My days were bleeding into each other. My kids were growing up and I was missing it. And I was exhausted.
So I added something small to my day – every day. Here’s how practising gratitude changed things for me.
I don’t normally blog about personal things about my family and me – outside of our own home renovating and building adventures.
However, as 2015 draws to a close, it seem appropriate to reflect on an incredible year, and express my gratitude.
But first, a little back story …
In late 2011, I came across an article about Hailey Bartholomew and her 365 Grateful project. The article really resonated with me …
Hailey is a mum to young kids, living, working, etc … she realised she had everything she needed, but said she looked around and thought “Is this it? But I’m not happy.” She felt life was a bit of a treadmill she didn’t enjoy.
So Hailey went to speak to a nun, who told her that the secret to happiness is “reflection and gratitude”.
Hailey decided to write down each day the things she was grateful for. As a photographer, she then took it on as a project to take a photo every day of something she was grateful for – for a year. She said it changed her life.
At the end of 2011, I identified with how Hailey had said she’d felt. We had 3 kids aged 4 and under. I was co-owner of an architectural practice that was growing and busy. We were doing a massive renovation.
I felt every part of my life bled into another. I’d be in the playground, marking up drawings. I’d be at work, thinking about what the kids needed. We were staying with friends whilst hubby got the house back to a liveable state, and had 5 of us in a 2 bedroom space. I was up late at night working and nursing Indigo. I remember looking around and thinking “I’m going to blink, and these kids will have grown up – and I will have missed it”. I realised I wasn’t really ‘present’ to anything going on – I was just moving through my ‘to do’ list, and getting stuff done.
And I was exhausted.
I made a pledge that, on January 1, 2012, I was going to start my own 365 Grateful project. I like starting new things at the beginning of a month, or week, or year.
And then January 1 came … and went … and I hadn’t started. (That’s the problem with choosing specific dates!)
Fortunately, I saw a good friend later in the month. I shared my idea with her, and my sadness at the fact I hadn’t started. And she promptly gave me the kick up the butt I deserved.
“What does it matter when you start, Amelia?” Sarah said to me. Surely what matters is that you just start?”
And I did.
My Project 365
I set up an album on Facebook, with this description …
“I’m starting my own Project 365 …. to photograph something everyday that I’m grateful for. I’m hoping that it will help me to slow down, be more present in the moment (instead of trying to do 6 things at once), and look for the joy in everyday life …. Even those rough days you drag yourself through. I’m a couple of days late on the year, but thanks to my dear friend Sarah who reminded me it doesn’t matter! Expect that some will be obvious, but hoping over time that the joy becomes more apparent as I’m more open to seeing it. I’m not a photographer but would like to share in the hope this forum makes me accountable and keeps me going! Cheers”
And posted this photo, with the caption:
“To Griffin for distracting and entertaining his sister during nappy changes (she’s a bag of snakes these days)”
And over the course of that year, as Hailey had found, things began to change for me.
How can practising gratitude change anything?
I was a really fortunate first-time mum, with a bub who slept well from 3 months, and was such an easy-going baby to initiate me into motherhood.
Of course, I thought that was all my doing. Until our no.2, Zoe, was born.
Zoe didn’t sleep much at all. She didn’t look like anyone from my side of the family. In fact, it was like I’d given birth to my sister-in-law’s daughter!
And during her first year of life, we started the business I co-owned, DC8 Studio, and battled an insurance company for a proper settlement over storm damage we’d received to our second home.
I think, between the sleep deprivation, starting a new business, and the stress of fighting the insurance company, I found Zoe really hard to connect with. Oh, I loved her fiercely. And I found her incredibly hard to parent.
Once Indigo arrived 22 months later, and there were 3 kids in the mix, parenting was sometimes like crowd control.
One of the most significant changes I noticed from my Project 365, was in my relationship with my daughter.
Every day, I was looking for something to be grateful for so I could post my photograph. I started noticing this magic in Zoe I hadn’t seen before.
It sounds terrible as her mum to say that I hadn’t seen Zoe’s magic. However, doing this project fundamentally changed my connection with my middle daughter.
That was only the start of it.
I found myself being so much more connected generally – to the joy in the smallest incidences, moments of laughter, something beautiful on the street, the happiness of falling into bed after a big day.
Some days I battled to choose just one moment to share. Other days I had no idea how to capture the moment in a photo. And then there were days where my photo shared how glad I was that the day was done because it had been particularly crappy. Sometimes I scrambled last minute, or posted the following morning. But there was a photo for every day.
A photo every day …
Anyone living in the trenches with little kids, balancing work, family life (throw in a couple of new businesses, and a renovation or two), knows how relentless it can be.
However, every day that year, I posted a photograph of something I was grateful for, with a caption to explain why.
[Every day except one – the 1st of August, when I had a miscarriage. That day was horrible, and I couldn’t wrap my head around gratitude at all. However, that began its own adventure.]
And at the end of that year, I had this incredible photographic diary of 2012. Remembering events and tiny incidences I would have certainly forgotten otherwise, and that being present to, had made my life so much the richer.
I had only initially planned to do it for one year, but it’s now almost the end of 2015, and it’s still going. It was just too good to stop. Over 1,400 photos have been posted. And what I’ve found too is not only the benefit it’s had for me … but also how it’s helped me connect more with my family, and with my friends also – some of whom have said it’s helped them be more present to the incidental joy in their own lives.
The year 2015
This year has been our first full year living in our new home in the Byron Hinterland. We moved here from Brisbane in mid-2014, after a dream we held onto for about 9 years. So there’s been lots of ‘firsts’ and ‘newness’ in our experiences here this year.
It’s the last year before our youngest heads off to school, and we become the parents of 3 school-aged kids (geeze, when did that happen?)
And it’s been a big year for both hubby and I growing our businesses … mine being Undercover Architect, and his being Byron Bay Galloway (which will see a big burst of activity in the next three months as we have a few calves being born).
When I particularly reflect on 2015, these things jump to mind to be especially grateful for …
I’m grateful for the UA Community. You are the most awesome group of people, who support me doing what I do. Together we celebrate that design makes the difference, and make the world we live in better because of it.
I’m grateful that you allow me to turn up in your inbox each week, or in your Facebook feed, or Instagram account, or spend your time online with me … as you hunt for information to help you with your dreams for your home.
I’m grateful that I can share my experience, expertise and knowledge about design, building and renovating with so many of you – wherever you are.
I’m grateful that where I work and live is so gorgeously beautiful, and that I can work from home around my family.
I’m grateful that, most days, I can be dressed in one-step-up-from-pyjamas and still do awesome work that helps you.
I’m grateful that my baby girl accommodates my soppiness about the fact she starts school next year (I go to water at the mere mention of it). And that at age 4, she’s giving me cuddles and saying “it’s OK Mummy” and “Even when I’m a big school girl, I’ll still be your baby”.
I’m grateful that get to spend my days (mostly) doing stuff I totally love to do.
I’m grateful that homeowners like you give me the privilege of helping you with your homes.
I’m grateful that I have kept up being deliberately grateful for almost 4 years now – it’s changed my life.
(Below is a selection of some of my 2015 posts, and their captions – just hit the little black dots below to scroll through the images. They’re always taken from my phone – because it isn’t about the photography – it’s about the moment!)
Could you practise gratitude?
As 2015 draws to a close for you, perhaps you can take some time to reflect on all the things you can be grateful for.
I firmly believe that what we focus on, grows, and focusing on gratitude has a habit of growing happiness and fulfillment in a way that may surprise you.
From my family to yours …
Wishing you a peaceful and happy Christmas, and a 2106 that brings you happiness and joy too.
As always, thank you for being here.
Your Secret Ally,
Amelia, UA x