Iam a practical person. I have never really turned to philosophers for life advice. Rather tell me that my parallel parking skills do not allow me to try and squeeze in between a Mercedes and a BMW. That is advice that I can use.
I also believe that life is hard, people are reckless and self-serving most of the time and if your head is in the clouds too often, a psychopath might just steal your handbag and stab you in the heart.
Why am I saying all of this? I don’t want any of what follows to be construed as fluffy, pink, marshmallowy advice that will make the world a better place with no effort at all.
What I am about to tell you is not easy but learning to be honestly grateful for the blessings in your life really is worth all the trouble.
Thirty years ago my mom told me to “count my blessings” every day and write them down. As I seem completely unable to distinguish when she issues a motherly instruction and when she is just making a helpful suggestion, I thought I’d better do what she said.
So I started to keep a journal. I was eight when I started doing this.
I have been doing this for 30 years now. Every day. Some years make for entertaining reading.
I am blessed with the most wonderful family in the world, close friends, a cottage populated by eccentric animals, a niece who amazes me every day, a job that I love with a passion.
Four times in the last 30 years I left a blank page.
The first was a devastating break-up. A year later I went back to fill the page with lessons learned.
The second was when a close friend, a police detective, was gunned down in Cape Town. I finally went back to give thanks for the close friends I made in that time of sorrow – people who had my back no matter what.
The third time was when my greatly beloved ouma died. This time the page stayed empty for almost 18 months while I learned the healing power of mourning properly.
The fourth time was possibly the hardest of all when my cousin was killed in a motorcycle accident by a reckless driver.
It took me more than a year before I could start writing about the blessing of being able to forgive. Not cheap, discount store forgiveness we so easily extend to someone who bumps you with their shopping trolley. This was the heartbreakingly beautiful stuff that helps you to finally let go.
I doubt that I would have learned these lessons if it wasn’t for my blessings journals.
They have become the Wikipedia of my personal happiness, a practical documented list of gratitude that provided me with a chance to look for beauty.