On Being Thankful

This time last year, we were facing a rather soggy short-term future. Months ago, I said I wouldn’t write about the flood again, and I’m not going to; there are far too many people, both in this country and overseas, who are suffering today through floods far worse than the one we had. My heart goes out to them — especially anyone who’s been injured or has lost friends or relatives as a result.

One of the ways I coped with the situation last January was to set up a ‘Thankfulness Book’. The idea was not an original one; but then, the best ones never are. The wonderful Jackie Juno, poet and Grand Bard of Exeter, talks about a happiness jar; recording good things that happen on slips of paper and keeping them in a jar to reread at the end of the year. Peter Jones in his no-nonsense book How to Do Everything and Be Happy suggests setting up a notice board on which to pin mementos of the good things that happen throughout the year. I didn’t fancy the idea of a jar, and I didn’t have a large cork board – but I did have a beautiful fabric-covered notebook, just begging to be written in (and what writer can resist a virgin notebook?)

I’ve never kept a diary, and didn’t want to do so now, but from 1st January, I started jotting down the things that made me smile or cheered me up each day. Sometimes, there was just one bullet point. Sometimes the list was quite long. Initially, I wrote every day; the first thing I did each morning was to record happy events from the previous day. Gradually, I started slipping — sometimes I would have a backlog of several days to record — and I had to think hard to remember what had gone well earlier in the week. Then suddenly, in the middle of June, I realised I’d stopped making entries altogether. When I looked back, I hadn’t written anything since 9th May. Co-incidentally, or maybe not, that was about the time our new furniture was delivered and ‘project dry-out’ was officially over.

I didn’t go back to read any of the entries — until today. I’d like to share just a few of them with you:

Sun shining through the windows at breakfast time (1st January)

Receiving my first critique from Exeter Writers — and surviving (5th January)
Singing hymns to glorious tunes – Dam Busters and Bread of Heaven (13th January)
Finishing editing; the book is written! (4th February)

Wonderful mix of writerly activities including competition subbing and reviewing books (21st February)
Impressing the tattoo artist with the colour of my hair (2nd March)
Back in my writing room after 5 months; so much better for my creativity. Sun shining, birds singing — even the barking dog doesn’t distract (22nd April)

Late night supper in the kitchen with M; wine and chat (9th May)
Looking back over four months of notes, they are mostly trivial things: there’s a lot about writing, and quite a bit about the weather. There are also many mentions of food and drink plus some milestone events for family and friends. Not a bad start to the year and it got even better, with a wonderful summer; some great festival events in our local town; a couple of competition successes; and the publication of my third anthology. Who cares about a little flood? I had a great 2013 — and hope 2014 will be even better.

So, readers, what are you thankful for — and how do you record your memories?
By Elizabeth Ducie

Elizabeth Ducie was a successful international manufacturing consultant, when she decided to give it all up and start telling lies for a living instead.

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