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.
- Stop "shoulding" on yourself.