Yesterday at work, I told Kathleen about a page in my journal titled “One Good Thing.” The title is in a circle, and rays go out from it, each one numbered one through thirty-one, for every day this month. It encourages me to find something, every single day, that made me feel good. It might be a phone call from a friend, a walk down the Hannigan Road with my dogs, or a package in the mail.
“Yesterday, the good thing was that I worked with you,” I told her. Then (for fear we should get too maudlin at work), I added (and we both laughed), “It was kind of a crap day…that was the best I could come up with.” It was a nice day working with her, though, and if I hadn’t been writing those things down, it might have gone unnoticed.I’m trying to be more mindful of the things that bring me pleasure. For many years, I did just the opposite.
As a creative person – a writer and a visual artist – and as someone who always likes to have one cause or another under her wing, I used to resent my middling, “white-bread” life. “It would be so much easier to be creative if I were Black…or at least Native American,” I would mourn (with obviously very little knowledge about what could actually make a life easier!). Why did I have to have to grow up in a family that was only barely poor and mildly dysfunctional? My marriage wasn’t good, but it wasn’t “Burning Bed” bad, either. Where was a creative person to get their material?
The other side of that issue is the desire to do creative work that is personal to me. I could – and sometimes do – embrace larger causes: world peace, hunger, poverty, women’s issues. If I stretch beyond my true knowledge and sincere interest, though, it not only feels false, it is insulting to the cause. I’d may as well be trying to paint landscapes that I have never seen, or write about civilizations that I know nothing about.
Reluctantly, I took my own ordinary life with its average experiences, and let my ideas flow from that uninspired base. I discovered that, with heart, the ordinary becomes special, and the common makes room for the common bond. And I learned to find satisfaction in creating from what I could glean from my own run-of-the-mill life.
Still, I tend toward melodrama. I lean toward pessimism. I expect unfavorable results; I dwell on worst-case scenarios. Though I have a million good things in my life, I’ve never been very good at gratitude. I’m trying to do better. On my daily pages, I put a little heart in the margin next to accomplishments that made me feel good (as apposed to just “accomplished”). And now I have my “One Good Thing” chart, which forces me, even on a bad day, to find something joyous.
That, alone, is one good thing!