LET'S TALK ABOUT THOSE HAPPINESS JARS, SHALL WE?
Dear lovelies —
About a year ago, when I first launched this Facebook page, I posted the photo below — a picture of my HAPPINESS JAR.
The HAPPINESS JAR is a project I started in my own life many years ago, and it has remained a practice that I've tried to keep up with regularity ever since. (Though I do slip and forget, because I get lazy and overwhelmed sometimes by life, as we all do.) But in its essence, the HAPPINESS JAR is an almost absurdly simple idea — every single day, at the end of the day, I grab a scrap of paper (the corner of a telephone bill, or a bit of an old to-do list) and I write down upon it the happiest moment of that day. And I put the date on it. And then I fold up the note and stick it in the jar. And that's the whole practice.
It takes about 35 seconds to do, but what it brings me is enormous — not only the pleasure of finding a good moment in each day (for even the horrible days have one least-bad moment) but the lasting benefits of recording that moment forever.
As years go by, whenever I'm having a rough time, I dig through the jar and pull out random slips of paper, and delight in them — all those momentary gems of life that I would have immediately forgotten, had I not jotted them down. They bring infinite comfort.
I am continually amazed at how simple my happiest moment of the day usually is. It is hardly ever a moment of explosive achievement or delirious excess. For all my striving and all my ambitions and all my seeking of remarkable experiences, it is important to recognize that my happiest moments are generally really common and quiet and unremarkable. In fact, my happiest moment each day is usually just a glance of something sweet and small, an unexpected flush of emotion, a bit of sun on my face, a pleasant encounter on the sidewalk, a cool glass of water at just the right instant, the cat-like contentment after a nap, a glimpse of a bird just out of the corner of my eye, a recognition of some tiny lovely thing. For instance, on the day that I first went on the Oprah Winfrey show (which was obviously a peak experience in my life) my happiest moment occurred that morning in the hotel room, when my mom was helping me get ready to go on the show by ironing the sash of my dress for me. (Watching her, I felt like a child again, going to my first day of school, or to a middle school dance. And I felt her love for me, and it was beautiful.) As good as the rest of that day was (and it was amazing and wild) nothing beat that tiny, sweet moment.
So I introduced my friends on this page to my HAPPINESS JAR, and people started making their own, and sending me photos, which I then share on this page. It's been so extraordinary to see this practice spreading! People make their jars out of everything from old pickle containers, to beautiful handmade ceramics, to bowls set in the middle of the table, to rare antiques, to a child's handicraft. We've had HAPPINESS JARS from all over North America, but also from Egypt, the Philippines, Poland, Iran, Turkey, Russia, Brazil, Colombia, Indonesia… We've had family HAPPINESS JARS, mother-daughter HAPPINESS JARS, post-divorce HAPPINESS JARS, get-me-through cancer HAPPINESS JARS, New Year's Day HAPPINESS JARS (to be read the following New Year's, in celebration of the happiest moments of the passing year) — every imaginable iteration. I love every single one of them, and I love you all.
I also have to add how sometimes it breaks my heart in the sweetest way — when I hear some of the questions that people ask about "the rules" of the HAPPINESS JAR. It is as if people don't want to get in trouble, by doing their HAPPINESS JARS wrong! I have been asked, "Am I allowed to ever read the notes again?" Or, "Am I allowed to sometimes write a prayer, instead of a moment of happiness?" Or, "Is it OK if I let somebody else put a happy moment in my jar?" Or, "Does my HAPPINESS JAR have to say 'HAPPINESS JAR' on it?" Or, "Is it OK if my HAPPINESS JAR is actually a bowl?" Or, "Are you allowed to put lucky stones in your HAPPINESS JAR?" Or (this one is usually asked with a sense of panic): "What happens when my HAPPINESS JAR gets FULL????!!" Or (this one breaks my heart the most): "WHERE CAN I BUY A HAPPINESS JAR??? I've been looking for them everywhere on the Internet and can't find them anywhere!"
Do you see how touching and revealing these questions are? Do you see how much these concerns tell us about how uncertain we are about our own happiness, or the permissions that we feel we need to seek? How desperately we want to know the rules? How our fears of getting in trouble block us from our happiness? Not to mention the idea that our happiness is, of course, something that has to be purchased from a legitimate commercial source! (Trust me, these questions resonate with me because I feel like they are all the sorts of questions that I demand of the world, when I'm complicating what should be very simple interactions.)
What are the rules, you ask?
Guys — there aren't any rules! I have no idea! I just made this thing up, because it works for me! It's YOUR happiness; you may do absolutely whatever you like with it, sweet friends! Put whatever you like in there — whatever brings you peace or joy. And when your jar fills up (which I dearly hope it shall) just make another one. Read them if you like; leave them quietly folded if you prefer. And you can make it out of an old tissue box if you want! The vessel is not the magic part; the vessel is just the vessel. What's inside is simply — very simply — the best part of your life on earth.
So that is the HAPPINESS JAR project, dear friends.
I send you blessings from my jar to yours, and all my love…