Last January I posted about trialling a ‘Jar of Joy‘, here’s a snippet from that post…
“The idea is that whenever a good thing happens in 2013 we write a note of it (little bits of different coloured or patterned paper would be really pretty) and pop the notes into the jar. At the end of 2013 we have a jar of reminders of all the good things that it’s so easy to forget or not give it the importance it deserves in our memory. For those of us living with health conditions, or any other challenging life anomaly, this could be really beneficial to our satisfaction at the end of 2013 and looking ahead to 2014. Many of us have experienced the mixed emotions at the end of one dastardly tough year and trying to feel like it was worth it and that the new year will somehow be better. It is easy to remember the hardships, especially when they’re reinforced in our memories by occurring daily, so it’s even more important to remind ourselves of the little joys that so easily get lost along the way, x
From an ill health perspective ‘good things’ would mean slightly different things than perhaps a rock band roadie or NASA scientist might imagine 😉 If we manage a physio’ session with less pain, clean the bathroom and still have enough juice left to make ourselves a congratulatory cup of tea, if a good friend comes to visit and lighten our day, if we have a meal with family, or get to visit a library or museum or see a film or play, If we dress ourselves without as much pain as usual, or put on an item of clothing that we couldn’t put on ourselves for a long time, any of these things and more are experiences and achievements to allow ourselves a moment smiling and a warmth in our hearts, and if they make you grin then they deserve to get jotted down and added to the jar. Think about what will make you smile when you look at them again at the end of the year, and those are the ones to note down.”
I definitely found the Jar of Joy a very positive experience, so once I’d emptied the Jar (and saved the notes because so many positive memories is a very valuable asset 🙂 ) I set it back on the mantle ready for 2014. My first note was: “First Tai Chi lesson of the year”.. And yet here I am in July and I still haven’t written about 2013’s Joys and the whole Jar-of-Joy experience! *gasp*
So after collecting Joys to be remembered, how have I found the experience?
It certainly makes me focus on the positives in a more tangible way. I am naturally positive anyway, but I found that sometimes I would forget to physically note down good things and then I’d have a re-cap of the previous week or two and write down several good things in one go to catch up. If I didn’t have any that readily came to mind then I would think harder to find some. That’s all to the good because it shows that even those of us who are naturally positive can benefit from the process, so for my fellow patients who are currently in earlier stages and/or really bumpy times this could be incredibly useful. We can but give it a whirl and see. 🙂
So if you’re thinking of trying out the Jar of Joy and would ilke some ideas of the kinda things to include, here’s what I ended up noting down as Joys in 2013…
I looked through them all and grouped them by theme. I found that I have some main categories in the way I note down the good things I experience. They are… outings and friends, enjoyable physio’ classes, studying, health blog and arty stuff. Here’s the kind of things I have included from my 2013 adventure on these themes…
Outings and Friends: I tend to include eeeeeverything!
For anyone who has spent any length of time unable to get out much, having someone help you to go somewhere different means a massive amount. I’m not sure that others truly realise how much this means to me, but any of my friends recognising their inclusion here… now you know how much it means to me to see your wonderful selves, xxx
So this category included things like …
- A couple of meals out and a picnic in the sun after a physio’ walk
- Physio’ walks somewhere different: like going into town to photograph some of the sculptures on display there in the Summer, or a walk in a park next to a river, or hanging with a friend and their little ‘un in a park – each time I do something nice it gets written down and popped into the jar. The more I remember to do this the more Joys end up in the Jar and the more positive it is looking back over them. Like getting driven to one of Elder Niece’s swimming and lifesaving classes so that I could sit poolside and be a happily proud Aunty! 😀
- There were some trips to the cinema (Mostly Superhero oriented, with some Star Trek and Hobbits thrown in for good measure)!
- One concert (complete with disabled seating area and noise reduction ear-plugs)!
- And even a camping trip (a massive yearly undertaking but made viable thanks to Magic Dude being such a Pro at looking after me these days)!
- We even turn hospital visits into Joys by taking the wheelchair so that we can go somewhere afterwards if I’m up to it (I wheeled round some of the Natural History Museum in London for the first time in, oooohhh, about 28 years)!
- There were a couple of weddings to gleefully attend and some seriously random things… I mean… recovering from errands in town and ending up getting to hold a 2012 Olympic torch in one hand and a 2012 Paralympic torch in the other hand… *that’s* random! And yes it went straight into The Jar, hehe
- Randomly getting treated to a free lunch in a coffee shop because a local radio happened to be there paying for people’s lunches that day (it cost me a photo’ posing with Magic Dude and the two girls from the radio)!
- Meeting Neil Gaiman for, oh, several seconds! Coz I went to his talk and booksigning in my wheelchair for my birthday event. He signed my copy of “The Ocean at the End of the Lane” and wrote “Happy Birthday” in it too. 😀
- I eeeven managed to go out aaaall by myself one evening *gasp*, and as everyone drank booze around me, I sat happily drinking a tewwibwy Bwitish Cuppoftea! 😉
Friends, (but not outings)!: not every chat I have was noted down but things that stood out for me as particularly smiley were…
- New Year’s Eve 2012-2013 when our Local friend came to visit and he, Magic Dude and I watched some “Big Bang Theory”, then “Despicable Me 2” and later all “cheers”ed each other at midnight.
- Photo’s sent to me of two grinning friends in two different countries who I sent spoons to because they needed more (Spoonie ref’).
- A conversation with 3 fellow CRPSers who have martial arts backgrounds, we were talking about adaptive programs for disabled as a result of my adaptive Kung Fu experience. Their knowledge and enthusiasm is fabulous.
- Particularly surprise presents from friends and bruv which made me grin and laugh…things like standard kitchen teaspoons (Spoonie joke!), a battery-powered tabletop blue Dalek that says “Exterminate” whenever it bumps over anything, some cans of Simpsonesque “Duff” beer.. X-D And some especially heart-warming surprises… an unexpected DVD from a friend and a painting created especially for me by another friend. Another surprise was when Magic Dude got me Vol. 1 of a Serenity graphic novel. (“Oooh, Shiny!”)
My enjoyable physio’ classes: Tai Chi and adaptive Kung Fu.
It’s been an amazing year for Tai Chi, it’s been like a dream. If it could never happen again I would live in the joy of that year forever and a day! 😀
- I had to give up physio’ at the gym owing to my Dysautonomia symptoms getting so out of hand, and yet I noted it as a Joy as I moved across to the martial arts school to focus on Tai Chi physio’s instead – the positive spin we put on events like this is super important for those of us living with chronic illness.
- Even my first official pair of Tai Chi shoes got noted down and put into the Jar!
- My first time performing a Tai Chi demonstration with my teacher (for a local Chinese New Year celebration) and my first time performing at the Oxford and London Tai Chi nationals at my beginner’s level.
- I started learning Yang style sword Tai Chi, just a short 16 form, and even got my own practice sword.
- I also noted my 2nd anniversary of learning Tai Chi with Joy. It is an achievement just doing it at all, it’s important to acknowledge the fact that our achievements are extra super for being done whilst working around the health stuff too.
- I also started learning Kung Fu. It’s with the same adaptive teacher so I can learn it around the issues that my health conditions present. (Yes, she’s awesome, I know)! I earned my white sash and then my yellow sash, too. I am very proud and very happy.
Studying: I was completing a distance learning module during the first 3 months of 2013. It had been a really tough journey and I had lost my brain completely in any critical thinking at all for a solid three months at the end of 2012, so I had a large amount of work to do to get to the finish-line in time. So my Joys were..
- The wonderful support and encouragement from friends, (especially my two research coders).
- The fabulous number of fellow patients who chose to participate in my research study.
- The day the 3 copies of my research dissertation went in the post.
- The day I was told I had passed my MSc in Research.
- The amazing number of requests from fellow patients who wanted to come along to my graduation. I couldn’t attend the graduation ceremony that Autumn, but my friends warmed my heart to be so supportive of me, xx
- The success of my first ever conference presentation. It was about my CRPS research and even won me a prize (£15 in Amazon vouchers which I spent on a Firefly/Serenity tee-shirt. I’m sci-fi to the end, baby!)
Health Blog: That’d be this ‘un, here!
- I was nominated for four WEGO Health Activist Awards
- I posted my 100th blog post
- Sylvie (my fellow CRPS-blogger in Belgium) and I contacted some fellow CRPS-bloggers and we all posted an international themed blog post on each of our blogs on the same day. That was pretty cool – the blogs were written in the UK x 2, USA x 4, Canada and Belgium 😀
By the way, I’d love to know more of my fellow bloggers on Facebook, so drop me a line in the blog’s Facebook page if you want to get in touch 🙂
Arty stuff: it is very rare that I can risk the physical indulgement but I love it.
- A what-the-heck, sod the pain-inducing cold I’m gonna snow sculpt with the nieces. We made a snow lion with radishes for eyes and twigs for whiskers 😀
- A second bout of craziness doing some snow sculpting with Magic Dude at the house. Mine were terrible and kept falling apart that day, but his was a kinda punk/octopus/chicken dude (!) and held together nicely!
- A note also went in the jar for each of the pairs the personalised champagne glasses I painted for each of the two couples whose weddings we attended last year.
- I totally forgot to write a note for starting to paint the back panel for a bench that will sit outside… so I’m gonna write the note retrospectively now! 😉
Three notes didn’t fit perfectly into any of the main themes: One was a note about wearing my ballgown whilst sat at home for New Year’s Eve, because I loooved getting to wear it! Another was a surprise note that I found on my car windscreen after a Tai Chi class – Magic Dude had been in the area and spotted the car so he left a gorgeous note for me. The other was the one and only note that related specifically to my health, it said:
“London trip (2 days re autonomic appointment)
went much better painwise thanks to the wheels”
– Nothing about the appointment, just that the wheelchair helped enormously. So really it’s about a tool to help me, not the appointment itself.
I had made a conscious decision not to include health stuff in the jar. After all a good appointment is not a joy, it’s just not a cack appointment for once! Or is it? Should I start including health-stuff? I’m not sure. The guide I use is.. would it make me smile if I re-read the notes when going through a tough time? If the answer is no then I won’t include it. And although the health positives are good at the time, I think that during difficult times of the year like christmas and new year I would not want to have my thoughts drawn to health stuff in any way, I would rather read about totally separate Joys. So I suspect that, unless it’s a cool physical achievement of some sort, health stuff will not be a part of my jar this year either.
So what do you reckon?
Is there anything else I should focus on?
Any events or circumstances I’ve been neglecting to write notes about?
So far in 2014 I’ve also been including that I’ve had some lovely conversations with friends who I originally met as fellow patients, sometimes on the phone, sometimes on Skype. I’ve also just realised as I write this that I’ve not included any gardening successes, or happy purchase of a new plant to grow, or seeds to germinate. The key to the Jar of Joy is that it helps us to spot more of the positives, even if we’re pretty positive to start off with and, as you can see, I’m already spotting the potential for even more Joys to get noted down for when I really need a boost when times get tough.
If I carry on like this… I’m gonna need a bigger Jar!