Last week I found myself in the airport with a couple of hours to spare (a nice problem to have, actually) and picked up the book, The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. It’s not weighty or intellectual, but it’s interesting, funny and even inspiring…the perfect summer read that’s well worth passing along.
It chronicles the author’s yearlong quest to raise her level of happiness above the status quo. She takes an analytical, entirely type A approach to her experiment (which, being type A myself, I love), as she tackles specific elements of happiness to improve her state of mind. The observations are hilarious and I can’t think of many people who wouldn’t see just a little of themselves in Gretchen.
The heavy sprinkling of scientific stats and philosophical quotes are insightful, but it’s her experiences that feel familiar – like the month when she’s determined to appreciate her husband more (read: not snip at him all the time) and has to physically bite her tongue on some occasions…and altogether fails miserably on others, letting him have it. (Been there?)
But the best chapters, to me, are about parenthood. She is poignant in her observations of her tendency to sap the happiness out of parenthood instead of savoring the moments and enjoying the process. She describes the happiness of parenthood as “fog happiness.”
Fog happiness is the kind of happiness you get from activities that, closely examined, don’t really seem to bring much happiness at all – yet somehow they do.
She likens it to hosting a party – it’s all very stressful in the moment, but somehow you look back on the whole event as being fun.
That hits home. Sometimes being a parent is a fog. But I don’t want to look back and relish the moments only after they’ve passed, I want to see the beauty in them now. But it’s easy to miss out on on the joy when the moments often feel hectic and stressful.
As I saw bits of myself in Gretchen, it also hit home that I need to listen and acknowledge my three-year-old more, create more spontaneous fun, build our own non-holiday traditions, let her experience her (sometimes slow) discoveries instead of forcing her to keep my pace and, yes, snip at my husband less….
Maybe I need to start my own little Happiness Project. But even if I can’t commit to a year like Gretchen did, I think reading this book is a good pinch of awareness. And that’s a start.