Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Soul Searching

I attended the first meeting of a new bookclub this week. "Soul Sisters Book Club" is a pleasant spin off of the "Seasoned Women Meet-Up" I've been attending for a few months. The women are all "of a certain age" and we've established a warm trust level in the group, so as soon as we got started, we really got started.

The stated intention of the book club is to read "meaty material". No beach blanket books, no Harlequin romance; you get the picture. The recommended first title was "The Happiness Project" by Gretchen Rubin, a young Manhattan wife and mother who declares herself in the first chapter as already happy, but seeking to boost herself to the top of her genetically possible range on the happy-o-meter. Half of us expressed a healthy respect for the business-like way Rubin (formerly a lawyer who clerked for Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor) attacked her pursuit of a new level of contentment. An equal number were plainly amazed that she could even consider such a left-brain approach to a matter that seems much more an emotional or spiritual issue. Our discussion meandered meaningfully from tangent to tangent, from one person's probing questions and perspective to the next. 

I had read the first two chapters of Rubin's book before our meeting and was struck by some of the similarities between her quest for "more" and the way I would describe my own "happiness quotient". I confided in the group, "Like the author, I too have so much that I appreciate in my life, more than I ever would have expected, on every level, and yet I feel unsettled. I wake up thankful for the opportunity every new day presents (seriously, after facing death five years ago, this is not surprising). I actually do love my husband more now than when we married thirty years ago, partly because I know him better, and partly because he knows me really well and has stuck around in spite of that. I have honed close, reciprocal relationships with family and friends. I'm retired, and have the energy and time to be involved with community, my hobbies, and all the day to day wonders of nature in the Pisgah National Forest right outside my door."

"So, what's the problem?" you may be wondering.

Right. That's what I asked the gals sipping tea around the table at Atlanta Bread Company. "I'm already happy, I know that, but I know it in my head; I want to know it in my heart. I don't want to think I'm happy; I want to feel happy." OMG, it is amazing that they could sit there with straight faces, listen with their hearts open and offer their support for this over-analytical angst. But they did.

Below I offer my interpretation of the wisdom that flowed my way from these wonderful women, because I'm happy to know them and happy to be a conduit of their positive thoughts to you.
  • Learn to appreciate the contentment that is already present.
  • Cultivate the spiritual.
  • Practice being in your heart.
  • Focus more on being than on doing.
  • Happiness is catching - the more happy you are, the more you bring it to others.
  • Choose to bloom.
and my personal favorite:
  • Stop "shoulding" on yourself.
I'm going to follow up first on that last one. I'm making a commitment to embrace not only all that I have, but all that I am, right now. Accept that I'm a permanent seeker, a curious soul that loves to be here now...and move on to the next (place, experience, project....) tomorrow. With every new direction, a feeling of separation from what was, with every attempt at something new, a feeling of uncertainty. These come with the criss-crossing path I've chosen. Apparently that is the path with heart for me.


  1. Wonderful, heartfelt sharing....your talents of expressing thoughts and ideas is amazing, I look forward to more and leaving crumbs along the way...Much love,caring and "soul sister" support! Deb :)

  2. What an interesting post Sharon. I read it twice. The tips your friends in the book club offer are simple, and I took them to heart too. Thanks for sharing.