A Month of Gratitude

As November comes to a close and another December begins, a new 30 Day Challenge is upon me. In November I decided to write every day by means of participating in NaNoWriMo. It was a busy month, but I managed to squeeze in at least a few words nearly every day. December does’t appear to have the same burdensome schedule, but thanks to the holiday season, does carry with it a large emotion tole. That will surely play a part in the decision for December’s challenge.

Wrapping up November

November has been declared National Novel Writing Month, which has been acronymized and organized formally as NaNoWriMo. I as explained in prior posts, the goal is to write 50,000 words within the month, which equates to 1,667 words per day. What I didn’t foresee at the time I took on the challenge was the time it would take to get 1,667 words onto the screen. In terms of time, this challenge turned out to be tantamount to the previous challenge of running every day. To further the matter, I had signed up for a writing class in addition to my extra household duties. In retrospect, I may have spread myself a little thin. I didn’t come close to that 50,000 word goal; my final tally was just shy of 20,000 words. In my defense, this total consists only of words written for the two novels I was tracking. I was also writing (and editing) journal entries, blog posts, graduation speeches, and even a short story, none of which counted toward my goal. I did, however, manage to write every day…almost.

There was, of course, the one day that I missed during my trip to Atlanta, when we were going non-stop all day, but there would be two more instances later in the month where I failed to prioritize well. They both came during the week of Thanksgiving.

Early in the week we were in New Mexico visiting friends. I brought with me my iPad and travel keyboard so I wasn’t limited by viable writing aparati or the absence of the story I was working on. Though each day was full and I spent as much time as I could with my friends and their family, I took a little time each night before bed to add a few sentences to my story. Surprisingly, the day I missed was the day we returned home. After an exhausting yet fun filled weekend, a five hour drive home, and the thought of preparing for work the next day, I was wiped out, and I hit the bed before the keyboard.

The last day I missed was Thanksgiving Day itself. As family holidays tend to be, that day was full and emotional. I often save my writing for the evenings, as that is when my creative brain is in charge. When other events take over the evening hours, I tend to lose that writing time. This is what I meant when I said that I prioritized badly. I knew full well that I’d be out all day and late into the night. I should have planned on putting pen to paper, so to speak, earlier in the day, if even for a few minutes.

While I didn’t hit all 30 days; the momentum of the challenge, the tuning of the writing class, and the encouragement of NaNoWriMo became the bellows to my ember of writing, which I though had been long extinguished. Like running before it, I have found a new appreciation in writing, and I hope to continue to explore and improve upon this craft.

A New Challenge for December

That brings me to December. What sort of challenge do I want to take on this month? My list contains various options from practicing a language to going vegan. Some arguably more difficult than others either by way of the time required to complete a challenge each day, or by the sheer mental fortitude to persist. Given that during the first half of the month Laura will still be cramming for finals and preparing for graduation, I wanted to choose something that would be easier on the schedule. I considered swearing off swearing for the month, but that raised a number of questions such as what exactly would be considered a swear word and would there (or should there) be a punishment if I swore. With all the stress and emotional angst that comes with the holidays, not to mention the complete and asinine buffoonery taking place at our highest levels of government right now, I thought swearing my be a necessary outlet and decided against it. It didn’t seem like the right challenge, though I felt I was on the right track.

Ultimately I chose to share a little gratitude every day. I forget who gave me this idea, but thank you. It seems like the perfect challenge for this month. Every day I will share some thanks and gratitude with someone who’s done something for me at some point in my life. Maybe they were an inspirational teacher or mentor, or a friend or family member who provided encouragement and support when I needed it, or just someone who reached out a hand. I’ll try to do this at the beginning of every day, because I think that sets such a positive tone for the rest of the day.

This is something that I hope I can turn into a habit. We often times take people for granted, or are too proud to let our vulnerability show through by admitting to someone how much they helped us, and that’s a shame.

“Giving is one of our greatest joys. It’s also one of the most fearless and powerful gestures there is.”

Jen Sincero

Try this little experiment right now. Find someone and thank them for something — anyone for anything. Do it via email, text message, over the phone, in person, it doesn’t matter. If there’s someone nearby where you can get a quicker response, even better.

Did you do it? How did it feel? If you got a response from the person, was it positive or negative? I would venture to guess it was, or will be, positive. It feels good, right? With one simple gesture you improved the mood and energy of two people. That’s a pretty good return on investment, wouldn’t you say? Now, imagine if everyone in your house did this once a day; in your office, your building, your city… you see where I’m going with this. That’s a lot of gratitude and a lot of positive energy.

In her book, “You Are a Badass,” Jen Sincero posits the statement about giving that I quoted above. Her book is littered with powerful quotes, but this is one of my favorites. The book from which the quote originates is also spectacular and I highly recommend you find a copy. So, in this holiday season, this season of giving, that is what I’ll be doing. There’s a part of me that hopes that I come close to missing a day and I find myself chasing a stranger down on the street, just for the fun of it.

Thanks for donating a little of your time to read what I have to say. I hope you didn’t find it a waste.

Photo by Courtney Hedger on Unsplash