The Jar of Nice Things

I hadn’t seen the idea online, or on a beautifully curated Pinterest board. It was a fleeting mention actually, bedded into a small print feature in a supplement that smelt like papier-mâché. So insignificant that I almost missed it as my eyes glazed the page.
The kernel of the advice, gleaned from feel-good mantras and psychological principles, was straightforward. Write down all the nice things that happen in your day – not just moments of materialistic gain, like your fancy new gadget gifted to you for your birthday, or the overpriced London restaurant famous for floral canopies that you finally managed to get a table at. Small things, like a nice email from a colleague complimenting you on a project, or a few pink clouds lacing the city smog as you walk home from work. Perhaps a wander through the lantern-thronged streets of Chinatown, or a particularly good passage in your book that described the smell of morning dew. Write down all those little moments it said, on the backs of receipts or scrap bits of paper; fold them in half and half again, and drop them in the jar.
I suppose in a way, it’s the cheat’s shortcut to keeping a diary; minus the surfeit of whinging, speculating and tear stained ink blots. Permission to pick the best bits, if you like, even though nowadays people keep telling me that it’s all about acknowledging the grey patches in-between to move ahead. A way, even, to sidestep the aimless scrolling online, and mark place with more tangible things that happened in your year.
Even then, I wasn’t entirely sure if I really wanted to. The idea of a “happiness jar” shored up images of pastel notepaper and those scented gel pens everyone went mad for at school, but I remember wrinkling my nose at. It sounded a bit too cutesy for my liking, and, to be honest, my style is...well, mess, rather than artfully arranged trinkets and little wooden signs and fairy lights that catch the gleam in a sitter's eye when they post a photograph. Not that there’s anything remotely wrong with that. But chaos is my middle name, and besides, when it came down to it, I wasn’t sure if I could commit to chronicling all the good stuff, as and when it occurred.

But I couldn’t deny to myself that that I enjoyed writing things down. I like the smell of new notebooks, and stiff brown cardboard scrapbooks, and Muji black gel pens  and leafing back over pages of scribble. That feeling when you have to angle your head to re-read a feeling or observation squashed up the corner of a page, and follow the snaking cursive down the threaded spine. I was attracted to the idea of giving the good things in my life that sense of permanence that seems to arise when we make imprints in blue or black ink. I decided to give it a go.

2016: still obsessed with rooftops

Back when I worked full time in events, I procured three large glass kilner jars at the end of a long day hosting one hundred and fifty stupendously pregnant soon-to-be mothers. After the jars served their purpose as vessels for pollen-splodged lilies, they were no longer needed; surplus to requirements. So I inherited the kilners, and lugged them home that night - three being the maximum load my rucksack could manage. I chose the jar with the pink rim; and as winter came to Commercial Road that year, a slow flurry of orgamied paper would fall inside.

Naturally, I failed to fill the jar of nice things on a daily basis. Sometimes, I didn’t have the time or inclination to pen down the good bits of my day, especially when I felt the day in question was a write-off. Mostly though, I loved making the little parcels of paper. My early onset acquisitiveness as a child had stimulated a love of stuff, and more than that, stuff that I could make myself. My worthless scraps of paper became priceless islands entrusted with the preservation of memories, that I would otherwise have forgotten in a heartbeat, had I not have made myself jot them down.

There was the time I sunbathed high above the rooftops in Highgate, reading for hours and getting peculiar tanmarks on the insides of my thighs. The time I bought a clutch of blue and white hydrangeas at Columbia Road Flower Market, and that other time I had to get changed in the car pelting along a motorway to a Cotswolds wedding, flashing a whole family as I hastily changed at a red traffic light. The time I quit my job (twice), was given a hand inscribed book, woke up to light dustings of February snow, and the time last summer I watched an old lady pull out a stonking great easel and canvas and start oil painting in Waterlow park.

At the end of the year, I had tens of tiny presents that didn’t just allude to moments of perceived joy, like in a carefully crafted social media post; but real scraps of happiness that bore testament to a year woven through with wonder. Nine times out of ten, they were small and simple moments, probably experienced the world over. Right now, for instance, a magpie came to bask in the morning sunshine on the balcony of my new flat. Five seconds later he was airborne again, beating the crisp January air under-wing as he made his way to a lichen covered branch on the street opposite. That’s one for the jar of nice things. I’ll see it again next new year’s day.

Oh, and that pink notepaper I worked hard to avoid in the first place? I kind of grew to like it.

0 / comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you so much for taking the time to comment, I do appreciate it! Do leave your blog address and I'll comment in return.