I’ve been thinking a lot about happiness recently. Perhaps this is because I just finished reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, the memoir of the year this Yale Law School graduate spent test-driving conventional wisdom of “how to be happy.” It sounds very hokey. It’s not. She’s very to-do list orientated, very sensible, very lawyerly. You have to do your own happiness, she says, and ultimately: you aren’t happy unless you think you’re happy. Why of course—it’s so simple!
I picked the book up one rainy Wednesday (last rainy Wednesday, at it were) and read it in two days (cover-to-cover in two days is excessive even for me). I read it, and then I went online to read her blog about the book. Lo and behold, where should Ms. Rubin be scheduled on her book tour but my very own Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena, California—and this Monday, nary four days after I finished the book.
It’s been awhile since I’ve gotten a ping from the universe—a worlds colliding, things aren’t as random as they seem to be—sort of ping. So, pinging away, I went to Vroman’s last night and got my book signed. She was lovely and well-spoken, but it was a bit of a perfunctory event, in any case. We don’t read so we can listen to people talking about their books; we read for the silence, the solitude (the transformation?) of being alone with words.
You know I liked the book because one of the biggest things she struggled with was chocolate chip cookies. Specifically, the giant ones sold in delis in New York City. You’d think giant chocolate chip cookies would cause happiness—indeed, they sometimes do—but there are all sorts of unhappiness producing things that come from eating a giant cookie every day (guilt, inability to button pants, diabetes) and an odd, happy sort of satisfaction in resisting the indulgence.
She tried to push herself out of her comfort zone even though the act itself wasn’t pleasant; she saw that being challenged is an important part of happiness. But, she says—and I love this—“The pleasure of doing a thing in the same way, at the same time, every day, and savoring it, is worth noting.”
That is my ode to breakfast, to the first sip of hot coffee, sliding hot into my empty belly where it jostles around, hot and settling into warmth. Every day the same: I wake up starving, ready for a bountiful meal, fresh and sweet, every day undiminished in deliciousness. It is also my ode to writing. It feels the same, mostly, the sitting down to write. The same computer, my buddy, the same hands that pound at keys. The moment of nervousness while the computer whirs, opening a saved document (or worse, a blank document). I keep thinking I should find new places to write—again and again, I go to the Pasadena Public Library, always the same. But I love the library, my library: roving for parking spots when it opens at 9, heaving a heavy bag on a shoulder, and making my way to the same table with the same wobbly light.
So, I savored my entry and exit of the library today, brimming with ideas of happiness. Be generous, cut people slack, act the way you want to feel—smile more! laugh more!—be Megan, follow your passions, be mindful—mindfulness, oye vey (the one I struggle the most with). Etcetera.I was thinking about generosity and mindfulness when I arrived to the library this morning, parked my car, and enjoyed the pleasure of my routine. When I left five hours later, I found this post-it note firmly and deliberately—with care, one might say—stuck under my windshield wipers:
I’ll admit it: it was not my best parking job. I was on the line (on, not over). A suburban could not have fit next to me–but a sedan easily could have. So, some SUV-driving angry person (forgive the prejudice/stereotype) actually drove by my less-than-stellar parking job (I reiterate: on the line, not over) and was so offended, they took the time to tell me what a selfish bastard I was. They took the time to stop their car, find a post-it note and a felt-tipped pin (this was not the job of a ballpoint), and paste it to my windshield. Did you feel better, SUV-person, after having slapped the post-it to my car? Didja?! (On a sidenote, not entirely unrelated: I drive a minivan. Not by choice. Regardless: still a minivan. Who puts angry notes on minivans–a car with a driving demographic primarily consisting of middle-aged mothers.)
So, um, where was I… speaking of happiness. There sure are a lot of unhappy people out there. The note only strengthened my resolve to be generous, to cut people slack. Why be pissed? Why chose anger? It doesn’t do you any good, and it sure didn’t move my car back an inch. So–why not move along, get over it, let it go, lighten up (to quote a few of Ms. Rubin’s resolutions)–and just find a new spot?