Day Zero Project List One: Goal One

As per the Day Zero Project home page: “The Home of the 101 Things in 1001 Days Project Day Zero is a community of people who love creating lists, setting challenges, and making positive changes in their lives.” I joined this community in 2012 as a way to stretch myself and get things done. I’ve gone on to make three 1001 Days Project, and these essays highlight (and sometimes lowlight) what I learned from these goals.

List one started in February of 2012.

First goal: Leave 25 notes in library books

I don’t know what I was thinking to have this be my first goal or challenge. Except that I am a trifle romantic at heart, but not that romantic; it’s not like a handsome stranger was going to read some random note about my thoughts on a book and then be so inspired that he must track down the writer of the note…only to discover I’m in a perfectly fine marriage.

Or maybe I had some vague notion of leaving my mark on a book, some fleeting legacy to inspire or uplift.

I don’t know, but completing this goal felt a little contrived, a little bit like a chore. It wasn’t a challenge, and it wasn’t very creative. In fact, I put it off for over two years because I didn’t actually want to do it, but it was on my list, and it was easy enough to do for the sake of completion.

I debated about leaving notes in my small-town library. Small towns are lovely in that lots of people know everyone, but in that same way, there’s a handful of judgmental folks who can get their noses out of joint real quick at the smallest misstep. Leaving notes in random library books doesn’t seem like much of a misstep to me, but it’s outside of ordinary. I left a few notes in my local library about harmless things: a sticky note near a recipe that said, “This is delicious. My kids loved it.” Or an index card tucked into Pride and Prejudice to the scene where Elizabeth condemns Darcy’s first proposal: “One of the best scenes in all literature.”

Eventually I went to a local college, grabbed a stack of books that I had no connection to, and sat at a nearby table with a newly purchased notepad and began chucking platitudes into random pages. Task complete.

Here’s the take-away: Notes in books should be authentic, inspired in the moment. They could be legit notes by the reader to help him/her remember an important line, task, or idea. Or they could be some sort of positive or negative reaction to the text. What they shouldn’t be is some vague clichรฉ like “Life is short, Eat the damn cake” tucked into a James Herriot novel.

I admit I do enjoy finding a note in my books, though most of the time it’s something dull like a grocery list. Once I found a picture of four people in a small kitchen. A middle-age person was in the background with only a fraction of their face exposed. Two young boys turned around on stools in front of a island counter to smile while a grandmother stood behind the counter wearing an apron and holding a Norwegian spatula as a lefse cooked on the griddle on front of her. I might have looked at this picture longer than necessary as I tried to place the people in the photo before deciding I didn’t know them, but I loved what the photo was: a grandmother creating a heritage food for the people in her life. I left the photo in the book when I returned it to the library for someone else to see.

Sad truth: my daughter worked at the library part-time, and she came home one day complaining because one particular patron always left notes in her library books, and it was a pain to take all them out. I remarked, “What! Why do you take them out? Why not leave them there for someone else to read?” She shook her head, “there are too many; her post-it notes cover up half the page.” And so I learned that when books gets checked in, they often get a quick flip through where most notes are discarded with barely a glance.

Will I do this goal again? No, not as a task and definitely not with a number attached. Will I leave notes in books? Of course, but mostly in personal libraries and only when it’s sincere and authentic.

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