of paper and folded up and tossed into a little wicker basket, that add up to the richness of a glorious year.

What do you think about this project – or about life in general? Share your thoughts in the section below:

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