I’m on a roll now…just finished The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin (also The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein…I’m telling you, the Kindle is a great thing). The extended title is “Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun.” You get the idea.
By the way, this is genre is called stunt journalism, or immersionism. I should have known, but I didn’t. And if I was the last person to know this, it’s kind of embarrassing. But if you didn’t know either, we’re both good to go now.
Gretchen Rubin turns the subject of happiness upside down and inside out, testing ideas, myths and scientific theories to see what makes her happy. She’s happy enough, but a little whiny (by her own admission) and is eager to understand herself and her motivations a little better, so she can feel happier within her own life. Along the way she develops a set of Twelve Personal Commandments and Four Personal Truths (all on her blog, which came after the book, for a change, here). Some things work, some don’t, some work for a moment. But little by little she figures out what works for her. Which is what we all want, isn’t it? What works for us, while we’re working on living lives that can be messy, mundane and low on the inspiration meter.
Gretchen is into lists and charts and measurement…and we all know I love a good list. Give me a new notebook and a fine pen, and I am yours.
Two things happened to me while reading the book. One, I found myself becoming happier. Honestly, I found myself recognizing joy in a way that I hadn’t experienced since the day I went on Hormone Replacement Therapy (which I did eventually stop, thinking wine was cheaper). Maybe it was just the focus on happiness…but there seemed to be something shifting.
The second was that while her Commandments/Resolutions didn’t really resonate with me, but they encouraged me to ponder my own. They aren’t lofty, but they are what I believe. I have been referring to them (in my brain) Truths and Tips: The Starter Set. Here they are:
The World According to Kim
1. Everyone just wants to be heard. Listen.
2. We live in a continuum of peace and fear. The closer we are to peace, the easier it is to express love, patience, tolerance and kindness. On the other hand, bad behavior is a manifestation of fear.
3. Everyone is climbing their own mountain. No matter how beautiful, skinny, successful, or wealthy they are, they have a mountain too. Every single person.
4. We are all equal. Some of us are parents, some of us have parents. Some of us are leaders, some if us are followers. But we are all equal and valuable and worthy of love.
5. Lead with love. Especially if you are confused, angry or afraid. Open your heart for the journey. Good things will follow.
6. Everything changes. The good and the bad. We only have the moment. Be here now.
7. Mothers. Know. Everything. And if they don’t know now, they will know before you do.
8. You can endure anything for ten minutes.
9. Life is too short for bad coffee. However, cheap white wine is always welcome, even with ice cubes.
10. Always bring your own water, money and, if possible, pillow. It doesn’t hurt to have your own coffee and french press with you either.
11. Thank you notes, hostess gifts and clearing the table are just good manners. If you clear the table (and my daughters know this), someone else will take the dishes, and you’re off duty.
12. Talking on a cell phone while engaging with someone else (like ordering a coffee, at the grocery check out, or in a restaurant) is never good manners. In fact, it’s rude. So don’t do it.
13. A walk cures most everything. So do large bodies of water. And breathing. And service to others. And expensive soy-based candles. And new pajamas. And a nice Pinot Noir.
14. Pumpkin pie is acceptable for breakfast. So is cold pizza. Breakfast is brilliant for dinner. Did I mention about the good coffee?
I enjoyed the book, and I really enjoyed the process of thinking about happiness. In the past week I have bought two bottles of wine, a lovely candle, and two new notebooks. I may take on my own happiness project, but in a different form…for the moment I am contemplating what I value, what I want more of in my life, who I believe I am, and what I’d like to pay more attention to. For a while, I will just write in my notebooks. That…that will make me happy.