Keeping a file of encouragement

My life is sailing along pretty smoothly these days so I don’t need to keep looking in certain folders on my computer, the ones labeled “Nice Words”. This hasn’t always been the case. During some lonely and unsettling times, I wasn’t sure I could justify taking up space on the planet. Those nice words kept me going.

I’m probably kidding myself, but I think I hid my distress pretty well, at least from most people. I got out of bed every morning. Accomplished the day’s tasks. Even acquitted myself well with whatever I took on. I enjoyed a reputation that kept the contracts coming in. But inside I was afraid. My life was on a collision course, and I wasn’t sure it was ever going to get better.


Today I approach life as eagerly and joyously as this butterfly in Kelowna's Kasugai Garden

Of course, you know the real truth of the matter. It wasn’t going to get better, at least not until I took the necessary steps to move myself out of the rut I was stuck in.

While I was mired in the rut, I needed the lifelines people tossed my way. They were mostly e-mails. I tucked them into folders labeled “Nice Words”. When I needed to remember not everyone was as hard on me as I was, I’d open the files and read the encouraging words.

Today, curious about what was still in there, I’ve been opening some of the old files. Some were the proverbial straws. Clearly I was desperate to grasp at anything. So I smiled ruefully as I deleted a bunch of the “nice job” or “good work” e-mails.

Others were more substantial, such as:

  • “You have a very powerful gift of speaking.”
  • “Boy I am so glad to have met you in this life time, you taught me the meaning of following through when meeting with people and just how rare that is as well as what a great impact it had on me when we first met. Very professional. You have taught me the great feeling of caring when you looked me in the eyes and spent time with me. I like you.”
  • “You have a very special gift of helping people find great value in themselves and their efforts. It’s meant a lot to me and my work. “
  • “One can have all the content knowledge in the world…but if one can’t communicate it…it gets no where…that’s where your expertise really comes in”
  • “You are such a mentor to me and I will be soaking up inspiration as I follow you around like a puppy dog!!”

They are all dated so I know they were tucked into those folders at a time when I really didn’t believe any of those nice words. Still, I figured the people who wrote them were sincere. Deluded maybe, but honest. So I held onto their words.

I feel tender toward my sad old self. I’m very happy these days and feeling extraordinarily fortunate. But life’s a roller coaster. So I’ll keep those folders on my computer and continue adding to them. They make me feel grateful.

If you already have files like these, you know how reassuring they can be. If you don’t, today is a good day to start.

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14 comments for “Keeping a file of encouragement

  1. May 25, 2011 at 4:56 am

    Had to laugh, Cathryn. I keep a folder entitled “Compliments.” I’ve also had moments when I’ve thought that people were probably jiving me with kind words. I have too reached the point, however, where I’ve decided if you’re called a horse long enough, open the barn door, ’cause, guess what, that’s what you probably are.
    Kindred spirits, I think.

  2. May 25, 2011 at 6:09 am

    I blogged about this a few months ago. It’s such a great idea!

  3. Cheryl Thomas
    May 25, 2011 at 8:42 am

    Well Cathryn, I must comment that you truly were, and are,in inspiration to me. There is many a time that I tell my version of the ‘story’ of the beginnings of my ‘deeper than Clearwater’; involvement within the volunteer life of Heath within this valley. And look at me now – all wrapped up in committees that are helping to influence the change of many thing of the valley and province. Thank you – for being you…. you really ‘pulled it off’ 🙂

  4. May 25, 2011 at 8:56 am

    And I laughed reading your comment, Charles. Definitely kindred spirits. 🙂

  5. May 25, 2011 at 9:00 am

    You were a shining gem before Rose and I ever met you, Cheryl. We just had the good fortune of watching you take off like a rocket. You make the Energizer bunny look like a slow-moving turtle.

  6. May 25, 2011 at 9:04 am

    Just did a search on your blog. I love it! If anyone hasn’t read it, check out 3 Reasons to Keep Track of Compliments.

  7. Susan Garland
    May 25, 2011 at 10:38 am

    So great to have such wonderful folks such as Cheryl, you and Rose in my life.
    Ripples, you hold my hand, why worry about the dynamics of the chicken and the egg.
    All three of you are great examples of the human spirit working for the common
    good and you all deserve recognition and big hugs of thanks for the encouragement you
    provide and the difference you make.

  8. May 25, 2011 at 11:01 am

    And you, Susan, are high on my list of amazing people. What’s so beautiful is that the world is full of them, a mighty force for good.

  9. May 25, 2011 at 4:57 pm

    By the way, Cathryn, I keep a private list at Twitter called “Compliments.” Anyone who says something nice about me at Twitter ends up on that list. The folks on that list are the first I look at every day.

  10. May 25, 2011 at 5:05 pm

    We’re definitely kindred spirits. I’ve called my private list “Favorites”. Who can resist someone who send kind words our way?

  11. j
    May 25, 2011 at 8:04 pm

    I’ve kept a folder with all the little love notes and cards that my son made for me when he was little… It helps to have that to go back to, especially during the teen years!!! Every now and then I “rediscover” it in my files and pull it out… It never fails to make me smile and laugh with precious memories (and recall that once upon a time, Mommy was adored!) Also I keep a file of parent/student notes to me over the years. One day this past winter, when I was purging papers, I discovered a folder that had been hidden from view for a very long time. In it were letters and notes from families from my early days of teaching, back in the eighties. One beautiful drawing and loving words so carefully written were from a six year old who had a terrible fall ten years later, and is now quadriplegic. And she still has beautiful penmanship, now writing with her mouthstick, along with an indomitable spirit. Many of these families became long-term friends, whom I speak with and visit regularly.

    When my son was younger, in and out of the hospital over many years, I started a file for him, too. Words of love, hope, wisdom and encouragement sent to us fill this folder so that he can go back to it someday and appreciate the parts of his journey that he may not remember.

    Then, like you, there are the kind words from friends over a roller coaster wild ride of a life. I need a box for those…

    So Cathryn, as my life is consumed by papers and loving files within a “no spare room” apartment… How do you manage keeping all these precious papers in your small, lovely condo? Please share your secret as my file cabinets long for greater liberation!

  12. May 26, 2011 at 7:33 am

    On any day when I need a shot of hope, all I’ll have to do is re-read your comment here. It will take me back to warm memories of times we had together and the extraordinary journey your life has been since then.

    Space is definitely tight in this little place. Sifting, sorting and tossing are regular activities. The small storage room is stuffed with papers neither of us can let go of. So is the closet in the office and the old oak wardrobe that’s come with me since Rochester, New York. Fortunately, new files are nearly all digital. Backups take much less room. 😉

  13. May 30, 2011 at 10:31 am

    Encouragement (or a lack of it) can be a powerful force. Your article resonated with me because I can recall many times in my lengthy career when I have witnessed how encouraging words and actions have affected others.

    Even recently, after launching a new magazine blog “A Hopeful Sign” I waited anxiously for feedback from friends, family and colleagues; when they started to respond with kind and supportive messages of encouragement, I felt even more empowered that our all-volunteer effort to spread hope was heading in the right direction. After only three weeks since our launch we have had 2,000 visitors.

    We all know that how effective timely and appropriate encouragement can be. Thanks again, Cathryn, for sharing that with us.

  14. May 30, 2011 at 11:39 am

    Gary, this is a joyous synchronicity. I started This Gives Me Hope three weeks ago too and have had a similar response. This is like the 100th monkey effect – when enough monkeys, anywhere in the world, gain a new skill, suddenly all monkeys, everywhere, gain that skill. Your new blog, A Hopeful Sign, is a gem. One more voice for hope in the world. I’ve been inspired by the story of Scheherazade, who had to tell 1001 stories before the heart of the king softened. So I’m on the hunt for 1001 reasons for hope. I’m finding so many my list is growing faster than I can write.

    I’ve no doubt you and I are just two of the hundred – or hundreds – it will take to for hope to become viral. I’m delighted to be on this journey together.

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