A few years ago I heard a guy (Robin Sharma) on a podcast (Tim Ferris) talking about his new book The 5am Club. We were in Bali at the time and I bought the book at the Periplus bookshop the next day. A few years later I found it when I was packing to move and it still had the plastic wrap that all the books in Periplus have. I hadn’t even unwrapped it, but I was putting into practice an element of the morning routine Sharma had talked about with Tim. I wrote about this in another blog. You can read it here.
So when a young artist friend told me recently that she had cried so much her boyfriend slept in the other room which only made her cry more. She was knackered. She had spent all day at a large outdoor market and not sold any of her paintings. She did sell quite a few of her cards and a few pieces of her mother’s gorgeous needlework. They had covered their costs but it wasn’t the triumphant return home she had been imagining while preparing for the event.
My heart went out to her. I’ve been there far too many times.
It reminded me of all the times I had cried silently in my bed, exhausted from a day of work adulting, and wondering when the good times were going to roll on in. I think I learned this from my mum. She was always, understandably, crabby as hell at the end of the day. I get it, Mum, I really do.
But it’s not a great night time routine.
A few years ago when I felt stuck in the awfulness of the Nightmare Job, I started writing a bedtime gratitude list – Now wait a minute, do not roll your eyes at me. Don’t knock the gratitude list unless you’ve tried it for a minimum of 30 days. It’s a kind of magic. I have very pretty notebook beside my bed and I write five things every night that I am grateful for. Until I started doing this, I didn’t realised how foul my night-time mood could be at times. I didn’t notice how sad I felt sometimes. I didn’t notice how dissatisfied I could be with life sometimes.
It’s okay to be grumpy and sad and pissed off. Life is tough and miserable sometimes when things are just not going to plan and the cat pukes on the stairs and the landlord wants you to move and your art isn’t selling. But going to bed with an empty heart is worse than going to bed on an empty stomach.
Get yourself a pretty notebook and pen, or a scrap of paper and a pencil. It doesn’t matter what the hardware looks like. What matters is the writing and focusing on the positive. What did you see, smell, hear, touch, or taste today that made you smile.
It doesn’t have to be monumental but it does have to be weirdly specific. Like today I saw a European bee and a little tiny Aussie bush bee having a go at the same flower. That made me smile. As I sit here now, it’s raining outside. That’s something I’m grateful for but my golf-addicted son is probably complaining about it.
At a pinch, you probably don’t need to write your list down. You could just lie there and ponder the things you noticed during the day that made you smile. I dandelion poking through the footpath. A cute cat in a garden as you looked out the bus window. A kind word from the barista. A great parking space at the supermarket.
If you’re reluctant to write your list down, ask yourself why that is. Are you afraid someone will read it? What’s the worse thing that could happen? They’d laugh at you for having a gratitude list?
Tell them to get stuffed then write ‘told rude person to get stuffed‘ on your gratitude list. Win win.
There’s nothing wrong with having a good cry but it’s not a great way to end the day. Try to fill your heart with joy and love and gratitude, even if it’s a simple as being happy the cat didn’t puke on the stairs. It’s amazing how many great things happen when you’ve got your eyes peeled for things to be grateful for.