Excerpt from Simple Abundance
I haven't yet gotten to the point where I don't need gold stars: gleaming, golden, five-pointed proof that I've accomplished something that was a bit of a stretch, especially if it was remembering to treat myself with the living kindness that seems so much easier to give to others. Back in the days of blackboards and chalk, gold stars came in a small cardboard box. You'd take the lid off to find five hundred gold, paper-foil stars, stiff with dry glue backs. Running your fingers through the small pile of possibilities, you’d hear the rustling of self-worth. Nowadays gold stars get pulled off self-sticking sheets. You don’t even get the taste of success on your tongue, but I love them just the same.
A good friend of mine has a different memory of gold-star days. Her mother maintained star charts for each of her eight children. Every Sunday night after dinner, the past week’s reckoning would occur in the dining room as the gridded charts revealed who had excelled at homework, chores, personal hygiene, and behavior—and who hadn’t. The striving for gold stars was supposed to be a motivational game. However, accumulating gold stars under duress wasn’t fun for Anne, despite the fact that she excelled at everything and was a model “good girl.” For her, the pressure of constant evaluation was excruciating. Opening the cardboard box was a psychological and emotional stretching on the rack of self-respect.
But gold-star days are very different when we give them to ourselves. When you give yourself a gold star, sticking it to an empty calendar block, the star twinkles, winks, and whispers “Good for you, girl!” I particularly like to give myself gold stars when I’m embarking on a new self-nurturing pastime or reviving one that has fallen by the wayside: walking, creative movement, healthy eating, writing my dialogue pages, mediation, slowing down, balancing work and play. The spirit may be willing, but all to often the flesh gets sidetracked.
The extraordinary days don’t need gold stars. But ordinary days sure can be brighter with a shiny, five point pat on the back.