Second year Uni I was in a bit of a bad way.
Ed was absolutely all consuming. I started worrying about every single little thing you could possibly think of. Some mornings I woke up in tears because I was just so anxious about what the day would bring.
I never actually really opened up to anyone about the extent of my mind frame. I’m not really one to admit to the height of how bad things may be, though some of my friends started to get the gist of what was going on; I guess when your mate bursts into tears in the middle of a busy café because she’s stressing about an essay due in seven weeks time, you notice things aren’t quite right.
Anyway, after a few months of utter shit, I decided it was time to do something about it. And “photo a day” was born.
Every day I started to look for something that made me feel grateful, happy, laugh or even just crack a smile. I would take a photo of it, or something that related to it, and write about it in a scrapbook. I’d do it every single night before I went to sleep, so I’d waft off to slumber in a peaceful mindset. Every month or so, I’d do a mass print out at Harvey Normans of all the pics so I had them all in tangible form.
At first entries were pretty basic and shallow. 2012 came with things like “My hair looked nice” or “I made mini apple cakes for Dad and they came out really well”. I remember one crappy day being at such a loss to find something I lay in bed for an hour going over and over my day, until I remembered the display in the Optometrist’s window in High Street. It had been a window filled with stuffed toy dogs all wearing spectacles, and it had managed to make me smile. Down it went.
As the days have gone on, the jottings have taken on more depth. Recordings of compliments I’ve received, hearing that close family members or friends are well, spending quality time with loved ones. I flicked through this morning and found one day where I had just been so grateful for my boyfriend-at-the-time Louie; it made me think of him fondly and contact him to see how he’s doing.
The end of 2013 saw many entries dedicated to Zach, a guy I had a “thing” with at Uni. Each day had bountiful screenshots of our messaging conversations, and looking back now I still feel a tingle of thrill rereading them.
I’ve only ever let two other people read any of the books; brother James and one of my best friends, Laura. Of course James laughed his bloody head off and mocked the shit out of me. Laura was a lot more considerate, having a giggle now and then but for the most part understanding some of the more ridiculous photo choices.
I’m currently just cracking into my 14th scrapbook. It’s amazing; three years ago a day would have a lone line to it, listing one singular thing that I had to actively search for. Now, one day can take up two double-sided A4’s. Actually consciously looking for something that made me happy on the daily grew to automatically registering and recording specific things. I no longer take a photo every single day, as it was sometimes reaching ten or more snaps for one twenty-four-hour block.
Now I glue trinkets and keepsakes down; things like plane tickets, drawings from kids I’ve nannied, tags off new items of clothing that bring me blithe. The books have come to take the form of a diary but minus any negativity whatsoever; it’s all happy happy happy, and flicking through I can pinpoint moments from the past and recall them clear as Harry’s invisibility cloak.
It also has worked as a secondary coping mechanism as well; being so Ed-owned, I noted every “skinny” comment I received. When I had a “fat” day or received a remark that wasn’t so satisfactory, I would sometimes leaf through the pages and reread instances where I had been told what I’d prefer to hear. As a combating technique, it was the ultimate bat back.
I still fill in my books every night. I would be absolutely mortified should someone come across one and have a peek and peer; it’s so personally Pop, and reveals so much of what mooches round in my mind. Some of the stuff is so mundane and menial, it’s almost silly. I think a lot of people would be surprised to know they feature quite regularly.
As humans, we naturally focus on what goes wrong in out daily lives. We are nimble to notice even the smallest of problems, recall the most distressing of utterances, and yet not hold on to the good that occurs.
P/D has worked for me to be incredibly powerful. It makes you take time to cognizance the upbeat and the uplifting, gain a gratitude habit, shift your focus and to look for the good.
Because life is good. Even when it seems shittier than shit, there is sunlight. Sometimes you just need to look for it.
Count your blessings; or better yet, record them.