Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Pursuit of Happiness

Last month I finally finished the first book in, dare I say, 15 years!  Gasp!  I know, I'll give you a moment to pick your jaw up off the floor.  I'm just not a reader.  I've never been very fast at it and that has discouraged me because I'm fast at everything else I do.  I also have a hard time concentrating because I'm always thinking about what else I need to be doing or could be doing.  But I recently decided that all the book lovers in the world couldn't be all wrong, there had to be something to this whole reading thing.  I'm not even sure how I came across the book I chose, but I'm glad that I did.  It took me 2 cycles of waiting and checking out from the public library, but I finally finished The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin.  

It's not that I wasn't happy, I just wanted to feel like I was getting the most out of life.  I wanted to learn to live each day to it's fullest and not just repeat the words.  I wanted to enjoy the journey of motherhood (more than I was) and also take steps to discover my place in this world.

I didn't solve all of the world's problems but I did learn a lot about myself and things I wouldn't have even considered otherwise.  To some extent, I learned that happiness is being content.  Whether it be in your own skin, with your life, with your job, whatever, because once you are content, it shows in your face and your actions and those around you are influenced by your contentment.  If you're happy, it's easier for those around you to be happy.  

All of this seems perfectly logical and not overly complicated.  However, I was one of those students in school that couldn't think of a good answer during a test, but as soon as the test was over and the answers were revealed, I realize I did know it, I just hadn't been able to articulate it.  That's still true today.  I read something and I think it's so well-written and then I wonder why I couldn't have thought of that?  But sometimes you need someone else to do the thinking for you.  It's easier but it also allows you to think in a direction you might not have ever thought.

One such instance in this book was when Gretchen decided to make herself laugh more.  If you would have asked me prior to reading this if I had a problem with laughter, I would have emphatically said no.  But reading her examples and really looking into my personal life, I discovered that I had lost part of my jubilation.  In this fast-paced, hurried life that I think I live it, I had not taken time to just be.  I'm always so busy looking ahead to the next chore, the next meal, the next destination, that I've forgotten how to enjoy the moment.  

Gretchen gives the example of her daughter playing something like peek-a-boo a hundred times over at the kitchen table.  Gretchen lost the humor in it after the first time but her little 3-year old could have gone on for hours, thinking each time was just as funny as the first.  Gretchen resolved to laugh more and forced herself to laugh out loud with her daughter.  She said at first she was laughing at the fact she was making herself laugh but by the end, she was laughing because her daughter was so happy and it made her happy.

The other example she gave was of her older daughter (5-ish), who loved to tell jokes.  Now we all know that 5-year old humor is not exactly stand-up comedy but to them, it is.  Her daughter would tell a joke, wait for a response, and usually receive the good old eye roll.  This one really resonated with me because I am all too guilty of this exact scenario.  Colin loves to tell jokes, no they're not funny, but he wants them to be.  He wants us to fall out of our seat in laughter, he craves the attention.  So Gretchen told herself that she would laugh out loud at her daughter's jokes.  She did and she felt joy and happiness not only within herself, but also saw it all over her daughter's face.  

Since reading this part of the book, I have made it a goal of mine to stop rolling my eyes and laugh more.  I used to laugh a lot.  I'm not sure where I lost it but somewhere along the way, I did.  I'm lucky in that I have a lot of things around me that make me smile.  I have a hilarious husband who makes it easy to laugh but yet I found myself rolling my eyes more and more.  Yet the next day, I would find myself telling his jokes to others, proving that I did, in fact, think they were funny.  I want to be lighthearted, not stuffy, jovial, and happy.  Is that so much to ask?  

What about you, what makes you laugh?  Are you happy enough?  Is there such a thing?


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