After finishing school in Boston and going on a cross-country road trip with my friends Chris and Ty, I moved to a dusty suburb to live with my brand new wife in my brand new life. Yes, we got married young, we got married quick, and after living on opposite sides of the border we were finally moving in to get busy living.
So I slapped on a crisp, fresh shirt and started a new office job while trying to settle into a brand new town where I didn’t know anyone. My high school and college friends had long scattered like marbles so I was looking for a new place in a new world.
Now, my wife had been teaching for years so she had a bit more going on. She’d coach baseball tournaments and I’d stroll around waving at old folks on their porches. She’d play volleyball and I’d eat cookies and flip past reruns. She’d watch Gray’s Anatomy with friends and I’d practice the fine art of taking long naps and playing video games.
I was feeling pretty lonely and whenever I flipped open a paper the news didn’t exactly cheer me up, either. Polar ice caps were melting, pirates were storming the seas, wars were raging around the world, and the stock market was in a deep freeze.
It seemed like everything outside my window was just bad and everything inside was a little … sad. Yes, although my wife and I had respect, trust, and admiration for each it was becoming clear after a few months that … something was missing.
So one chilly Spring night in 2008, alone in our dark house, feeling cut off from the buzzing world of bright lights outside, I went online and on a whim started up 1000 Awesome Things. I wrote about broccoflower to kick things off.
I think I needed to remind myself there were bright spots in the darkness. I think I needed a cold breath away from the hot swirling clouds around me. I think I needed a place where I could smile at the little things we all smile silently at throughout our days.
Over time our nights at home grew a bit quieter, our dinners a bit shorter, and our laughs faded into polite smiles. While 2008 rolled on we kept living together but were growing further apart. She’d coach badminton and play on her volleyball team and I’d stay at home writing for hours about nachos and gasoline.
We kept trucking, kept slugging, kept soldiering on, until the rubber finally hit the road one quiet night while we were sitting on the couch. She looked me straight in the eyes and through painful tears summoned the courage to tell me she didn’t love me anymore.
It was heartbreaking.
Tears spilled all weekend and wet pillows, sweaty blankets, and head-spins came in waves. By Sunday night I blinked bleary-red eyes and suddenly realized I didn’t have anything to write about except crying. So that’s what I did.
When I look back on that post it reminds me of heavy times at the bottom of a dark well staring way, way up at the tiny pinprick of light at the top. But it also reminds me of the pure joy and relief of letting awesome things cheer me up while I struggled to keep moving.
I guess I’m addicted to letting thoughts of new bedsheets, fresh bakery air, and wobbly couch cushion forts swirl in my head and lift my brain sky high. I love talking with all of you and reminding ourselves of the many awesome things we all have to share.
For us, we just happened to be two different people walking two different paths. Sure, it was painful as painful can be, but we need to grieve, we need to let emotions overcome us, and we need to choose to walk towards those bright lights in the distance. Even if that walk seems pretty far away.
So, come on: When bad news squeezes your lungs and the weight of the world pushes you underwater, let’s always try to catch our breath by focusing on the best things in life. Yes, let’s focus on hitting a string of green lights on our way home from work, getting free time on the parking meter, and flipping on the cold side of the pillow. Let’s focus on beautiful pick-me-ups like getting long hugs when we really need them, laughing hard with friends, or the last day of school. Let’s focus on all the magic moments, eye-twinkling memories, and small special touches that make every day so sweet and make every day worth living.
Yes, life’s too short to swim in the deep forever so when it hurts remember to focus on the end of that tunnel and let those lights guide you forward and forward and forward and forward and forward and forward and forward.
Pre-order The Book of Awesome