A few years ago I was going through an emotional rough patch, and could feel the anger and frustration in every aspect of my life. What was happening in my personal life aggrevated me at work, what was going on at work frustrated me in health, where I was failing in taking care of my health inflamed my personal life. It was a viscous circle that I could feel was on the verge of getting out of control. About that time I discovered Bullet Journals (aka. BuJo). For those that do not know, a BuJo is like a cross between a journal, an organized to-do list, a calendar, a doodle pad, and whatever else you feel you need to bring order to a chaotic life. I love tech, I love being connected, I love having digital reminders to do things and a phone that is my alarm clock, bank, communication tool, camera, etc... But I also REALLY love the feeling of a good pen glidng across the pages of a journal.
Ever since I was little I have felt compelled to write in a journal, and now there are shelves in our study filled with the 50+ journals telling the story of my life. Whether it was the prepubescent angst and lovesickness of a hormonal teenager, or thoughts on deeper subjects, or notes on important events in my life, etc... My journal has always been a mix of what is going on, and what I am looking forward to. At some point while I was in the Navy it also became the place that I wrote down lists. Lists of things I wanted to accomplish, things I needed to pick up at the store, things I shouldn't forget to do, things that should be put on other lists.
So, naturally, as I was seeking something that would bring order to my life and mind, journaling in an organized way that highlighted function over randomness felt like a good fit. I searched the internet for examples, and poured over the thousands of ideas for what to 'track' and 'list' in my BuJo. Some people are rather artistic, including elaborate drawings, watercolor features, fancy titles, and washi tape. Others were more methodical, perfunctory, and focused on action. I sat down and tried to figure out what the major parts in my life were (personal well being, relationships, financial, work, health/Fitness) and then how to track progress or action in each of those.
Now, a few years down the road, I am still using a BuJo. The layout of my to-do lists have changed as my life has changed. I still have some fundamentals that I have found really useful for keeping track and visually reminding myself of important dates/times/thoughts. Such as my 'Future Log', which is essentially a calendar of the year ahead. Some other pages that I have really enjoyed are:
* Books to Read
* 'Last Done' - a list of dates I last did something important, like
change my toothbrush, or oil change on the car
* People That Inspire Me
* Notes from Podcasts
There has also been 3 things that I decided to track my routine progress on, that have helped me to achieve goals and benchmarks.
1. Savings and Reitrement tracker - twice a month I wrote down what the total was in my accounts, and for every time I paid into it, I filled in a little box. Even when I felt like I wasn't doing good enough, or that I was too late with my retirement accounts after starting them over so many times.... Looking at a page of filled in boxes reminded me that I was actually making progress. It also lessened the blow when there was an economic downturn and I ended up losing money.
2. Workout Tracker - Everyday I record various stats and activities, and it has helped me to see progress and stay dedicated to the changes I want to see. The funny thing is I have a fitness tracking watch and I can see a graphic representation anytime of my activity level online, but the physical act of coloring in a box when I complete something gives me the kick in the pants to workout again so I can fill in that next box.
3. Mindful Meditation & Everyday Gratitude - this is perhaps the most important, and the reason that I actually started writing this piece. Everyday I tasked myself with finding something to be grateful for, and wrote down in one spot helpful reminders and quotes to meditate on every morning before work.
There were days that it was really hard. Sitting there staring at the page trying to find something to be grateful for when all I felt was anger and frustration. I tried not to 'phone it in' with some of the entries, I tried to make it sincere. You can tell I was having a rough week when you look back on it and 6 out of 7 of the entries are 'snuggle with cat' or 'watching Rose (my dog) sleep'. It isn't that those are stupid things, more that I knew I was having a hard time finding something to be grateful for.
At the same time that I started doing my 'Everyday Gratitude' I decided to make a shift in how I portrayed myself online. This meant no more engaging in political discussions, no more 'vaugebooking', no more rants, and only posting positive meaningful messages. Others have called this a 'forced optimism' and some call people out on it and speak of it in disparaging tones. I still feel wary of it at times, but, I am so glad I did it. Undoubtedly, there were times as I was typing some happy inspirational status update, that I felt like the whole thing was a lie. I too wanted to call myself out and scream 'bullshit' at anyone that was adding their positivity to mine. Why were they falling for it? Why did the happiness ring true for them and feel like a bald faced lie to me?
Then, slowly.... my perception of myself and the world began to shift. The world did feel happier, it felt brighter, it felt like there was indeed that much good out there. This was reinforced by people coming up to me on the kite field and saying things like "oh, I really enjoy seeing your posts! They are also so fun to read and see what is going on in your life!" As more people told me this, my positivity took on a new aspect, one that I didn't know or expect it to have. It became a responsibility. Now, I feel that it is my responsibility to be happy and positive for not only myself, but to brighten the day of others. It isn't a burden or stressful, it is more like an added bit of motivation when I feel my dedication waning.
These days, I really am as happy and grateful for life as I portray myself to be online. Those that know me and are close to me would undoubtedly say the same thing. If anything I am perhaps even more positive and a 'bright light' in person.
Kite flying has always been there for me, and it is what I credit with pulling me out of my early 20's exostensial crisis. Kites are still very much a part of my everyday life, and the only thing that has changed over the years is how they manifest, or what emotions they are serving. At first they were an escape, that escapism grew into discovery of a whole new world. From there it grew intofostering connections, and now it helping me explore.
I am grateful that kites came into my life, I am grateful for everything that has happened to me since that first kite fluttered, I am grateful for the people I have met on the kite field, I am grateful for the places I have traveled to because of kites, I am grateful for what I am learning and exploring now because of kites.
And yes.... there is a big part of my BuJo that is Kite related... including the doodles.