Filling the Pages

I love a fresh notebook. Especially for a writer, a notebook is a wide-open expanse for ideas. The truth is, most of my notebooks aren’t filled with the big ideas, but rather the scribbles of notes I take for assignments.

If not my notes for a story, my notebooks get filled with lists. The list may be the groceries needed to fill the fridge, or it could be a tally of daily Weight Watchers points (related to those groceries!), or perhaps the never-ending to-do list, waiting to be scratched off from to-do to done.

So I was pleased when on a recent clothing shopping trip with Shaina, I found a stack of pocket-sized notebooks on the counter made available to customers. Like pens and magnets bearing the store’s name, the free notebook was a marketing tool. Still, I was happy to take one.

The spiral-bound book had a colorful cover and was emblazoned with a saying, something about “Imagining. Achieving. And Believing.” The saying was more affirmation than aphorism, but definitely was an upbeat positive thought intended to dispel any clouds that drift in during the daily grind. Favoring plain, affirmation-less covers, I wouldn’t have bought that particular notebook, but since the price was right, it found my way into my bag.

Perhaps because of the words on the cover exhorting me to “Imagine. Achieve. And Believe,” I decided against using this notebook for one of my prosaic lists. Instead, I thought to use the notebook as a so-called gratitude journal. It’s a concept I’ve read about, which has become popularized on YouTube with lifestyle gurus, and in magazines like “live-your-best-life” Oprah.

While I do know the power of writing, I never kept a diary or wrote emotion-laden letters not meant to be sent. But I was intrigued by the idea of a gratitude journal.

On one recent morning, I took pen to paper, and in my notebook, I listed the things in my life for which I felt grateful. The entry highlighted the biggies. The kind, loving husband, the beautiful, healthy children, the health that I enjoy, the interesting and meaningful work, the consciousness of a life with purpose, etc., etc., etc. It made me feel good to write these things down.

When we remember, we try at our Shabbos table to share with each other something good that happened during the week. (I know a woman who asks her daughters to share a “rose, a bud, and a thorn” at their table. The rose is the good thing that happened; the bud is a good thing on the horizon; and the thorn is something that didn’t quite go as they wanted, but they learned from it anyway.)

Instead of just sharing one thing, I grabbed the notebook and read it aloud. It wasn’t just the initial writing that made me feel good, but reading and sharing those thoughts revived that feeling.

That gratitude attitude could be because of little things, too. One morning I slept in late and ran out to move my car, and found myself most grateful that the traffic agent was one car away from me writing a ticket. He was on his way to me, but I got there in the nick of time. (I also was grateful to get a parking spot in the first place!) A shift in perspective really does make a difference.

Truth is, I have put only one entry into my notebook, that very first one. But now, as our childrens’ notebooks will be getting filled with lessons from English to math as the new academic year unfolds, perhaps I can continue to fill my own notebook with more words of gratitude.

What a good lesson that would be.



About the Author
Heidi Mae Bratt is an award-winning journalist and the editor of About Our Children, the parenting magazine for the Jewish Standard.