On those days when I'm struggling to think of a "happy moment" to write about at the end of a long day, I always try to ask myself: Joëlle, what are you grateful for?
This is a thought that has been particularly meaningful to me since early 2015, when I was going through a difficult time and needed to remind myself how much more important it was to be grateful for those things I did have, rather than complain or be sad about those things I did not.
A book I read at the time - The Magic, by Rhonda Byrne - laid out a series of daily gratitude exercises over 28 days. While they varied in scope, each day had two things in common: Every morning, write down 10 things you are grateful for; every evening, right before you go to sleep, clutch your gratitude rock and say thank you for the best thing that happened that day.
That's not a metaphor. I literally have a gratitude rock.
While I've veered on-and-off with the writing-10-things-daily piece (currently trying to talk myself back into it!), I have been incredibly faithful to my gratitude rock since I picked it up on January 18th, 2015 off Rodeo Beach in Marin County, California. I'd just gone for a long run with my boyfriend at the time and his best friend. When I say "run", I mean run. We'd been up steep hills, along perilous cliffs, and hacked our way through thick brush. When we reached the beach for the last few hundred yards, I was exhausted. Running through the sand made my feet feel even heavier.
I stopped to take a breath, and picked up a rock at my feet. It was smooth, and felt like the right weight. I held it in my hand as I finished the run.
Ever since then, it's sat on my various nightstands as I finished my San Francisco story and eventually moved to London. Every night, I hold it and whisper to myself what I'm thankful for that day. Sometimes it's a 'big' thing: a work presentation that went well, a great night out with friends. Other times it's something smaller: a sunny walk on my lunch break, a silly joke that made me laugh. Lots and lots of positive thoughts, infused into my little Californian beach rock.
I know it's just a rock. But it's got lots of "happy moments" hidden inside of it. I'm grateful for that.