I just reached one of those big birthdays. That benchmark -- along with the ongoing changes in my body -- has really made me reflective of where I am in life right now. Lots of soul searching, lots of trying to determine what I want during the next phase of my life.
So to try to get a clue, I picked up Gretchen Rubin’s new book, “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.” Explaining the reasoning behind the project, Rubin wrote, “One April day, on a morning just like every other morning, I had a sudden realization: I was in danger of wasting my life. As I started out the rain-spattered window of a city bus, I saw that the years were slipping by. ‘What do I want from life, anyway?’ I asked myself. ‘Well...I want to be happy.’ But I had never thought about what made me happy or how I might be happier.
Rubin’s project to add more happiness to her life involved exploring on one overarching topic each month: January – Boost energy; February – Remember love; March – Aim higher; April – Lighten up; May – Be serious about play; June – Make time for friends; July – Buy some happiness; August – Contemplate the heavens; September – Pursue a passion; October – Pay Attention; November – Keep a contented heart; and December – Boot camp perfect.
I’m not completely through with the book, but have read up to the chapter on August (Contemplate the heavens). Thus far, I’ve been especially struck by the sentiments discussed in the May chapter (Be serious about play), perhaps because I find it exceptionally difficult to make choices when I find I have multiple options and so many interests. Yet as Rubin and some of the published responses of readers of her blog noted, limits – whether caused due to age or to what we’re interested in - exist concerning what we’re going to do in our lives.
One reader wrote, “It’s so true . . . and I do think about those things sometimes, especially as I’m getting older. There are no ‘do over’s’ and some things just aren’t going to happen. It does make me a little sad sometimes. I just have to embrace what is.” Another reader added, “Our lives are in the space between Isaiah Berlin’s ‘we are doomed to choose and every choice may entail an irreparable loss’ and Burges’s Garden of Forking Paths, where every choice produces a quantum explosion of alternate futures. Itch bin eon Berliner for the most part, have a hard time seeing past the irreparable losses.”
Reaching the passage known as menopause does mean that some things aren’t going to happen again. But having always embraced the idea that when one door closes, another opens, I wonder what will come in its stead. And that’s what the Happiness Project encourages each of us to consider. We can take a proactive stance in designing our own happiness. Which begs the question – what is it that makes you happy?
Published On: June 08, 2010