I picked one hell of a year to start a Happiness Jar… but that’s what I did in 2020. Over the winter holidays in 2019, I saw the happiness jar idea shared on social media. The notion is to designate a jar where you put in notes of gratitude or write good things after they happen. You fold up that written note and stuff it into the jar. Then keep filling it. By the end of a year, you have a jar full (or perhaps even several jars full) of wonderful memories. You and your family read the notes aloud on New Year’s Eve after 12 months, reflecting on the incredible year you’ve had.
I loved that idea - taking time to write down fortunate instances throughout the week and month. The concept of doing this for a whole year appealed to me. I printed out the cute online graphic I found where I saw the suggestion, and I taped it to an empty Mason jar.
For Christmas 2019 and New Year’s 2020, I handed out 20 happiness jars to friends, co-workers and loved ones. I wanted to encourage the people I cherish most to do what I had planned to do – be happier and be more mindful of the special moments in life, record them and enjoy reading them a year later.
My two daughters spent a few minutes each week writing their notes and placing them in the jar. We had fun documenting silly, accident-prone events like one kid spilling grape juice on herself and laughing about it. Another time, one kid caught herself saying a phrase that she immediately admitted was “kind of dumb.” We recorded moments like watching family movies together. At times it was simply us having fondue on a Saturday night - dipping marshmallows, strawberries and Rice Krispie treats into melted chocolate. Other cases were more significant like my daughter winning the top reader award in her class and earning second place in reading at her grade level.
Everything was going well until mid-March 2020. Then the pandemic hit our area.
No problem! Ever the optimist at first, I pulled out a smaller jar for these temporary virus weeks. It will be all be over in a month or two, I naively told myself and my family. We’ll still do our best to find joy, and we’ll put our notes in this separate jelly jar marked for the virus.
During the end of March and April, we did put notes of gratitude in the jelly jar marked “Happiness Jar During COVID-19.” Yet as May rolled in and June hit us over the head, the world seemed to worsen. Our spirits felt broken as ugliness spread quicker than the positive cases. Our happiness was fading away, now hiding beneath the sofa with dust, dog toys and missing socks.
I felt the saddest I’d been in a long time, even falling into an early depression. By July I willed myself out of a slump with help from my family. I began taking on personal challenges and creative writing projects. It took a focused mind and heart, but I began to see hope again.
By end of July I put my first slip of paper back into the happiness jar. This was after six weeks of the jar staring at me, neglected and alone on my kitchen table. I felt good reclaiming my joy and sanity.
In August, my kids and I began to take note of good things happening again. We put a few slips of paper into the jar. Our notes were not as frequent as in early 2020 and not placed as enthusiastically, but we did it. I finally poured that COVID-19 marked jelly jar into the original happiness jar and let my daughter use the smaller jar for a craft. This pandemic and all the unpleasantness about it are part of us and we have to face that.
We still have four more months to go of this unprecedented, unbelievably historic year. Additional things could happen to shake us to the core. But I’m determined to keep my happiness jar. I want to show my kids that the right attitude and hope are needed to help us cope with difficult times.
On New Year’s Eve at midnight, we will welcome in 2021 by opening up our happiness jar notes and reading them aloud. We will have captured proof of our amazing moments, even amidst crazy 2020.
Life in the Time of CoronaWithin weeks after March 11, 2020 World Health Organization’s declaration of COVID-19 as a pandemic, West Florida Literary Federation offered its writers a catharsis. By April, regional writers were submitting words and images to preserve this time in history. The ongoing project began with Phase I, a special edition of The Legend published in May. It featured more than thirty juried submissions. Life in the Time of Corona continues with Phase II, updated as submissions are accepted. Here are the voices of health care workers, poets, essayists, historians, and the images of artists and photographers, documenting this time in Northwest Florida's history. The ongoing project ends with the advent of a vaccine or declaration by the World Health Organization.
Social Distancing at Johnson's Beach
Six Feet Apart
The Last Haircut
The Passage to Paradise
When Hammock Becomes Mask
Riding Out a Hurricane in a Pandemic
To Butt in or Not
Bends and Turns
Pandemic Pen Pals
Prayer to The Theotokos
Grieving Loss of Many Kinds
Why Wear Masks?
COVID 19 Sidewalk Chalk 4-16-2020
View from Within
The Enigma of Deadman’s Island
In the Kitchen with Andrea, Corona, the Dalai Lama, and Archbishop Tutu
Meditations on the Coronavirus
Life in the Time, Again, of Pandemic
Only 2 Things
A Muted Life
America is on Life Support; Prognosis Poor
Crossing COVID Bay
Next Week’s Plans
A View of the Stars
Some Inland Curse
From My Soul To Yours
Eating the Mango
Blindly It Slays Thee
Death in the Time of Corona
What to Do
The Earth Lives On
COVID-19 from the Beginning
Let This Scourge Pass
Earth Day, 2020
Old School Dream
Chronicle of Fools
Ghost of COVID-19
The Year of the Virus
The Mask III
Behind the Mask
Short FictionPassage to Paradise
Mardi Gras Queen
The LegendThe Legend Special Edition Life in the Time of Corona