Friday, September 23, 2011

How Happy Are You?

I love to read - I love nothing more than finding that book that I can't put down and want to read at any free moment, including when I am stirring dinner on the stove. I love being transported to another place and living within that realm until I turn the last page.

I particularily like to write down quotes that catch my eye. They could be quotes to lift you up when feeling down, quotes that make me laugh, and quotes that make me stop and think. Don't tell Mimi but I am compiling my favorite quotes into a book that I will give her when she graduates high school and is ready to start her journey discovering her authentic, independent self.

I am the one at bookgroup that selects books focused on finding your true self. I wouldn't call them self-help books because they are stories within themselves rather than a step by step guide to improving yourself. For instance, I pick books like The Alchemist, a story of a boy on a personal quest to find the meaning of life or Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, which is just a compilation of observations by one very funny, keenly observant woman that I totally identified with. After reading Amy's book, I assigned "homework" which was to bring your favorite passage to share with the group. Since then, many people have been writing down their favorite quotes to share with each other and spark conversation. I love that part of bookgroup. I love hearing what had an impact on each person. By listening to what has meaning to your friend, you just gain a little more perspective on them, which is always so fascinating and interesting to me.

A few months ago I was in Target on my weekly shopping trip and happened to wander by the book section where a bright blue and yellow book caught my eye. It only took me half a minute to put it right in my cart. I couldn't wait to get home and start "The Happiness Project" by Gretchen Rubin. The explanation on the back cover sounded just like my own personal experiement to find Little Kelly, although she actually made it her job for a year. "The days are long, but the years are short." and "Time is passing, and I'm not focusing enough on the things that really matter." It was like she was my twin, feeling exactly what I had been feeling when I decided to take my sabbatical.

When I got home I hesitated to start it. What if the back cover was the best part of the book? You know how that happens sometimes...kind of how I felt when I picked up Confessions of a Counterfeit Farm Girl. The author claimed to be a preppy girl who moved to a farm with her family. Turns out she was a girl from Jersey that moved to a farm. Two ENTIRELY different things. It was a total buzz kill. So, I had reader's anxiety when I started reading The Happiness Project but Gretchen did not disappoint. I'm looking at my book now....I have so many pages folded over with great quotes, aha moments, and funny quips that it will fill pages in Mimi's quote book. I picked this book for our bookgroup in November and I just wanted to share a few of my favorite quotes/thoughts with you in hopes of sparking your mind to think about your own happiness.

In the begining, Gretchen says that is is happy, just not as happy as she should be. "I have such a good life. I want to appreciate it more - and live up to it better." I hear ya, sister!

Gretchen does a lot of research on happiness for this book and she comes across a Buddhist quote that I think is so true: "When the student is ready, the teacher appears." I had spent years living this chaotic, busy work life and I felt I couldn't get off the spinning merry go round but when I decided enough was enough and walked away, I opened my eyes to so many important experiences and lessons that literally changed my view on life. I'm sure many of those experiences and lessons presented themselves to me before but I just wasn't ready for them then. I know many people today who respond with "I'm so busy!" when you ask how they are. I just want to hand them this book and tell them to stop being consumed by life and actually start living it.

Our lives are so busy and we are scheduled up to the minute trying to fit it all in. Our lists don't include things like "Do something unfamiliar" or "Get ready for the unexpected" but as Gretchen explains "We seek to control our lives, but the unfamiliar and the unexpected are important sources of happiness." That immediately made me think of the time we went camping in PA (see my blog post Holy Antrastophy)and I had a choice of whether to wash dishes or be present with my kids and catch fireflies. It was so unexpected to find 1,000 fireflies flying everywhere...how could you not take advantage of that moment? When I did, not only did I have fun with my kids but I felt like a little kid again. More importantly, I had an aha moment with myself...that I was routinely passing by opportunities to live in the moment. Now I find myself saying things like "Let's just do it!" or "Let's drive down this road and see what we find!" and I'm never disappointed. I now know that an important part of my happiness depends on being adventerous and exploring the unknown and unfamiliar to see where it takes me. For years I didn't feel I had time for that. It makes me sad to think that now.

Gretchen came up with a list of 12 personal commandments to becoming happier. One of them was "Buy Some Happiness" which was focused on how she spent money. She realized "It's easy to make the mistake of thinking that if you have something that you love or there's something you want, you'll be happier with more." I think many of us fall into this trap. Some people love shopping and clothes and we all have those friends who have clothes still sitting in their closet with the tags on them. Perhaps they got a rush from buying or shopping...it's not really about buying the perfect item, but rather just buying something. Then they end up with no space in their closet and find themselves packing bags for Goodwill each season. I have to say, I do disagree with this point a little...I don't think you can ever have too much pink and green...but I will admit, you need to wear it in moderation. Anyways, I just loved that quote because it truly makes you think about just limiting yourself to those things you love and treasuring those items rather than buying more of them. More doesn't equal happier. Well, unless you are my husband. Then yes, more old crusty jeeps do equal happiness...

One of my favorite quotes in this book is now one of my personal truths to live by: "The things that go wrong often make the best memories." We try so hard to make things go right in our lives and when they go wrong you have two options: You can obsess over what went wrong and be unhappy or you can roll with it, laugh about it, and learn from it. I used to choose the former but now I choose the latter every day. It truly makes you feel less stressed and you find so many silver linings in experiences when you choose to look for them.

Perhaps my favorite quote comes at the end of the book: "When I made the effort to reach out for them, I found that the ruby slippers had been on my feet all along." Gretchen was not unhappy when she started this personal experiment but it took a conscious effort to recognize what made her happy in her life to make her see that being happier every day was right in front of her the whole time. I think finding happiness every day just requires a few key tools: Your eyes - keep them open. Your sense of humor - don't ever lose it. Your glass - keep it half empty, not half full and Your heart - Keep that open too.

Well, I hope you are on your way out the door or getting online right now to buy The Happiness Project. I'd love to hear what you think about it after you read it. I signed up online to get a happiness quote each day from www.happinessproject.com. The other day the quote was "All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking." which, for me, is so true. Whenever I need to figure something out or something is bothering me, I go for a walk and for some reason, the answer I am searching for always shows up. I added this one to my Mimi quote book as well.



2 comments:

  1. I really liked this post Kelly. I will definitely be on the look out for this book. Thank you!

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  2. Kelly -

    You are an amazing writer....you missed your calling:-) LOL. I loved this post and I, too will be on the outlook for this book.

    Thanks for sharing!!

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