Everyone is Awesome

I have recently started keeping a gratitude journal. I do not admit this lightly. It seems like the kind of gateway drug to a post that begins "I have recently changed my name to Shanti Soleil" or "I have recently tie-dyed my armpit hair" or "I have recently started inserting crystals into my nostrils to cleanse my chakras" but it's 2020 and I don't need to explain what THAT means and so in the evenings before I go to sleep I try to remember to open up my notebook and write down a page of things that I am grateful for from that day. All the awful things are so relentlessly awful and present and huge that it had got easy to believe that there wasn't anything good out there at all, so I realised that I had better start noticing all the nice things. Sometimes it's easy to fill a page. Sometimes it takes a long time. Sometimes I fall asleep halfway through but it's not the worst thing to fall asleep to, remembering every nice thing that happened that day, so that's OK. Here is a small selection of the things I have been grateful for in October:

Kind woman in Boots
Sitting in the sun on Butterfield Green
Fountain pen
Chocolate digestives
Monica Dolan's amazing face
Thermal underwear
My taste in men has evolved and (I think) improved
I have enough money
My hair which is glossy and bouncy and curly and my haircut which I actually love
The trees in Abney Park Cemetary
LeBron James
That Collective yoghurt that's so thick and doesn't set off my lactose intolerence
That I was able to live some of my life before the internet
My housemates

(My housemates make the list every single day)

But as I said sometimes it's hard to fill a page, so when I'm out and about I have taken to looking for things that I can be grateful for later on. Is this cheating? If so, it's a very pleasant way to cheat. Today I was cycling to an appointment and a man in late middle age crossed the road in front of me wearing burgundy corduroy trousers and a burgundy jumper. He had dyed black hair that was flat across his head and an appealing way of walking which was half lope half shuffle. I'll remember him later, I thought. A bit further down the road I passed a woman who had stopped by the side of the road on her bicycle. She was wearing socks that she'd pulled up over the bottom of her trousers, and the socks had black and white drawings of frogs on them. Another one to remember, I thought. Then I thought, what if I tried to notice something cool about everyone who I pass?

So I did, and I realised: everyone is awesome. Everyone! Everyone has picked out a fun-coloured hat or a quirky bag that says 'Tonight, Josephine', or is smiling quietly to themselves or has an interesting way of walking, or is riding their bike with cutely splayed out knees, or has made a bold and unusual choice with their hair, or is happy holding hands with another happy someone, or looks proud in their suit, or a bit like a bear, or is sitting on a bench with their friend both nodding seriously with matching moustaches. Wow, I thought, is this what happens when you actually notice people? And then once I started seeing all that, I noticed all the other little awesome things like the gate outside the unremarkable brick council block where someone has placed two matching stone frogs (froggy kind of day, apparently), and the tiny glass crystal lamp someone else has put at the end of their garden wall, and the handpainted sign on the new cafe that someone has put all their optimism into opening, and the sun clinging on for one more Autumn day and catching all the leaves on the avenue of trees that have turned bright gold but haven't yet fallen. Though I think I would have noticed that anyway.

I haven't written this newsletter for a while because the world has felt so bleak and I haven't had anything to say, I haven't wanted to write about bleak things. Things are still bleak, this doesn't make them less bleak, but it does make a difference where you put your attention. It helps you remember. The good is still out there, you might just have to look a little harder to find it. But it's there.