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The Joy Jar

Hi Everyone,

During my experience with  cancer, there have been many times when I have had trouble digging out from underneath my own thoughts and feelings.  Those days where I might be relegated to my bed to weather a side effect are particularly difficult. Let’s just put it this way – I am dangerous when left with my own thoughts!  I can plummet myself into a bad place faster than you can snap your fingers!  Oh, I am an expert at it! When this happens, one of the things I turn to is my Joy Jar.

Several years ago my sister Maggie shared her strategy with me for keeping upbeat as she battled breast cancer.  Maggie kept a daily journal.  Each day she would make it a point to enter one good thing that had happened that day.  It could be anything, small or big.  So simple, yet so powerful.

I decided to keep a jar instead of a journal, writing something good that happened each day on a square piece of note paper, and putting it in a jar my Mom had given me.  I used a variety of colored paper.  It started out as a diversion, a task that made me think outside of my illness for a bit.  What I didn’t see coming was the power that writing about something good each day, and the accumulated bits of brightly colored paper in my glass apothecary jar, would have on me.

As the jar filled, I began to feel a surge of hope, warmth, and comfort.  All of these good things happening to me!  So many things that cancer could not impact, could not diminish.  No matter how difficult a day I had, I could always find something good.  It felt very empowering to be able to carve out something special that happened each day, regardless of how I was feeling.  As the jar grew, so did my outlook and attitude.

If you were to look in my Joy Jar, you would see a wide range of things written down.  Taking a walk on a sunny day, seeing an oriole at our feeder, eating a really good grilled cheese, finding a beautiful shell at the beach, seeing a red squirrel at our ground feeder, taking a swim, reading a really good mystery, receiving a text from a friend, talking with our kids, hearing a great joke that made me belly laugh,  seeing the first blooms of a summer flower, trying a new ice cream flavor, being sent a video of our granddaughter giggling, seeing fireflies twinkling in our backyard, sitting outside on a warm breezy day, working on this blog…everything in my day started to look like something I could put in my Joy Jar.  As I began to step back and really look, I realized just how much good there was that I had been taking for granted, that I had not noticed.  It helped me to think differently about all that I had going on in any given day, regardless of how I was feeling physically or emotionally, regardless of whether I was in bed for the day or able to be up and about.

Recording the good in your day might help you elevate and brighten your mood, and sharpen your observation skills as you begin to appreciate everything with new eyes.  So get a jar and some colored paper squares (you know, the kind that people have in a plastic holder by their computers or on their desks), or get a journal – however you choose to jot things down.  It is my hope that as you begin to reflect on and collect your good things, you will feel a sense of happiness and completeness outside of your illness or personal struggle.  Here’s to finding joy in each day!

“Til Next Time,

MJ Keenan


One thought on “The Joy Jar

  1. Hoping you are up and out of bed for the 4th of July fireworks, that is if they have them on time in your area, we have to wait as Hurricane Arthur is coming up the East coast, and we will have rain. I want to say I think your joy jar is a wonderful idea for anyone to use.

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