One year ago I started The Grateful Project. I wanted to learn what it would be like to catalog my thoughts at the end of each day. To see if I could impact my tomorrows by being thankful for my todays. Even the kind of shitty ones.
I started tracking in July 2009 after coming across a tree in Calistoga that was covered in tiny notes describing people, politicians, food, and pets – the little things and big things that make up our lives that people were thankful for. I wanted to continue the exercise and capture the daily experiences that make us who we are the moment our pen touches a page at night and declares: I want to remember this…
One goal was to see if I could make myself smile more. I thought the experience might make me a better a person. And in truth, I thought it might make the people I encounter on a daily basis better too. What I didn’t fully realize was that The Grateful Project would serve as a personal diary where I remember nearly every day for a year. Interactions that otherwise might have been long forgotten were made permanent. At least until I grow tired of them and decide you are too, and dismantle the site.
This experiment has been a way I have charted my personal growth. By recalling what I deemed truly important at the end of each day I was able to see what people and experiences defined me over the past year. And what I still need to work on. After reviewing the entries here’s a little analysis of where I have been and where I hope I don’t go again.
I tried to select one or two highlights from each month. Although, sometimes three made it to the list if a particular month – like October, was particularly stirring. This routine of giving daily thanks helped me pinpoint the exact moment an idea took root and blossomed. It helped me relive the days I will remember long after this project is complete.
I encourage everyone to do something similar – you don’t have to share it with the world on a blog like me. Think about what you are grateful for in any manner you choose. Just do it. Because I can say after a year of practice, that I am happier.
I am grateful for … The feeling when you are sitting across a sticky table from a friend, with coffee mugs dividing you, and realizing you are content just where you are.
Where I was: This was my first entry. I was at breakfast with an old friend. Nowhere to be next. Happy. I thought my project was off to a good start. I thought this whole thing would be really easy.
I am grateful for … Late night talks with my mom on the back porch. With wine. And crickets.
Where I was: The back porch of my parents’ house in Boston. Visiting because I kind of knew I didn’t have a lot of time left to visit and have things just be normal. To visit and not have to pack a black suit in my luggage.
I am grateful for … Picking the right lane through airport security today. Booking the window seat in advance. Five glorious hours of Law & Order. And landing to find sunshine greeting me in San Francisco. Not a bad place to call home too.
Where I was: Returning from Boston after visiting my Nana. Coming home to my last month on Lombard Street before moving across the city.
I am grateful for … Change. Forced or unexpected, welcomed or dreaded. I am thankful for learning how to cope. And then grow.
Where I was: I wish I knew. Because at the time it seemed like a really profound moment for me. I should have used more tags. I think it was about a boy. Or moving. Either way, my dad did respond with this advice: One is never too old to learn to cope with change. You just need to get hit with enough unexpected ones to realize that you indeed are strong enough to do it.
I am grateful for … Personal bike Sherpas. Like DC. Who met me at 6:30am for my inaugural ride to the train station because he knew I was nervous about biking in the city. I am thankful for friends who show you how to do “the Wiggle” in SF, and grateful I can now do it myself. Kind of.
Where I was: I had just moved to a new apartment and needed to learn the safest route from my house to the Caltrain station. My ex-boyfriend DC offered to show me the way. This reminded me how kind of awesome he is. It also marks the day I gained the confidence to start riding my bike again.
I am grateful for … Snow in October.
Where I was: In Boston, staring out my Nana Dot’s room at huge white flakes dancing across the blue sky, clinging to the green grass and the red maple leaves for a second before melting away. Hundreds of ladybugs decorated the windows and clung to the eaves of the doorways. I remember thinking: This show is for her. I remember knowing she was not going to make it.
I am grateful for … People who play the hand they are dealt with grace and dignity – even when it sucks. People who play to win everything. Even when they’re playing for nothing at all.
Where I was: Taking care of my Nana Dot while she was on hospice at my parent’s house. We played Kings in the Corner. Her favorite card game. She won. Without cheating. She would die of emphysema two weeks later.
I am grateful for … No more oxygen masks.
Where I was: I had just flown in from San Francisco. Nana Dot died a few hours later. For the last five years of her life she was strapped to an oxygen tank of various sizes. Always bigger. Heavier. With longer chords. And less distance to travel on the breaths she took. She was free.
I am grateful for …Night walks through the Presidio to watch meteor showers. Especially when it’s cold and the air smells a little like snow and firewood. Even if you forget your mittens. Even if you never see a single shooting star. It’s still kind of nice to just stand in the dark next to someone who doesn’t mind standing in the dark with you.
Where I was: With a boy who broke my heart and never really knew it. Wondering if I ever really got him. Wondering if he would ever really get me. (The answer is no.)
I am grateful for … The confidence to ride on two wheels and explore new curves of the road. The feeling you get just after you crest a hill and start to fly.
Where I was: Coming home from Pac Heights. Feeling like I owned the roads. And loving the new freedom my pink Schwinn provided. I remember thinking of my Nana on this ride.
I am grateful for … Having someone you deplane for because you would rather be snowbound with them in New York, than homebound alone to Boston.
Where I was: SFO and the recipient of the last seat on a direct flight to Boston. I was guaranteed a flight cancellation and delays in New York if I deplaned to fly with Emily who did not get on the flight. I did. It was worth it.
I am grateful for … Moments that science and logic cannot explain. Moments that make you wonder. And then smile.
Where I was: In my childhood bedroom writing a letter to my Nana Dot. As I wrote the lights turned on. Flickered. And I could not turn them off.
I am grateful for … Old ladies at bus stops. Who call you honey. And squeeze your shoulder when you make them laugh. Then tell you that even with diabetes and emphysema, they still like to get their party on. That they still want to find a man who will buy them a diamond.
Where I was: Waiting for the bus on Fillmore Street. I met a woman who reminded me of the hope everyone feels that one day they will find their happy.
I am grateful for … Friends who call you just to say: Walk to your front door and look up at the moon. It’s amazing tonight. And I thought you should know.
Where I was: Home in my new apartment. This call was from DC. (He probably doesn’t remember making it.)
I am grateful for … Homemade crepes with nutella and bananas. And whipped cream. Mimosas. Three of them. And four lovely ladies to spend Valentine’s Day with watching Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Even though none of us really understand why this movie is so fabulous.
Where I was: Celebrating Valentine’s Day with my best girlfriends and watching bad movies on my couches.
I am grateful for … Boys who lean in first.
Where I was: Standing outside my apartment, pink Schwinn in hand, returning from another friend date with DC. Only tonight he leaned in. We have been together since.
I am grateful for … My Grampa, an 87 year-old bachelor, who knows that you say ‘I love you’ to girls you care about before hanging up the phone.
Where I was: Every Sunday I talk to my Grampa. He tells me how things are in the baseball world. Gives me a little hell. I tell him to behave. Then we hang up. These are good talks.
I am grateful for … The feeling you get when you open a map, circle Bryce Canyon, trace a route through twisty mountain roads, and realize you finally have someone to go adventuring with.
Where I was: Planning a roadtrip with DC. My first with a boy I liked. And who liked me back…
I am grateful for … Early morning starts. Driving across Golden Gate Bridge in search of something new. Finding it in Mendocino. On the river. Paddling with friends against the wind. And finding your stroke.
Where I was: Adventuring with my two best girlfriends in one my favorite places in all of California.
I am grateful for … One very long road trip planned. Kind of. Enough to know where we are going. Enough to know what we might see. And a whole lot of unknown to cover in between.
Where I was: I love road trips. I will find almost any excuse to go on one. I will eat almost anything. I offered to crash DC’s upcoming school exploration drive a few weeks earlier. This post was as we neared departure and I began wondering if this was a brilliant idea, or a one way route to disaster. And knowing that it would be an adventure either way.
I am grateful for … Someone I like more every day I spend with him.
Where I was: Nearing the end of our roadtrip from California to Utah, through Idaho and Oregon and back home to San Francisco. Clearly, it went well.
I am grateful for … Three year-olds who remind you that sometimes it’s ok to double fist pretzels and cookies. To want to be a princess and wear sparkly sunglasses. Who take your hand because they want to. And remind you that it’s ok to cry when you have to say goodbye.
Where I was: Picnicking in the park with friends and revisiting a bit of my childhood. And starting to think about how I was going to be losing someone important to me.
I am grateful for … Feet that will carry me 10 miles. Out of the city and upward. Along rock covered ridge lines. Through wildflower fields. And past the gray until I reach the one patch of sunlight visible through the fog. And then back.
Where I was: Coming back from a run in the Marin Headlands. I wanted to run. So I ran. Far. And I felt amazing. I recall thinking, maybe I should start thinking about running even farther …
I am grateful for …People who tell you not to worry about practical things, worry only about what will make you happy.
Where I was: I had just interviewed a famous painter who told me how he decided to leave a promising career and start another that wasn’t. I found him inspiring. I talked about him for three days afterward. Hell, I still do.
I am grateful for … Matty Who reminds me not to take life so seriously. Because there are only so many days you can get drunk and go fishing with your friends. Only so many days you can spend at the beach with your girlfriend.
Where I was: Hanging up the phone after an evening chat with the boy. I take life too seriously. It could be argued that Matty doesn’t. I would prefer to approach my day to day more like he does. He has better stories to tell. This was a good reminder for me to do so.
I am grateful for … Early morning starts. With 3 kayaks. And six friends. Pit stops involving whiskey and sea salt. Sunshine greeting us on the other side. Barbecued oysters. Plan B’s that work. Family style dinners in a tent. Without napkins. Or utensils. And an arm to hold, guiding me through the dark.
Where I was: I had always wanted to go kayak camping. I sent out an email. Friends responded. We went along Point Reyes. Fell into some barbecue oysters and a little sunshine. It was a success.
I am grateful for … An apartment in Italy. On the water. And waiting for us in September.
Where I was: Booking a flight to Milan with Allison at my apartment. I have never been abroad. This is my first step towards being a world citizen. (I already have a library card.)
I am grateful for …Hikes that end with ice cream and parking lot tamale trucks. And ladybugs. Drives that take you back to the fog. Back to home. With a boy who loves you too.
Where I was: Coming back from a camping trip with DC. We were eating chicken tamales in a field where ladybugs were flying all around in the sunspots. It was a very good day.
I am grateful for …A bike Sherpa who will lead me out of the fog and into the sun. And perhaps, someplace much farther.
Where I was: On the last day of The Grateful Project I was biking across the Golden Gate on my pink Schwinn, following DC to Sausalito where we explored the houseboats, and lay on our backs in the sunshine. It marked his last day in the city. Who knows where I will be and what I will see one year from now. Maybe in Utah…