Failure Is an Option. Send in Reinforcements.

img_0168January 12, 2016

For a good five minutes soon after dawn yesterday, I found myself staring at a blank sheet in my notebook, the one I still won’t call a 2016 daily gratitude journal. My mind ambled as it tends to when I can’t get words on the page, and it occurred to me that although we’re only two weeks into the new calendar year, I’m already on the brink of failure.

The first few days were easy. Leaving the big guns, like health and rain, to the formal morning blessings in my prayer book, I came up with other things I was grateful for in that moment of journal writing. Items ranged from my son taking out the garbage without being asked to my hot milk frother, which arrived two weeks ago from Amazon and has since elevated my coffee-drinking experience to celestial levels.

As it turns out, putting forth a daily offering of gratitude, when not relying solely on scripted prayer, is harder than I expected. It’s not that I’m unthankful. But I am struggling not to repeat myself as time passes. Like most people, I’m grateful for the same things today that I was the day before.

Yesterday was a doozy. It arrived on the heels of a weekend marked by disappointment, rejection, and a handful of other bad news. To add insult to injury, I foolishly decided to weigh myself right after Shabbos. I woke up grumpy on Monday, my pool of positive thoughts drained. Still, I refused to leave the morning’s entry blank. I stopped staring at the empty page and finally wrote: I’m not sure. I know I’m thankful, though right now, I can’t say for what. It was honest. I didn’t have the wherewithal for more than that.

I stowed the notebook near the microwave and carried on, taking mental notes when something made me smile or eased the process of tackling my to-do list or helped me forget what was getting me down. On their own, these moments lacked the cachet needed for admission to the journal, but were still due recognition. After all, a bissel un a bissel machen a gantze shissel. A little and little make a full bowl.

And so it was, too, with the teetering stack of papers I planned to sort through in the afternoon, dividing them among the many three-ring binders in which I organize my life. One for the boys, another for the house. Others for my articles and blog posts, recipes, crochet patterns, and the decorating ideas I’ll implement right after we get our Powerball winnings.

The primary tools required to manage this system are simple: a 3-ring hole punch and a pack of adhesive reinforcements. Both are genius inventions that render me awestruck every time I use them. The former is among my prized possessions, the workhorse that makes the system possible. But the latter is my knight in shining armor, galloping in to save the day, piecing everything back together when we’re on the cusp of disarray.

Or disappointment, failure, and loss. Because no matter what the movie scripts and television commercials preach, failure is always an option. Yet those paper reinforcements remind me that it doesn’t have to be an end. We can put our pieces back together, maybe even stronger than before.

Last night, over a cup of tea, I gathered up the few pleasant moments I let in through my window of blahness over the course of the day. I grouped them in my mind, because assembled, they recounted a far prettier story about one challenging, not particularly meaningful or memorable Monday in my life than their individual parts could ever tell – and together, they offered up the lines I would write this morning.