Using the Good Things Jar

Still using the same antique jar, decorated with the linocut elephant Tara made in high school.

Happy New Year everyone! Gosh I was so hopeful in 2021 at this time, thinking the world was going to turn around and all would be brighter. I do not feel that way a year later. I see that the virus remains in control and the world has changed forever.

I am by no means hopeless. There are multiple forces at work and there are so many reasons to be hopeful. If I am honest about it, there is good in the world just as there is bad, and it’s inaccurate to simply focus on the scary things. It is incorrect for me to sit in fear.

The pandemic is knocking the service industry on its head. A revolution has long been needed, and that starts with a massive shakeup, which is what we have. People in droves are quitting their jobs, citing “lack of appreciation,” “insufficient wages,” and “following dreams.” I think those are beautiful reasons and it’s worth a blow to my economy. While some forces are becoming more oppressive of the LGBT community, some LGBT community members are finding success and respect, like politicians in Serbia, Ireland, Luxembourg, Canada, and my own Governor of the State of Oregon. While some religious conservative extremists gain popularity, many faithful are finding that an open mind and changing with the times is consistent with their faith. I am thinking of the all-girl Muslim hard rock band Baceprot (that Bama just introduced me to!), or Pope Francis, who refuses to attack same sex marriage or a woman’s right to an abortion, or atheists. While raucous voices declare science is merely another religion, others launch the Parker Solar Probe that remotely unfolds a massive protective shield and then scoots over and touches the sun’s corona, and billionaires fly around up there when they get bored with spending money on other things, and Venice’s new MOSE flood barriers might just save the city. While racism continues to sneer at us, this year in the U.S., police officers were actually convicted for wrongful killing of people of colour, and last year I was part of a massive scientific study that was canceled once administrators realized that they hadn’t tried hard enough to make the participant population match the actual population. They decided that abhorring structural racism was more important than continuing. These are all huge accomplishments that prove the human race is better than ever.

I’m still using the Good Things Jar. In 2020 I neglected to put a single slip of paper in. Over the past year I did a better job of reminding myself to consider good things.

The Good Things Jar is a very old idea that I discovered in 2013 and employed for the first time in 2014. The idea is that for an entire year, every time you think of something good, write it down and put it into the jar. I like the ritual of opening the jar at the first of the year, and looking over the things I was grateful for.

Compared to other years, the scope of 2021 good things that I wrote down is limited. I was twitterpated, and wrote multiple times about love. There were other repeats: especially my consistently good health, which is an appropriate thing to be grateful for. I missed big things though, like I’m grateful I do not have breast cancer, which I worried about for a little while. I’m grateful Pedro and I found a window in between COVID lockdowns to travel overseas. I’m grateful my loved ones have easy access to vaccines and that none of us (as far as we know) got COVID-19. In fact, I’m grateful that I have not had a cold for two years, which I assume is the side effect of keeping my distance from all strangers and wearing a mask. I am so glad that my beloved Racecar kitty seems to be in pretty good health for an old cat, meaning I get to share more years with her. I’m grateful that Pedro pushed us to acquire more games, and now we have a pile of them at both houses and we play a lot of games.

A pile of good things in 2021.

Some of the good things I wrote down:

  • My hens like their home so much they never go far
  • Turns out, with a decent man, relationships are actually easy
  • I can love, and be loved
  • I bought plane tickets! (this still seems amazing, during a pandemic)
  • I finally got brave enough to post on TikTok 🙂
  • I thrive when it’s HOT (This was just before the insane heat wave we had here, but I loved that too)
  • Pedro is not just what I had hoped for, but with bonuses
  • I am 51 years old and in great health
  • We went to Italy and Slovenia ❤
  • I don’t have to work
  • I have so many friends
  • I am part of the Belle Brigade (relay racing team)
  • My home is beautiful, and warm, and safe.
  • I write well

I have always said – when parenting Tara, when talking to friends & family, when in a meeting with my supervisor – that I much prefer the honest, unfiltered truth. If I have the truth, I can make a better plan of action. During the past few years I’ve learned that I was delusional about how inclined people are toward kindness, assuming we would usually choose to be kind to each other. As a group we do not; we just go with the flow. I have a new opinion that people are inclined toward whatever energy surrounds them. The unfiltered truth is that we will be wicked just as quickly, with just as little thought about it, as we would be kind. And in a time when it’s so easy to see the danger, instability, stress and violence, more of us are going with that flow and perpetuating the darkness. It is making us ungovernable, and that means the world is becoming more dangerous. It’s a hard lesson to learn.

I’m glad I’m less naive now. I’d rather think about it honestly, and find a way to live with the truth. I refuse to live in fear because, as I said above, for me that is an incorrect response. So what will I do with this new opinion I have? That is my task ahead. I want to be a source of good energy, so if some person near me acts without thinking, maybe they will draw from the good things I’m trying to put out into the world, and they might be carelessly kind. I want to be more diligent and try not to be a careless person myself; I want to live each moment with intent. I will pay attention more to the good things around me and let them fill me.

Too often I forget the name of my blog: Conscious Engagement. For the rest of 2022, I will try to use the Good Things Jar to support my plan to amplify the good in the world.

18 thoughts on “Using the Good Things Jar

  1. Life is good at 74 Cousin! I refuse to live in fear like many I know! We only get one and this life has alot of gratitude for all Creator has given me! I like the jar, if people remember to use it!

  2. Ahhh, Crystal, this is marvellous, what you say and how you say it, that you keep the jar (even though it remained empty one whole year! How devastating!!), that there is Slovenia in it!, that you and your offspring and your cat are healthy, that you are in LOVE, that you will spread the good, and finally – and rather crucially – that you thrive when it’s hot. I don’t. I wish you many such neat little pieces of paper on the next January 1st. Sending much love.

    1. Thank you!! Thank you!! Yes, that is a good wish for me: many neat little pieces of paper in one year. The first year I had the jar, I used it well, and I’ve used it with less intent since. I am hoping this blog post will inspire me to use it as a better tool this year.

    1. Rodel! I’m glad to have inspired you! I found that simply seeing the jar sitting on my kitchen counter reminded me to stop in that moment and think of something I am grateful for. Possibly after so many years, I don’t notice it as often. Maybe if I changed the decoration it would help, but I do love Tara’s elephant.

  3. Loving BIG, the good things jar. I have something similar and it’s such a simple measurement of gratitude. I also have something I call a “god box”. I’m not a religious person, but in recovery (31 years sober last May) I learned that I could “turn over” the most worrisome things to “god as I understand god”. I’m sure mine doesn’t look like most, but mine has a box. I can scribble down the stuff that keeps me awake at night, put it in this little box, and let it go. It’s a nice companion to the jar of good things. Thanks for your always thoughtful posts 💙

    1. Congratulations Bonnie on your THIRTY-ONE years of sobriety. Holy moly that’s awesome. Did you celebrate your 30? Funny I recognize your vocabulary after spending much time at AA meetings (in solidarity with people I love), and I love that you can turn things over to your higher power in the god box. I was always curious about the ritual of burning things, like, put things on paper and then burn the paper. I’ve wondered if that would help me let go. I do need a strategy to let go of things, especially anger. Thank you for stopping by and helping me to think about this stuff some more. ❤

  4. I like the idea behind the Good Things Jar. It’s like a piggy bank with only positivity deposited in it instead of money. I can imagine when you open it 12 months later, you are reminded of the good things that happened to you that might have been forgotten as things got rough from time to time. Speaking of not having a cold for two years, I can relate to that. I used to catch a cold every two to three months, and when that happened it always took me weeks to fully recover. Not having to suffer from this recurring torture for two years is definitely something to celebrate. Hope 2022 will treat you well, Crystal!

    1. “Positivity deposits” Yes!! What a great thought. You are right that when I read through the pieces of paper, I am reminded of things I forgot. It happens every single time I do this. It’s great news that you have not had a cold for two whole years!! It’s a relief. Happy New Year to you, Bama! Here’s to more exploration – inside and outside.

  5. I’m going back over this again because I always miss parts but wanted to say I hope your birthday is a full and happy one. I’m resting a bit now…again. Still trying to settle at high altitude and it’s not easy. But the good things jar is something I think I remember you doing. I may have to go back and look. I do it a bit differently but your idea works probably better. I have been keeping a one line gratitude journal since 2012. Every night I write what I’m most grateful for that day. I even took it traveling with me. I understand traveling and living with fear. I had to trust that everything would just be ok. Didn’t stop me from worrying about my rapid covid test the day before we flew home. I need to check in with you and see about your trip. Hugs and love my friend.

    1. I am glad you are taking it slow and getting accustomed to the thin air there at high elevation. Yes, I have posted three times in the past about the Good Things Jar, so your memory serves you well. I think a daily gratitude journal is an excellent way to focus your thoughts at the end of each day. I think if I had that habit, I would keep in the back of my mind all day long that I had to come up with something to be grateful for, and it would help me be more in the moment with good things in life.

      I am SURE you had anxiety waiting on the test results. Me too! That is something all travelers might have in common these days: worrying about test results and potential quarantines.

      Thank you for the birthday card and for writing to me on my birthday. You are such a generous friend, thank you. My trip to Boston was really nice. Too, too fast, but nice.

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