Monday, May 17, 2010

Come On, Get Happy

Yesterday I finished reading Gretchen Rubin's The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun. And, in spite of its long-winded title and my misgivings about the subject, it was very good! I certainly didn't expect it to be. I spied it in the 14-day loan section of the local library and, since I was already focusing my own energies toward living more mindfully, the book seemed like it could be helpful.

I must admit that I almost did not read Rubin's book. I hate limited loan periods and almost never avail myself of books in this category. Although I am an avid and at time voracious reader, I get stressed when I have to read on a deadline. It makes the joy of reading feel more like work, more like a grind. I much prefer the month-long loan periods of the majority of the library's selections, which can also be renewed for several more months if no one places a hold on them. So my experience with The Happiness Project almost died before it even began.

But last week as I was looking for some engaging reading material for my date with the elliptical machine at the gym, my stack of magazines weren't doing it for me. The book I was reading at the time (Margaret Atwood's The Robber Bride) didn't really seem best for a sweat session, as much as I was enjoying it. Then Rubin's vibrantly colored book caught my eye. I hesitated for a moment, then slipped it into my gym bag and set off.

The Happiness Project captured me from page one. I thought that the book might discuss airy-fairy hedonism, but instead Rubin declared that she was looking for realistic ways that she could enhance her happiness in her present life (a freelance writer married with two children). I cringed a little at the word "happiness," but I found what Rubin meant by happiness lined up with what I defined as mindfulness, relishing ordinary and daily joys, and living in the now.

I can't tell you how many quotes from The Happiness Project I would like to share with you . . . but can't. The reason for this is that, upon finishing up the book at the gym last night, I immediately returned it to the library to ensure that I stayed within the 14-day loan period. I forgot that I wanted to share a block of text from page 212 about St. Therese of Lisieux's (who I totally want to read more of now) thoughts on God, mission, and living. Oops. If you do happen to get your hands on a copy of The Happiness Project, be sure to check out the bottom paragraph on page 212.

The fact that Gretchen Rubin is a blogger -- and her blog actually evolved into an integral part of her project -- is a fun bonus. Check her out at the aptly named The Happiness Project site. Rubin has also set up a sister site, The Happiness Project Toolbox, to help interested readers get started on their own projects. I particularly like the group page of the toolbox site, where visitors can either join existing groups working on a resolution together, or create a new focus group.

Which brings me to my next point. Do you want to start a happiness project, or a slimmed down version of one? If so, what would you choose to focus on?


  1. Thanks for the recommendation! I'll have to see if my library has it!

  2. From the bottom of page 212:"I couldn't aspire to Therese's saintliness, but I could follow her by aspiring to perfection within the common order of my day. We expect heroic virtue to look flashy - moving to Uganda to work with AIDS victims, perhaps, or documenting the plight of homeless people in Detroit. Therese's example shows that ordinary life, too, is full of opportunities for worthy, if inconspicuous, virtue."

  3. YES, Kaivalya, that's totally it! Thank you!!


"I am glad you are here with me."
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King