We had another death in the family this week. One of James’s cousins. And then Father Tom passed away. Fr. Tom was the priest who baptized my son, he was a dear friend to my brother-in-law, and probably one of the few priests I’ve ever known who really was a holy spirit, a kind and honorable man. So in an unexpected way, the last few days have been hard.
I’ve been working this week on a set of stories about journaling. One, in fact, about keeping a gratitude journal. There is a huge amount of science behind the benefits of gratitude. Simply put, grateful people are happier, healthier, and they sleep better. When I write here on this blog, I try to tease out the golden bits of my life, try to dig deep into my feelings and fears to find the nuggets of hope, to work my way through life’s frustrations and disappointments to circle back to what is good. But it’s not the same as keeping a journal dedicated to gratitude. Too often it’s too easy to settle in to feeling overwhelmed and unhappy, to focus on where I wish I could be rather than where I am. Gratitude — true gratitude — takes practice. Most of us are hardwired to zero in on what’s wrong rather than what’s right. I think I probably do better than some, but I have a ways to go.
I’ve been thinking a lot about what my own gratitude journal might look like. I was given two beautiful blank journals for my birthday, but there’s also an app (of course there is!) that looks tempting. There’s something appealing about keeping my journal on my phone, in my hands at all times, about importing photos and short videos and talk to text options. Plus, I’m a digital writer. I’ve always struggled to write by hand, though I know there is beauty in that. Still, nearly 30 years in front of a keyboard has made me a wicked fast typist and when my thoughts and ideas come tumbling through, I’ve found no better way to capture every last one.
It’s not easy to be mindful. And it’s not easy to let go of the people and things that disappoint us or hurt us or somehow get in the way of our efforts to be better, to do better. I’m not there yet, but I’d like to be.