Every year my mom gives me a National Geographic desk calendar for Christmas. It’s always my favorite gift. The calendar is in a weekly format and there is a different breathtaking photo for each week. The beauty of nature astounds me and the photographs in these calendars often leave me awestruck.
Near the beginning of last year I read that Elizabeth Gilbert kept a Happiness Jar and at the end of the day she would scribble down the happiest moment of her day on a piece of scrap paper and put it in a jar. (She said that on sad days she would write down the least-crappy moment.)
I thought this was a great idea, but I decided to write my happiest moments on my National Geographic calendar instead. My plan was on the last day of the year to sit down and read over my happy moments and reflect on my year as I prepared myself for the year to come.
I will admit that I wasn’t the best at keeping faithful to this practice. In fact I would almost never write down my happy moment before heading to bed. Usually I would write it down the next morning. Okay, maybe that’s not even true. Usually I would sit down near the end of the week (*cough-Saturday Morning-cough*) and think to myself, what the hell made me happy this week?
The good news is, I’m a genuinly happy person, so being happy isn’t hard for me. But I am trying to be more mindful and I wanted to focus on specific moments that filled my heart with joy, no matter how small. In fact, the smaller the better. Sure seeing Chandler march down the aisle at his high school graduation ceremony or Marley earn her varsity letter made me happy, but I wanted to reflect upon the little moments. And as the year went on I did get better at recognizing little happy moments of my day and writing them on a piece of scrap paper to transfer to my calendar later.
- My stinky ninety-pound dog climbing on my lap (even though he knows he shouldn’t) and staring at me with those puppy eyes in a way that gives me no choice but to kiss his smelly head and pet him.
- Watching a butterfly flit past.
- Singing Adele’s Hello (before it was overplayed) at the top of my lungs while driving to work.
So on New Year’s Eve, when Dave was walking the dog and the kids were hiding away in their rooms I sat down with a glass of wine in my hand and a plate of cheese on my lap and went through my calendar.
There were many moments that repeated themselves. For example, my writing group meets once a month and every month I noted it as my happiest moment that day. Going out with friends made the list twenty-seven times, singing in the car made the list seven times, working out at the 5:30AM class made the list nine times and running made the list eight times (which I know is weird since I hate running, but my happiness had more to do with the fact that I was able to run and not die).
2015 was a great year for me – in many ways epic. Chandler graduated high school and went away to college. Marley finished her first year of high school and went on a month-long trip with her grandparents. I received a publishing offer the day after my 50th birthday. I’m telling you, it was a fantastic year full of big wonderful moments. But I believe what also made it great was taking the time to notice the little moments.
Here are some of them:
January 27th: I was stopped at a light and the woman in the car next to me was blowing bubbles out of her window.
March 6th: Dave and I walked the dog after dinner tonight and had such a nice talk.
April 2nd: I talked to my friend Pat today. He always makes me laugh and feel young and happy.
April 26th: Dancing with cute gay men (who only want to dance and nothing else) at Stagecoach Music Festival. Music and dancing always make me feel so young.
April 30th: Marley took out the recycling and told me to come outside so I could see the sunset. It was glorious and I was so happy that she wanted to share it with me.
May 10th: I was vacuuming and Chandler came home from prom and said, “Can I do that for you, Mom, since it’s Mother’s Day?” (Um, Yes!)
June 6th: Pulling weeds -or at least seeing the result- my yard looks so nice!
June 26th: Walking on the beach for hours looking for sea glass. So meditative.
July 11th: Spending the morning yard saling with Chandler. (And finding a Lululemon top for $1.00!)
August 29th: Watching Bridget Jones’s Diary while drinking a Frosted Cowboy.
October 16: Wearing a coat and gloves for the first time in so long and feeling the cool, crisp air. (We were in DC visitng Chandler and it was still ridiculously hot in LA.)
November 16th: Marley thanked me for making her breakfast, just as she does every morning. It always makes me so happy when she says, “Thank you.”
December 14th: Finding out my book was well-reviewed in Publishers Weekly. (Okay, this was kind of a big moment!)
December 19th: Sitting in the car with Chandler eating tacos from a taco truck in the rain while thrift shopping.
December 20th: Baking with Marley.
December 22nd: I was standing in front of the silverware drawer when Dave offered to set up coffee for the next morning. Then he said, “But for that to happen I need two things. 1.) for you to move and 2.) for you to give me a kiss.”
I loved reading and remembering the small things that made me happy and it was such a lovely way to reflect on my year. I am definitely continuing this daily practice (well, daily-ish practice) of writing down my happy moments. And I look forward to December 31, 2016 when I’ll find a quiet space (and some wine and cheese) to relive them again.
What made you happy in 2015?
Photo credit: Elizabeth Gilbert’s Happiness Jar