Yesterday was not a happy day.
Nothing serious happened, but my life felt out of control— too much to do, too many obligations, and every chore seemed to take longer than it should have. I had no time to write until last night. Not that I didn’t want to write this blog post; I did. But at that point, honestly, it was just One. More. Thing.
I was tired, frustrated, irritated, impatient, angry, even sad. I vented to my husband (he was handy). I railed at myself for not knowing how to say no.
Looking back on a day full of petty annoyances makes me glad I’m reading The Happiness Project. Granted, I’m thinking about my own discontent and my failures, but more importantly, I’m considering ways to make my life happier which, in turn, will affect the lives of those around me—especially those close enough to take the brunt of my bad days!
Not about me?
The other night, when I was reading chapter four in The Happiness Project, I jotted this down: “Many of Gretchen’s attempts to make herself happy turn out to be about other people.” A bit later (p. 147), she writes about discovering her Second Splendid Truth:
One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy.
One of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.
Sigh. Yes. I don’t believe I made anybody happy yesterday, least of all me. I was too scattered. I resented the tasks I needed to complete. There’s some satisfaction in having done them, but at what cost?
The rant’s over; aren’t you glad?
Let’s get to chapters four, five, and six, our reading “assignment” for this week.
Chapter 4 — Lighten Up: Parenthood
I don’t have much to say here. I’m a long way from child-rearing, but Gretchen’s advice to parents still applies. How much better would my day have gone if I’d stopped at some point, taken a deep breath, and found something to laugh about? If I’d lightened up?
Chapter 5 — Be Serious about Play: Leisure
Yesterday afternoon, when I was still turning from one thing to another, my husband sat calmly at the breakfast room table, working the New York Times crossword puzzle. I was close to tears. “It must be nice,” I said, “to sit around and work crossword puzzles all day.“ Ouch. He doesn’t work crossword puzzles all day. He’d repaired the garage door when it didn’t work, had done some writing, and had exercised a couple of hours. And more. I was angry, not with him, but with myself. It wasn’t just that I’d had no leisure time yesterday; I couldn’t remember when I’d ever had time to fritter away.
But whose fault is that? I know, don’t I.
Like Gretchen, I have a hard time identifying what I do for play. Oh, I spend time messing around on Facebook. I read. Writing is fun but also serious, even tearful business that dredges up emotions and leaves me wrung out. That’s not fun. There were the art classes I took a few years ago; I loved playing with oils and watercolors, and painting was so absorbing that the two-hour classes passed like minutes.
Have I done it since? No. So Gretchen’s “fun” chapter deserves a second read. I need to learn how to play more or play better!
Chapter 5 — Make Time for Friends: Friendship
I’ll simply reiterate Gretchen’s main points here and encourage you to read the book, if you haven’t. They’re important.
Remember birthdays. How hard is that, really? But it requires planning.
Be generous. Generosity is often more about time and self than money. If I’d approached the things I had to do yesterday in a spirit of generosity, how much better might the day have gone?
Show up. This one nagged me to pick up the phone last night and call a friend whose husband had had surgery. I’m glad I did.
Don’t gossip. I thought of this when I was in the midst of a conversation with a friend. We were talking about someone else, and it made me uncomfortable. Thank you, Happiness Project.
Make three new friends. Hmm. This one is hard. More food for thought.
Sometimes as I’m reading this book, I think, gosh, Gretchen Rubin can’t be human. Everything seems so easy for her. How can she research and read and write and raise children and have a good marriage and friends and two (or is it three?) reading groups and throw big parties and publish and exercise and have fun and show up and be generous? Etc. Etc.
The perfect woman? No. Gretchen’s not perfect, and neither are we. Here’s where I see she’s human and very real: at the end of chapter six, she talks about how her “basic temperament” hasn’t changed, but in spite of that, she feels “more joy and less guilt.” And then she says this:
In some ways, in fact, I’d made myself less happy; I’d made myself far more aware of my faults, and I felt more disappointed with myself when I slipped up. My shortcomings stared up at me reproachfully from the page (163-164).
Ah, Gretchen, I want to tell her. You’re young, but so wise.
We all have days like that. I had one yesterday. But today–maybe today will be different.
How do you cope when you’re having a bad day? If you’ve read The Happiness Project, did you find Gretchen Rubin’s “strategies” for a happier life helpful?