As I mentioned in my last post, I heedlessly tossed aside The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin in favor of a delicious, if poorly written, romance novel.
For whatever reason, I always feel guilty about not finishing a book (or a movie). Maybe it’s because I just want to know how it ends and have some sense of closure. Although that’s not really true, so many good books end without closure. Or even if they do, I’m the kind of reader that wonders what happens to the characters after the story ends (yes, I realize these are fictional characters and there is no life for them after the story. I get way too invested in my make-believe.).
Ok, well maybe I’m just an optimist and want so badly to like everything, so much so that I’ll slog my way through a terrible book just waiting and hoping that something will redeem it. Perhaps there’ll be a line tucked in chapter 27 that makes this entire endeavor worth it. Maybe some character will have a revelation that provides insight into my own life. Or maybe it will just have the best damn ending ever!
You no doubt recognize that most (or all) of these hopes fail to come true. I mean there are just some bad books out there. There are just some books that I don’t like. Foucault’s Pendulum is just tedious! I’m sorry but I said it. I don’t care if it’s a great piece of literature or not, I just can’t get into it.
The same is true for The Happiness Project. I truly, honest to goodness, wanted to like this book. I thought it was a great concept: a woman dedicates a year of her life to finding more happiness in the everyday. Or at least that’s what it’s supposed to be. I found the first half of the book to be this story: a well-off woman with no significant problems wants to live a clutter free life, while ignoring real life. Yay! oh wait…no yay.
It was so tiresome to read about this woman going through her days trying to find small ways to improve things around her when it didn’t seem like she was doing any serious work on herself. Call me old-fashioned but I’ve always believed in the old adage “charity begins at home”, or in this case “hard work begins with yourself”. Rubin keeps tidying the world around her, her body, her relationships, but never actually does any heavy lifting as to the under-lying reason there may be issues. When she complains that she’s constantly looking for approval and praise, she brushes it aside and tries to live without it (though I think this book is just one big attempt to get that praise). In my opinion, her time would be better spent trying to get to the root of why she desperately craves attention and approval. Why is so important to her? What mental exercises can she do to live without it?
Obviously delving into one’s psyche is much harder than ignoring a problem, and hey, it probably wouldn’t sell as many books if she talked endlessly about her own neurosis and her struggle to overcome it through deep psychological insight and therapy.
That’s not very cool or popular or easy! Nope, not very easy at all.
Well, hmmm… that was a bit of a rant. So let me tell you what I’ve been thinking about in terms of my own happiness project. Or what I’m calling my “be somewhat happier project”.
To expect yourself to be happy all the time is to set yourself up for failure. It’s just never going to happen. Life gets in the way far too often. Instead, aiming to increase your happiness a little bit might be a better goal. Or maybe just not stressing about whether you’re perfectly happy or not is the goal. I mean, isn’t the goal of most higher experiences to live so in the moment that you don’t worry about everything else?
So here’s my list of things to do to become somewhat happier:
1. Recognize that most of my problems are first world problems!
Example. I was annoyed yesterday when I realized that because of gas/plane ticket prices I wouldn’t be able to take all of the trips I wanted to this year because I have a stupid budget. Damn it!
2. Be thankful.
I don’t mean be thankful in the whole thanksgiving-table kind of way where we’re thankful for a roof over our head or the love our family. I mean be thankful when Connor eats all of his lunch. Be thankful when the waitress is attentive. Be thankful that I didn’t sprain my ankle when I tripped in a snake hole this morning.
3. Let it go.
This doesn’t mean to just let the house (or my figure) go to pot. Although sometimes I think how nice that might be if I did. But then I think how awful that would be after the initial enjoyment. So no, I don’t mean that. Instead, I intend to practice letting the little things go. I’ll not worry about the fact my fireplace is covered with toys everyday. I’ll not stress when I eat a cookie (or four) and mess up my calorie count for the day. I’ll not freak out if I have to throw away some over-ripe bananas instead of making bread with them. I mean, really, who am I? Super Woman? Super Mom? Not even close. I could maybe be Super Mom’s scatter-brained, always-running-late favorite cousin.
I was going to add more, but honestly, I think that’s a good start. Right? This is a somewhat happy project, not a total happiness revamp!
So tell me, does anyone have a somewhat happy resolution of their own?