The F**K Bomb, A Gratitude Jar, And An Open Heart

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Try as I wanted to believe otherwise, the idea of starting a gratitude journal sucked. Ok, at the very least it seemed to be a bigger commitment than I was prepared to make. First, there was all the writing. I did way too much of it on a daily basis anyway. And even though I’m an avid fan of journaling, the thought of adding another lined, pretty notebook to my nightstand where for sure it would sit glaring at me, made me feel overwhelmed.

That’s why I love the glass jar on my kitchen counter that gets a lot of attention from friends who visit. It’s always neatly tucked, right next to a tall vase of flowers at the corner of my wooden island where the counter joins the wall; and despite its unremarkable look, my mason jar is a conversation starter.

“Are these vegan recipes?”, my friend Brian once asked  as he sat at my tiny kitchen counter, grabbed the jar, shook it and then tried to guess what was on the dozens of colourful sticky notes I had heaped inside.

“Nope,” I replied.

“Are they reminders from a to do list,” guessed another.


Are they story ideas for your blog?


The jar, I am delighted to tell my friends and anyone who asks, is my GRATITUDE JAR into which I stuff short memory notes of thankfulness.


My habit started 2 years ago when I was feeling out of whack. I had uncoupled (Yes! Gwyneth Paltrow is my spirit animal) and emptied my space (emotionally and physically) of the things and people that were wearying on my spirit. I was still dancing with the decision of whether I should be committed to the idea of starting a blog (Forward Forty was just a dizzy thought) and what that would mean for the PR business I had founded at the wise, young age of 28.


It was a time of mixed emotions.

As I grappled with the host of feelings that letting go always brings, I felt that the only thing that might help centre me would be to record of moments in the day for which I was thankful.

Streams of consciousness turned into something I could jot down. Little scraps of paper could be torn from newspapers, notebooks or fluorescent paper pads. My record keeping could be done simply with any instrument of choice: pen, pencil, marker. And most importantly, though I did not know it at the time, the glass jar allowed me to see that even though my life was changing in ways I could not then appreciate, there were many moments in every day for which I could be grateful. 

Every day, as my GRATITUDE JAR got fuller,  my heart danced in tandem.


As months went by, whenever I was having a rough time, or if I berated myself for something I could have done or said better, or different or not at all, I’d dig through the jar and pull out random slips of paper.  In the moment, I would laugh out loud and feel immediately lighter as I re-read those key stories in my life that I would have easily forgotten, had I not written them down and tucked them away.

Reading the brightly coloured paper brought heaps of comfort.

  • Jan 29th: I forgot my credit card at home and the woman at the back of me offered to pay my $285.00 bill. How generous is the universe? #GRATEFUL
  • March 2nd: So happy I was able to say f**k off. Finally, I got the sentiment off my chest  #GRATEFUL
  • April 17th: Eiffel Tower, I’ve waited all my life to meet you. #GRATEFUL
  • June 16th. It’s my birthday. I made it. Thankful for this year’s lessons and the ones to come #GRATEFUL
  • December 19th: Yayyyy, got the meeting with the CEO whose door I’ve been knocking on for a year. #GRATEFUL 

These were big moments,  but for all their importance, for all my wins and all my big thinking and all my seeking of remarkable experiences, I recognised something. I noticed that whenever I emptied my jar to start it afresh, that my happiest times came in  very tiny, intimate moments of acknowledgement: a tweet that made me laugh, my hand, held after a kiss, the sun glistening on the water during the drive home, the sound of rain on the tin roof, a Sunday afternoon without a care in the world, a phone call from a friend with whom I could laugh and talk serious world-changing matters, a nap on the couch when it mattered, a cup of hot chocolate in a moment when everything seemed right with the world.


All of these were joyful moments when I felt the most alive, all of these moments made it into my jar. Gratitude is sacred, I tell my friends, and it is life changing when you experience its influence in life.

Now, it’s inevitable that those who leave my kitchen counter often do so with promises to start their own GRATITUDE JARS. Lisa said she’d do one at work with three girlfriends. Michelle said it was a good idea for her daughter.

But soon after their decision is made I always get a phone call, sometimes tons of them.

“Do I have to call it a GRATITUDE JAR?”
“Am I allowed to ever read the notes again?”
“Is it ok write a note from the Bible, instead of a moment of gratitude?”
“Can other people put notes into my jar?”
“Can it be a box?”
“Do I have to put something in  it every day?”
“Where are GRATITUDE JARS sold?”
“How often should I read the notes?”

Do you hear what I hear? Do you see what the questions reveal? How nervous we are about ideas that are so incredibly simple. How desperate we are to place boxes around things that should be without squares. How scared we are of ideas being too good to be true.


Some things need not have rules. “Put your notes, in whatever container you like,” I tell my friends.  “Do it with anyone you love or by yourself. Do it once a day or once a week. It does not matter if your thought expresses itself like a prayer or a 140 character tweet.”

There are no rules. Well, maybe just one.

The only requirement that comes with starting your GRATITUDE JAR, is an open heart.

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