Guts, Grace, Grit, Gratitude
Here's what I realized when I started to write out my memory keeping plan for this year: not one bit of it is earth shattering. I am not planning to use a size of album never used before, or write all of my stories in some ancient script that will one day need to be decoded, or only use two colors for every photo and layout, and there's very little chance that I will give up my precious foam pop dots, because well, dimension for the win, forever. I am not trying to reinvent the wheel, I just want to be brave enough to move the one I've got.
I took a short break from Project Life this fall, not because I stopped loving the project, but because with the transition to working from home on my creative career, mom growing sicker, and a variety of other projects on the books, I knew I'd be telling my stories in a myriad of other ways, and wanted to be a little more thoughtful with my time. I knew that although I LOVE the process of recording memories each week, during those months, it would, and did at first, become more of a "have to" which for me means stories that are just going through the motions of the shoulds over the wants.
The best thing about a break is that it can give you clarity, just enough perspective to see clearly what becomes blurry when we're too close; we can so easily become farsighted to the truth while in the thick of it. I've got three years of traditional 12x12 Project Life under my belt, and I loved all of them. I am not coming here to say that there's one bit of anything wrong with that size or method, and there's a very good chance that I'll go back to it. I am not changing things up this year because my methods stopped working, but because my story is changing, and I'd like to give the stories I capture about those changes a chance to try on some different forms. The best thing about memory keeping is that we can change our minds; we can switch up our methods and still be capturing the complicated, messy, beautiful stories of our lives. I love that.
And if I warned you up front that what I'll be doing isn't earth shattering, let me solidify that now - I am not only not using a new fancy size, I am going with one that others have been using (and phasing out) for ages: 6x8. it's not new to me, of course, I use it for December Daily and Week in the Life, but never for Project Life, or never until now.
This year, my memory keeping plan is brought to you by the letter "G": guts, grace, grit, and gratitude. This, more than the size of my album, is where most of my shifting will take place.
If it isn't already painfully obvious by the length of this post, I am a wordy girl. My full layouts, my December Daily, Pigeon Post, blog posts (ahem), all packed with combinations of those 26 magical characters, and sprinkled with punctuation (all the commas for clauses all the time, please). Here's what I noticed sometime last year: the stories I was taking down in my Project Life grew shorter and shorter, and while length doesn't necessarily equate to a stories value, I could see that I was condensing out the truth of what was happening, and simply reciting the facts that matched up to the photos. This year I want to have the guts to tell more, to not reserve what needs to be said for the larger spaces and pages, and to find ways to insert my big fat wordy truth into my weekly memory keeping again.
One of the ways I find most cathartic and honesty inducing is to write letters to myself, a kind of epistolary love note to life as it is, but I always seem to reserve them for projects like WITL and DD without a firm reason. This year I'll be writing a letter to myself at the end of every month and clipping it in my album so that I go back and read what I need to hear myself say whenever I want. Here's my first one: Dear You, Have the guts to say what you need to say, even if it will be hard to see and read later. Love, Me. See? Brevity can still be powerful, but the words we choose need the weight of truth to take hold. GUTS.
Oh man, I've talked so much about grace this year, that I'm honestly a little surprised it didn't end up as my word for 2017, but that doesn't mean it won't end up being a big part of everything I do. While I shared that I loved my method of Project Life so far, and I meant it, it doesn't mean it wasn't without its pain points. I would imagine, or maybe I am just hoping, that we all have these - the things that we love and want to work, but that really just don't, or maybe they do 80% of the time, but that other 20% makes us want to pull out clumps of hair and hide under a rock with a Hershey bar when they go awry. I've decided that this year, the 80% doesn't make that 20% worth it (I'm slow on the uptake), so I'm saying goodbye to what wasn't fully working, beginning with numbering my weeks. Holy moly, how after three years can I still accidentally mislabel at least three weeks a year and get things totally out of order, and why does it make me want to burn all my pages in effigy? I don't have an answer for that except to say that I did, and it did, and who has the time to be gnashing their teeth every time they make a mistake? Not this girl. GRACE. No numbering of weeks - in fact, though I plan to document regularly (more to come on that), my date ranges in spreads might be seven days, or five, or ten...I plan to be a regular rebel and group my chunks of time as I please - what's important to me is that they all get captured. GRACE.
I am also letting go of my weird, nobody told me these, but I am carrying them around like constitution, rules. Oh yeah, at some point I made a declaration of what I could and couldn't do in my Project Life, because, boundaries make things better, right? Yeah, not always. Who in the heck told me that I couldn't add in inserts that weren't in page protectors, or incorporate multiple size pages and pieces, or use all the fun interaction tricks I seem to reserve for December Daily in my weekly memories? Oh, no one, you're guessing? Yeah, that's right, no one but me, so goodbye rules that make this project less fun than it could be. GRACE. If I want to just slip cards and photos in pockets for three months straight, hallelujah. If I want to embellish the crap out of every page making it necessary to have six albums for one year, hallelujah. If I want to add more hidden window interactive elements than a child's first board book, hallelujah. GRACE. It gets to be wild and ruleless, and a smaller size makes that a little easier for me to accomplish.
A big part of success in anything is showing up, and I've found that I've done the best when I carve out time for a project, and make it a priority to keep coming back, even when it's the least convenient thing I can do. After a little experimenting, I've found that Sundays are my days for Project Life, it just seems to work for me, so I've carved out time in my schedule (two hours) every Sunday to make this happen. Some weeks I might be able to indulge in three, or fours, getting lost in a pile of paper at my big yellow table, and some weeks might mean really kicking into gear to even make those two hours possible, but I am committing now to make it happen, and I love a good commitment. This is also why some periods of time, which knowing me, I'll still call weeks, will only have three days captured, because I run out of time in my two hours, and some weeks might have eleven, making up for all the days in between. I'm still a girl who loves chronology though, so they'll likely all still go in order. No matter what, I'll show up, and I know I can do it. GRIT.
When I wrote about my first year completing Project Life albums here, I reflected on how much more the process made me pay attention to my life - there was an underlying gratitude in those albums of pictures and words. In the first year I made it a habit of noting what I was grateful for each week, a practice that I slowly phased out in the next two years, not because I wasn't grateful, but because I was noticing those things and calling attention to them in different ways. I'm not sure there's any wrong way to be grateful, but this year I am bringing back the practice of a list each week. In this year, pulling out of one that ended in loss, I need the concrete reminder of what's working. GRATITUDE.
Whew. If you made it this far, I'd love to share a free downloadable file of my 2017 6x8 floral page (shown above). You can find the file here: download.