My Post-It Note obsession runs deep. Forever a lover of back-to-school shopping and office supply runs and an avid user of planners, sticky notes are a huge pleasure of mine. Their versatility as…
- colorful reminders
- note-taking assistants
- mini paper airplanes/trash can basketballs
- additional planner real estate
- decorations (yes, you can use them to decorate)
…makes them the quintessential tool for the organized. Ask anyone I work with and they will confirm this love-affair. They will probably also show you a drawer full of unsolicited love notes, hellos, reminders, encouragement, and even poetry that I have given them via the Post-It Note. Imagine my immense joy, if you can, when I discovered yet another use for my beloved, rainbow stickies.
I did not need another reason to use and to love the Post-It Note, I truly did not. My adoration and imagination for the squares knew no bounds already. However, my love did indeed grow when I came across this poem in a book of poetry called Pillow Thoughts by Courtney Peppernell.
Pillow Thoughts came to me when I was on a major life upswing. After an awful few months, things were looking up in a big way: my mood was improving, my friend circle was expanding, work was getting easier, and then a friend lent this collection to me. This poem about taking stock of the small, happy moments that occur on any given day resonated with me in a way it would not have if I’d read it earlier. I was newly done being negative. After many struggles, I got to that proverbial silver lining; now I was looking for it everywhere. The idea finally stuck that if you don’t focus on what’s wrong, the things that are right will become obvious. It made sense now that if you just pay attention, you can find happiness all over. I intended to do that.
When I came to this poem, I left my friend a note (with a Post-It Note – duh) saying we should do this in a tangible way. We could literally write down happy things, put them somewhere, and look at them later. Thus, the ‘Happiness Basket’ project was born. An afternoon dedicated to hunting up and down craft store aisles, ended with a few wicker baskets, sticky notes to last a lifetime, and the buzzing excitement that comes when you’re ready to be happy.
The ‘Happiness Basket’ project was easy.
- Buy a cute basket.
- Buy lots of colorful Post-It Notes.
- Live life as normal. BUTwhen something happy happens, write the moment on a sticky note and place in your basket.
My best and I had a glorious time writing down wonderful things that happened throughout our days. I had a lot of food-focused ones at the start. Stickies were full of instances like that time I had exceptional tacos or found my new favorite tea. I’d make a note of fun lunch dates and coffee dates. Hers were mostly human interactions, like a normal person. She would get excited to be able to make someone’s day better, or when someone made her day better. She was also happy just to see other people having a good day, regardless of if she had anything to do with it.
Writing notes turned out to be effortless once I began. Hitting that stride didn’t take long because it was fun. Something good would happen and the first reaction would be, “I need to put that in the basket later!” My days got brighter as the happiness basket started to fill up. We took to calling our notes ‘happiness petals’ because they all looked like leftover petals at the bottom a flower basket. Soon it wasn’t just food petals either: It was inside jokes, good weather, emails from fun vendors at work, snap chat streaks, funny lines from books or TV, phone calls, a good night’s sleep, and on and on. I was happy about literally everything. This is not to say I’m overly happy or positive at all times. No one is exempt from bad days and bad moods. I certainly get bummed for no reason and cry at the end of hard days and lose sleep because I’m anxious about something. However, I don’t put that shit in a basket and look at it later. That’s the key – look for and focus on your happy, whatever that looks like.
Trying to write down every happy moment in a day never got old. It actually got better the longer I did it. With happiness already present in my life as my foundation, smaller and smaller things started to bring the same happy feelings as big things. Joy could be found anywhere from being given a bouquet of flowers for no reason to drinking enough water in a day. It didn’t matter that I wasn’t winning awards or the lottery or making more money. I was eating well and wearing clothes I liked and reading good books. Focusing on moments that are small enough to put on a Post-It-Note, really put life in perspective. All these tiny, joyous moments make up happy days which add up to a happy life. Just because I’m not getting any richer, prettier, more popular, or anything else doesn’t mean I’m not still happy. Finding this opportunity to reset my expectations for what happy looks like in my life was the best part of this experience.
The second-best part was sharing it. My best and I recruited another friend to participate in happy basket shenanigans. Once a month, we’d get together and empty our baskets. Taking notes out one by one, we’d read them to each other and explain the back story. Most of our notes were about each other anyway, so we’d dissolve into giggles remembering. Not always though, and it was nice to see a bigger picture of friends and what they enjoy and get up to when you’re not together. The sharing was always a very special experience. It’s amazing to see your friends happy. It really is.
The basket project has been going strong for about a year. I still empty my basket once a month and save all the stickies in a notebook that says ‘grateful’ on the cover. The little things in life still make it in. As I write this, I have a note that says ‘THAT BLT’ because I had an amazing BLT sandwich the other week. I still think about it; I still write about food a lot. This whole idea of noticing the happy things, no matter how small came to me from a book of poetry. Once again, poetry hit me at just the right time. I see this sentiment everywhere now though, perhaps because I’m looking for it. My favorite Kurt Vonnegut quote sums up this idea as well. I had honestly forgotten about it, because I wasn’t ready to follow his advice yet. Poetry got inside my heart first, and now I’m ready to listen to Kurt’s words too. I’ll end with his quote, because I want this idea to stick and he’s said clearer in one sentence what I said in two pages.
“And I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.’” – K. Vonnegut
P.S — I urge you to start happiness baskets of your own. Pay attention to when you are happy! If you do start a basket or start a group who empty theirs together, please let me know. Tag me or use the hashtags #poetrymademedoit and #happinessbasket to get involved.