"You need a gratitude journal," I said, and then I pulled a cup of warm coffee to my lips, paused long enough to inhale its thick, deep fumes, and tilted the edge of the cup toward my mouth.
My friend simpered as she sipped her latte, gazing up at me with two scrunched eyes that very clearly uttered huh?
"It's this journal that you keep by your bed. Before you fall asleep, you write in it. No matter how bad your day seems, you have to be thankful for something. That's what you write down," I said, squaring her eyes directly for moments at a time, occasionally lightening the delivery with sips of coffee, and glances toward an imaginary spot nestled deep inside the tiles of the floor.
Her lips squeezed a bit at the thought, fighting to press back a smile, waiting me out in an effort to determine whether or not I was actually serious.
I proceeded as if I didn't notice.
"You might repeat a lot of them over and over, but when you look back, you'll find an incredible list of positives. I was pretty bummed out when I did it the last time. I almost quit my job, moved across the country and abandoned everyone in my life. I started writing in that journal and well... it might sound stupid, but it helped."
She watched me a few minutes longer, then she shrugged. "I'll try it," she promised, swirling her cup as she spoke.
We rounded out our coffee date with details, updates about the previous few weeks, predictions about the ones still to come. When our sipping cups were dry, we left. And I forgot all about the gratitude journal. I forgot about our chat, about my idea, about my insistence that positive energy had the ability to squash sadness.
I forgot about it until tonight.
Tonight, as I drove home from a family dinner, I reflected. My voice, tinged with bitterness, felt foreign and cruel. And the grouch who showed up dressed in my clothes sent waves of remorse through my conscience. I shouldn't have let it get to me--I should not have let the weight of things I can't control press down on my shoulders so hard I lose sight of who I am. I should not have, but I did.
And as I meandered through neighborhood streets, making my way home, I remembered the gratitude journal. I remembered its lined pages, and the words too heavy for them to hold. I remembered how it felt to sit and grip its smooth cover, straining to extract each day's simplicities, thankful to record them all. And each night, as I wrote the date at the top, I remembered gazing back at what came before, and wondering what might come next. And for those few moments, propped up on the shoulders of optimism, I felt buoyant, bobbing on a sanguine sea wide-open and ready to be conquered.
Tonight, when I got home, I walked to my room and found the journal, stuffed beneath memorabilia in the bottom of a box. As I flipped through the pages, I remembered that girl. I remembered those nights. And I remembered how desperately I would have wanted to trade places with the girl I am now.
And so I started to write.
I'm grateful for my husband, for finding the "reliable, spontaneous, fun, funny, thoughtful, caring, integrity-filled, compassionate, dreamer, ambitious, honest, selfless" sort of love I said I wanted to be thankful for when I wrote in my journal on March 8, 2008 at 12:55 a.m.
I am grateful for my family. For their love, their support and their concern. For the fact they don't turn their backs on me when I'm grouchy and grumpy and sad.
I am grateful for my coworkers. Each day--despite the difficulties that plague us--I am reminded of their brilliance, their compassion and their dire determination to make a difference in the lives of kids.
I am grateful for my friends, scattered across the city, across the country and some, across the world. I am rich with the joy they have given me, and I am better because they have helped to shape my life.
I am grateful for those who came before me. Those who stood up, spoke up and squared up. Those who fought to make things better. Those who gave me a voice.
I am grateful for....
Mid-keystroke, I turned to the old journal beside me. I longed for another dance upon her pages. I longed to feel her strength in my fingers, and to fill her lines with my hopes. I longed to remember how lucky I am and I longed to trust in the luck that is yet to come.
And because of how deeply I longed, she will get the rest of my words tonight.