Pens In Real Life: The Jar of Awesome

I’m doing the Whole Life Challenge for the sixth time, and, as promised, it continues to change my whole life. While diet and exercise (and sleep and water consumption) are a big part of the challenge, each week we’re also given a lifestyle challenge—things like meditation, leaving our digital devices behind, or de-cluttering. This week’s challenge, the Jar of Awesome, is brand new and has me really fired up. Why? Because it combines, pens, paper, and gratitude in a very simple and meaningful way.

Jar of Awesome supplies

To assemble a Jar of Awesome, all you need is some sort of jar. I happened to have this “Limited Edition” (???) Ball jar on hand, but you could easily use a washed out mayonnaise or peanut butter jar. Any jar will work. The jar itself need not be awesome.

To put the “awesome” in the jar, cut up some paper and grab a pen or pencil. Any paper. Any pen. Any pencil. I’m using Tomoe River paper and a couple of fountain pens today, but I plan to mix things up as time goes on. The tools don’t matter.

Jar of Awesome

Every day, write down at least one thing that’s made your day awesome. Simple, funny, heartfelt…whatever it is…write it down. I plan to use the Nock Co. 3×5 DotDash cards I always have with me to jot down things on the fly as carrying a mason jar seems like it could be a little…ummm…cumbersome. Then, later, I’ll transfer the awesomeness to my little pieces of paper.

Jar of Awesome

Toss the slips of paper into the jar. I’ve chosen to fold my paper so that I can catch glimpses of what I’ve written, rather than folding the paper so that the words are hidden. How cool and uplifting and inspiring it’s going to be to watch the paper slips, and awesome things, pile up inside the jar. It’s like a time capsule of all the good things that come into our lives—many of which we barely notice. The Jar of Awesome aims to correct that by showing us how much awesomeness surrounds us every single day.

Jar of Awesome

This simple project has also made me ask myself, “What can I do to be included in someone else’s Jar of Awesome?”

God, I love this.

And now for something completely different…

Sandy & Mary
My sister and I. Have you ever seen such happy-go-lucky kids?!

I was always a skinny kid— could eat anything and everything and barely gained an ounce. In college, I tried to donate blood but didn’t weigh enough. The lower limit was 110 pounds. I sort of figured I’d always be this way.

I sort of figured wrong.

As the decades passed, my weight crept upwards, mostly due to eating for comfort rather than for fuel. Stressed? Let’s eat. Tired? Let’s eat. Happy? Worried? Sad? Let’s eat. Ice cream filled me up, and ultimately, filled me out. Bad morning at work? Let’s spend the lunch hour reading in my car at McDonald’s. Afterwards, I felt both better and worse. Mostly worse.

In my head, I thought I exercised because I do a lot of running around at work and I walk the dogs every night. Truth is, our two oldest dogs meander more than they walk, so an evening stroll involves a lot of standing still with some bursts of strolling. Let’s just say that my heart isn’t exactly pounding when we get back to the house. But in my head, I thought I exercised.

Iced coffee

I knew this path was not a good one— that I didn’t like how I looked and felt— so I’d pledge to do something about it….tomorrow. Except tomorrow kept getting pushed off and the changes never happened. How could I resist the allure of an iced coffee (cream AND sugar) or a glazed donut? I felt powerless. I felt bad. But not bad ENOUGH, apparently, to change.

Why, you may ask, am I posting this on my pen blog? Well…it’s the only active blog I have, AND there is a pen & ink connection to this story.

Back in September 2013, I watched Brian Goulet’s “30 by 30 by 30” video on Ink Nouveau where he discussed the mental and physical transformation that resulted in him dropping 30 pounds well BEFORE his 30th birthday. Everything he said in that video hit home— how he hated how he looked and felt, how he got sick of his own excuses, how he vowed to make a change. His words hit home, but still, I stalled and let the same old excuses loop through my brain.

I didn’t act in September or October or November or December, but Brian’s words lit a tiny flame— a flame that smoldered through the first four months of 2014. (Wouldn’t want to do anything rash, now would we?!)

In April, a small panel of co-workers spoke about their experiences after participating in the Whole Life Challenge. Their honest stories of how the 8-week challenge helped them break bad habits, exercise more, and lose some weight ignited the spark that Brian’s words lit so many months before. I was, finally and officially, sick of myself and my tired excuses. During their talk, I decided to go ALL IN— from spark to inferno in the course of an hour.

Starting on May 3rd, I did just that. I joined a team of 40+ co-workers who are participating in the latest edition of the Whole Life Challenge, which runs until June 28th. We JUST passed the half-way mark and I can’t believe how dramatically things have changed in just four weeks.

  • I’m down about 10 pounds and couple of belt notches.
  • I’ve lost my desire for foods that were mainstay treats (ice cream! fries! soda!).
  • Our shopping cart is 180 degrees different than it used to be. Just veg and meat and fruit and fresh goodness. NO sugar!
  • Our dinners are tastier and more varied. We’ve climbed out of a heckuva food rut that relied heavily on pasta, white potatoes, and white rice. I made applesauce (with cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and nutmeg) in my crockpot on Saturday and it’s the best treat ever.
  • I’m exercising at least 10 minutes a day (the minimum to earn my daily points)…usually much more…either in the fitness center at work or riding my previously moth-balled bike.
  • I HAVE WILLPOWER! (Who knew?)

After just a month, I feel physically (and mentally) lighter. I have more energy. My acid reflux is gone. My headaches are less frequent and less severe. It’s only been four weeks, but I’m 100% sure that that changes I’m making are forever. This feels like a little miracle. Or maybe a big miracle.

Life is funny— you never know where a particular interest will take you. My love of pens and paper and ink has brought so many cool and wonderful people into my life— people I consider friends whether we’ve met in real life or not. We write letters, share pictures and stories, and bits of our lives. We entertain and inspire. We comfort and kid. We offer sympathy and understanding and advice. We can also, I’m finding out, change each other’s lives.

I’m writing here to offer Brian Goulet my gratitude for putting his story of struggle, denial, and ultimately, success out there. Even though it took MONTHS for me to take action, his video planted a seed that showed me what’s possible when you commit yourself to making a change, when you flip off the switch of denial and flip ON the switch of accountability and action.

I also thank the other members of my team for sharing their triumphs and struggles as we move through these eight weeks together, as well as the founders of the Whole Life Challenge, Andy and Michael, for giving me the rules, tools, competitive fun, and team support to help me FINALLY help myself.

I feel repaired, restored, and very, very grateful.

—————-
Edited to add: The next Whole Life Challenge starts September 13th. I’d be happy to form a team with anyone who’s interested. We COULD call ourselves “Ink Well.” (haha!)