I’ve always loved sending and receiving letters. I’ve even been known to shed a few tears when reading one, recently however a letter left me sobbing. Ugly tears. Puffy eyes, wet nose, tears. Maybe I need to get out more.
But maybe it’s because I’m trying to notice things. Appreciate them. I’m trying to remember the days of my life and learn how to make each and every one count.
How do you remember your life?
I’ve always been interested in the idea of documenting our lives and treasuring our memories through stories, somehow though I can’t help but think it’s even more important to do this now. Not only because it can help us reflect and process what’s going on around us, but because in doing so we can cultivate more gratitude and more appreciation for the small things. And it’s the small things that make life big.
Tiles and tears
I wouldn’t cry like this over just any letter.
A few days before lockdown started, we had our kitchen walls tiled. We had spent ages saving and planning, and the kitchen would have looked pretty awful without them. However, it was a difficult decision to make based on the unknowns of the Corona Virus.
Should we have a random tradesman in our house?
Should we spend money on this when we don’t know what could happen with jobs and finance?
In the end though, we knew we had made a commitment and we didn’t want to let someone down, so everything went ahead. Afterall Corona would be over by April, right?
Four months later, tiles beautiful but forgotten as they blend into our everyday sight, we had a letter through the door. Inside the handwritten envelope was a brightly coloured thank you card. And inside the card was a ten-pound shopping voucher.
The handwriting was small and scrawled closely together. No “love from” or kisses as a sign-off. It was short and to the point, which made it even more potent.
A little thank you for the work you have given me over this difficult time.—The Tiler*
My eyes suddenly struggled to see the writing as the words blurred. My heart beat a little quicker and my lip did that weird twitchy thing, you know when you’re about to ugly baby cry?
Gosh, the kindness and thought and selflessness took my breath away. I’m sure the lovely tradesman has struggled in more ways than I’d ever know during this time. Business can’t be booming. Or maybe he’s doing great. That’s not the point.
He took the time to thank us, to understand our choice and show his gratitude. I mean, he’d get my repeated business and I’d recommend him to everyone, anyway. But I don’t think that’s why he did it. He didn’t have to send the letter. I think it was just one person saying thank you to another. Just real people, living as the best version of ourselves as we can.
Normally I wouldn’t have let this letter affect me much more than, ‘oh that’s nice’. But now, when I notice something that makes a day feel different or special, when something stops me in my tracks, I write it down. Or as Matthew Dicks calls it, I do my homework for life.
Homework for life
To complete homework for life, pick one five-minute moment from your day that you think would be the most story-worthy moment. Then you have to note it down. You have to save it. Capture it. You might write a word, a sentence, or the complete story—whatever you have time for. But this is a practice that should be done every day.
The point is, you have to find a moment from every day that is worth documenting. Even on the days that don’t feel like sunshine. It seems pretty simple; we could all take 30 seconds to reflect? But sometimes we are so busy finding time seems so difficult.
What would the best moment of your day be?
Asking yourself this question forces you to look at your life and pick out the best bits, even on days when it might appear the best bits have passed you by. Reflection can be hard, it demands us to examine and question our choices, this might mean admitting when we were wrong, or it might mean noting down when we felt pain. Story-worthy moments aren’t always easy moments to write about. But documenting our days is always worth it.
Noticing your life
Writing stories is not new to me, but really noticing the details helps build a life of gratitude. It helps us realise we already have an amazing life, if only we take the time to stop and notice it.
The fresh start each new sunrise brings.
The smell of a perfect cup of coffee.
Laughing with a friend.
I want to have a life of stories, but to do that I have to actively save them. Spending time devoted to seeking things to write about. Spending time completing my homework for life.
Why you should write down your stories
1. If we don’t write these moments down, we will simply forget them.
They will disappear, lost in the repetitive and blurry mess of all the days that are behind us. This makes me sad. I think of the things that would be lost if I didn’t write them down, the joy that wouldn’t be able to repeat itself. Or the lessons I’d forget I learnt.
2. It helps give perspective.
We see the lows and the highs over a long period of time, we can begin to notice the patterns and waves. Peaks and troughs. We can see how ‘this shall pass’ weaves its way into our lives. The bad doesn’t last forever and neither does the good. But this can give us perspective when faced with a terrifying reality or difficult day.
3. We can realise how meaningful our lives are.
Sometimes we don’t write down stories or memories because we think our life is boring. We think we have nothing to say. But finding meaning in life is easier if we are actively looking for it. Working to notice our lives and how wonderful and brutal and unique they can be, allows us to identify meaning.
Starting a Story
When we write down these memories and moments, we are starting a story. Sometimes we don’t know how it will weave its way into our future, but at least we know it won’t be forgotten.
So, for my homework for life that day, I simply wrote down: The letter from the tiler.
I always want to remember the simple act of kindness and gratitude, long after we throw the letter in the bin, because it made me feel good, and maybe I can learn to do that for other people. That seems like a pretty good homework lesson to me.
If you’ve liked this post check out the new page on my blog: Everday Storytellers, more news coming soon.