The Eden Jar

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I graduated high school with an OP1, which is the highest exit score one could obtain in Queensland at the time.  As was tradition at Townsville Grammar School, alumni who achieved OP1s and OP2s were invited back to be paraded in front of the assembled school as inspiration.  In order to further inspire, I was invited to present a speech, with all of the worldly knowledge obtained in my additional 12 months of life experience.

I was particularly adamant to promote a balanced life, full of extras because there was a distinct push for year 12s to cut back and concentrate solely on study, and I loved the idea of subversively providing contrary advice.  But also, I said these things because I believed in them.

As I progressed through uni, I really tried to keep up with my passions.  But slowly and gradually, like a frog in boiling water who doesn’t realise it’s becoming an entree, I dwindled my interests down to uni and drinking.

When I graduated and moved to Brisbane, I didn’t have the connections or funds to keep tap dancing or painting or acting (or drinking for that matter), but it didn’t seem to worry me because I had my work and my downloaded TV shows.

In the last year, it became apparent that I wasn’t looking after my body or my mind, when they both gave up and I had to take leave from my work (which was the way I judged my value as a contributor to the human race).

I had to learn all over again the importance of doing things that make me happy.  I found it really hard to remember what it was that I actually liked doing (that wasn’t work, study or for someone else), what things really made me happy, and to justify the time or expense to do these things.

Of all people, it was a fellow engineer and not one of my yogini friends, who I would have though would be clasically better in touch with these types of concepts, who was able to give me a rule of thumb for determining if something made me truly happy intrinsically.  “If you did this activity and you didn’t post it on Instagram or tell anyone out it, would it still make you feel good?”  So simple!

When you spend your life trying to make the decisions which are the best balance between optimising functionality and safety while minimising costs, it can be really difficult to make the decision to spend some money on something frivolous which doesn’t have a tangible payback period.  And then how to you pick from the list of potential activities which would deliver the most benefits?  Already, this self care activity has involved way too much thinking.  But there is a way to just surrender to chance.  Without getting too crazy.

Tea and the Eden Jar

Tea and the Eden Jar

This is called an Eden* Jar.  It contains rolled up pieces of cardboard with fun things to do written on them.  When I want to do something nice for myself, I draw an activity from the jar.

My Eden Jar cheats a little so that I can avoid going bankrupt through self care.  There are three different shades of cardboard so that I can select whether I am looking to treat myself to a very expensive treat ($$$), a medium treat ($$) or just a little one ($).

This is what my jar contains:

  • Have a cup of tea and a treat $
  • Buy a new lipstick $$
  • Visit a gallery or museum $$
  • Buy a magazine $$
  • Try out a new recipe $$
  • Cook a roast $$
  • Get a massage $$
  • Go to a Body Balance or Yoga class $
  • Read a book in the park $
  • Get a manicure $$$
  • Get a facial $$$
  • Buy an item of clothing or accessory $$$
  • Go for a walk with your camera $
  • Have a TV show marathon $
  • See a film or show $$$
  • Buy a chocolate milk or smoothie $
  • Dress up and drink cocktails $$$
  • Start a mini craft project $$
  • Bake something $$
  • Dine out $$$
  • Buy or make a home improvement item $$$
  • Make a new iTunes playlist and listen $
  • Go wine or beer tasting $$$
  • Draw something $

I originally instigated my Eden Jar to reward myself for meeting my career development goals during a secondment but it can be used for any celebration, commiseration or random situation.

So if you struggle to justify self care, channel your inner Tonya Toddman (Australian home craft icon and crack shot with a glue gun) and let the Eden Jar tell you what to do for you.

You will need:

  • An nice looking glass jar
  • Cardboard in three different shades
  • A pen
  • Scissors

What to do:

  1. Make a list of all your favourite things to do and classify whether they are of high, medium or low expense.
  2. Cut the cardboard into equally sized rectangles
  3. Write your favourite things on the cardboard rectangles, with most expensive on the darkest cardboard and least expensive on the lightest
  4. Roll the cardboard around a round pen to curl
  5. Place all the curled cardboard rectangles into the jar
  6. Enjoy doing things that make you happy

If you make an Eden Jar and/or treat yourself, post us a pic to our Facebook page!

* Eden was the partner of one of my friends, Adam, a rollingstock engineer who I met when we were both graduates at Queensland Rail.  Eden was a fellow STEM lady, an evolutionary biologist, who died unexpectedly at 26, a few months before her and Adam were planning to become engaged.  Adam regretted that Eden hadn’t had the time to pursue all of her passions and learn all the things that she wanted to about the world.  So the Eden Jar is named after her, to remind us to do things that make us happy while we have the chance.

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