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When life gives you lemons, put them in your Happy Jar

When life gives you lemons, put them in your Happy Jar

What three things are you grateful for today?

Our nightly gratitude ritual helped us shift from feeling beleaguered, to feeling we had some sense of choice in our lives.

We’ve been doing a ritual called the Happy Jar since our son was five.

After supper, we’d share three things that made us happy that day. I’d jot these down and store them in a jar, and we’d each get a little square of chocolate.

Although we didn’t do it regularly, it became part of our family’s DNA.

Recently, in the face of several difficult months, we’ve come back to this practice.

It was Jack, our now 12-year-old, who reminded us of it. At the time, my stepdad had been hospitalised. After each day’s hospital visit, my mum would join us for dinner.

At the end of one meal, when our conversation had been laden with worry, Jack said, “Let’s do Happy Jar”.

And so we did, sharing moments when the heaviness lifted and we caught a glimpse of light. For me, it was reading my current library book with a cup of tea.

For my husband, it was his morning swim in a nearby tidal pool. For my mum, it was sharing family time with us every night.

And for Jack, it was a goal assist in his team’s soccer match.

I asked Jack what prompted him to remind us of the Happy Jar. A sheepish smile crept across his face. “It means that afterwards, I can go and watch TV.”

“You little blighter! So you just wanted to hurry along our boring grown-up conversation so you could get back to your TV show!”

Luckily, he redeemed himself. “Yes, but it was also good to see that Gran could find something to be grateful for even though she was worried about Grampa. And I loved hearing that she was grateful for family time.”

Our nightly gratitude ritual helped us shift from feeling beleaguered by circumstances beyond our control — more bad news from the hospital, another curve ball from doctors — to feeling we had some sense of choice in our lives.

For the past two months, I have been doing my own Happy Jar.

Struggling with a feeling of stagnation in my working life, I came across Make Miracles in Forty Days by Melody Beattie.

She advises writing an “I am grateful that…” list every morning, for 40 days.

So I started. Sometimes I missed a day or three, so the 40 days took over two months.

In a culture that devours Before and After stories, and case studies of how one magic habit helped with weight loss, clearing debt, or selling zillions of products, you might expect that the Happy Jar habit turned my life around.

But my menopausal belly is still thriving, and my debt and income cancel each other out.

In the two months since I started this list, my darling stepdad succumbed to cancer, my Australian mother-in-law passed away, and we had to use scraped-together savings to get my husband over to be with his family.

And yet.

I’m feeling a surge of inner purpose. I’m implementing different processes in my business, creating new products, and getting new clients.

Best of all, I feel in the flow, as though my wheels fit in the groove of life’s railroad tracks.

And for that, I am grateful.

Cathy Park Kelly

Cathy Park Kelly is the author of “Boiling A Frog Slowly, a Memoir of Love Gone Wrong”, published by Karavan Press.

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