Oh Happy Day

I’m reading “The Happiness Project,” part self-help, part memoir by Gretchen Rubin. In this book, Rubin chronicles her year-long quest to become happier.  The book not only examines what Rubin did to find happiness in her life, but it’s also filled with a crazy amount of happiness research. Each month, she tackled a different area of her life which included parenting, work, and friendships, just to name a few. Rubin also has a blog of the same name, which offers additional advice and anecdotes.

I’m half-way through the book, but I can’t decide if I like it or not. I like the themes and ideas Rubin writes about, but I’m not sure I can totally relate to her, even though we have many things in common. Maybe I’m just a bit jealous of her. Rubin’s über smart, not only graduating from Yale Law School and serving as editor-in-chief of the Yale Law Journal, but she also clerked for the great Supreme Court Justice, Sandra Day O’Connor. Then she abandoned her law career to become a writer. Yeah, I’m pretty sure I’m jealous. Despite my mixed emotions about Rubin, I appreciate her revelations, research, and resolve to follow her passion. You got to hand it to her, when she takes on a project, she doesn’t do it half-assed. She made charts and check-lists, and meticulously deciphered what had to be pretty dry academic studies.

The book has made me look inward at myself to see what makes me happy. I’ve figured out I enjoy little things, like sitting under the portico in front of my house which is in full bloom right now with Wisteria. It’s also a perfect place to read and take a quick cat nap, of which I did both this afternoon.

Pedicures also make me happy, and I’m getting one as I write this blog. There’s nothing like soaking your feet in a hot bath and have someone else pamper your dry, calloused feet, and perfectly apply a deep shade of red polish to your toenails.

Rubin also talks about the things she wished makes her happy, but doesn’t. Pedicures made the list. Although I don’t know how  anyone couldn’t find happiness in this, I do understand the idea of wanting something to make you happy, when you really don’t like or enjoy it.  For me, I would love if I found happiness doing art projects. My kids are crazy about anything craft or art related. I on the other hand can’t stand it.  I try to beg off as often as I can, but when I do give in to their crafting demands, I’m quite unhappy.

Overall, my kids make me happy. They also make me crazy, but that comes with the territory of being a mom to three young girls. Part of that craziness comes from the tantrums, the whining, and other daily demands. That part of motherhood doesn’t make me happy, but really, what mother or father for that matter finds happiness from misbehaving children? Rubin does offer some practical advice to help handle those outbursts. Like I said earlier, Rubin did her homework in this book. When it comes to parenting, she found that using negative language like no, stop, or don’t doesn’t stop a tantrum. Instead of reacting to bad behavior, research shows a child responds better to a parent listening and acknowledging their demands, even if the parent doesn’t give into said demand. Yep, easier said than done, but since reading that chapter, I have noticed I’m trying to think twice before screaming NO when one of the kids asks to stay up just five more minutes, or read just one more book.

The book also recommends undergoing your own happiness challenge. I can tell you right now, that ain’t going to happen for me. I can’t even make a chore chart for my kids, so I know I would not follow through on a happiness chart. Rubin admits several times in the book that she’s obsessed with getting gold stars. Me, not so much. It’s one of the things that I wished made me happy. So taking a cue from Rubin, I’ll try to just “Be Liza,” and find happiness in the little things like seeing my girls’ faces light up when I come home from work, or the funny random texts I get from my husband.

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