2017 Reading List: The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

If you don’t already know, I love to find and read blogs. I love when I can connect with someone else’s life. I love to read their stories and gain insight from their experiences. At some point, I came across Gretchen Rubin’s website about happiness. Gretchen is a professional researcher and writer, and she had written a book called The Happiness Project. Ever since discovering her blog and hearing about her book, I’ve wanted to read it.

The Happiness Project is the culmination of Gretchen’s own personal year of experimentation whereby she attempts to make herself happier within her own ordinary life by making small daily changes. She sets up her year as a series of resolutions. She has twelve themes to correspond with each calendar month and within each theme, there are certain things she commits to doing to help her achieve the goal of becoming happier. She didn’t want to change her whole life, uproot her family, change careers or take drastic measures. She just wanted to see how a few small things would affect her overall happiness.

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How my attitude toward homeownership has changed

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I read back through one of my notebooks this morning while I was drinking my morning coffee, in my effort to stay away from social media. It’s a notebook I have to just jot things down as I think of them. More often it turns into to-do lists and appointment dates, but every once in awhile I write a few pages of whatever is on my mind.

At the beginning of this notebook was some writing from when we’d first moved into our house. I was amazed reading about how overwhelmed I felt at the time. I felt like everything was going wrong, I felt like everything needed to be done all at once, and I felt like I needed a bunch of stuff.

I wanted new things and nice things. I wanted things to not be broken. I wanted the new house to feel like it was my own, and not a hand-me-down filled with hand-me-downs. I had such high expectations for how my home should look.

It’s amazing how my attitude has changed so drastically in the past year. I now know that things will get done when they get done. And not everything is a dire emergency. Some things will just have to wait because we don’t have the money and other things come up that were not even planned. And whatever is in my house is not the source of joy or happiness.  Continue reading

The Pursuit of Something Else

Sometimes I compare things in my life with movies. I’m sure everyone does, but maybe I’m a romantic and you hear me saying it more often. You know the phrase, “-but that’s how it is in the movies!” or “it never happens like that in the movies.” And people respond “yes Meg, but those are just movies.” 

Well I found myself doing it again. You see, I have good days and bad days, as does everyone. On the bad days I wonder where my life is going and whether I’ll  ever get a real job and I think about my friends who live far away and can’t visit and the student loans I’ll have to start paying because my six-month grace period will be up….. And on the good days I remember that life is an adventure and I’m just living it- that everything will eventually work out and then when I’m old this will all be part of the awesome story I have to tell.

So the other day, I was having a good day. And for some reason I started thinking about the movie, The Pursuit of Happyness. For those of you who haven’t seen it, it is based on a true story about a young man with a wife and child living in New York City. The man is a door-to-door salesman, but his hospital equipment isn’t selling well. They can’t make rent and his wife leaves him and their son. And this man just thinks that if he wore a suit and worked as a stock broker in a big city building that his life would be happy. So he takes this unpaid internship, while still trying to sell the hospital equipment and raise a son, and he goes through arguably the hardest part of his life and comes out the other side.

I own this movie, but I don’t think I’ve seen it in awhile. Which is why I was surprised that I was just driving along and it suddenly came to me. And I wondered, are we really in the pursuit of happiness? I don’t know if that phrase is quite accurate.

I find myself in a similar, but most certainly not exact, situation. I took an unpaid internship, in addition to the job that makes the money, and at the end of it, I hope a real job will be in closer reach. I’m working almost every day and I’m busy and stressed. But remember, I was having a good day. So I kept in mind that I don’t have a spouse that just left me, I’m not saddled with a kid, I don’t have rent to pay (right now), my internship isn’t a full time job taking up all my time, and I’m not homeless and sleeping in subways. And suddenly I felt much better about the situation.

My internship is two days a week, four hours a day. So far they haven’t had me doing anything super exciting, but there is the prospect of doing exciting things down the line. I really like what the organization is doing and the projects that I’m working on. It’s all very peace-hope-and-love stuff that you can’t help but get sucked into. The interviews that I’m transcribing right now do give me a little hope for humanity, if only there were more people with as much positivity and kindness as this woman. And I love the atmosphere of this non-profit/public television workplace, the people who say hello to me in the halls and the good vibes you get when people love their jobs.

I’m definitely in pursuit of something, but I don’t think it’s happiness. Hopefully there aren’t a lot of people in the world who are in search of happiness. I think that happiness can always be there, but often people are too tired or stressed to notice and accept it. And so they think they’re not happy. In the movie, Will Smith had happy moments, I think. His son was a huge source of happiness for him, when he noticed. The problem was that he broke his life down into a tiny little word used to sum up the whole time period (example: “This part of my life is called running.“) But life is so much more complicated than a single word and he limited himself by boxing it all in like that.

As for me, I think I’m happy. I think I have a lot going for me if I have a good day and take the time to remember it. I’m in pursuit of something else. The pursuit of a plan. Or stability. The pursuit of a long-term achievable goal. I wonder if we could spell that wrong and make it a sequel. I’m clearly in pursuit of something, but if I weren’t, my life would be boring. And I’m really looking forward to having a good story to tell.