05 January 2014

What Makes You Happy?

Happier at Home by Gretchin Rubin 

This post was inspired by Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin, where she runs a nine month experiment to create happier surroundings. Join From Left to Write on January 6 as we discuss Happier at Home. You can also chat live with Gretchen Rubin on January 7 on Facebook! As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

I was very excited to read this book; the title is so enticing.  The author, Gretchen Rubin,  previously wrote a book called The Happiness Project, and this follow-up sounded like the perfect how-to book for a frazzled mom who sometimes wants to leave home to get a little peace and quiet.  

It wasn't quite what I expected.  It didn't really read like a "how-to" so much as it chronicles Gretchen's own efforts to create a happier home, which are admirable and something to aspire to, with the "shelf by shelf" de-cluttering process, and one-on-one Wednesday time with her daughter and the twice-daily spouse-kissing.  I love all these ideas.  

It's just that I'm the only one in my house that clutter bothers.  I have by no means given up, but I realize I am fighting a losing battle.  Given that my traveling spouse, Captain America, is gone half of every month and the travel schedule changes from month to month, and all the kiddos are in school all day, that pretty much takes care of the Wednesday Adventures and the twice-daily kiss.  

So, my own happier at home happiness project would look a little different from Gretchen's.  And that's ok.  She makes the point several times, that what makes each of us happy is wildly variable, and frankly, I've operated by the seat of my pants for so long now, that having Captain America home every night for dinner at 6 would just be weird.  I love my children more than my next breath but I need them....no, I mean I REALLY NEED them to go to school all day.  

While the book wasn't quite what I expected, it did get me thinking.  What makes me happy?  Am I unhappy?  Do I need to do something differently?  How can I be happier?  Do I need to be happier?  And I came to the conclusion that I'm pretty darn happy most of the time, and I'm not all that introspective.  I'm happy with my chaotic, often cluttered home, and my chaotic, overcommitted life.  If I am unhappy, I can generally point to a specific reason, a thing that has happened or an attitude from one of my kids, that has made me unhappy.  I don't spend much (ok, any) time considering whether or why which possessions make me happy. I kiss my husband more than twice each day he's home.  Unless I'm mad at him, but that's not often.   But in the end,  I pretty much always default back to happy.

It's good to take time now and then to check in with yourself, especially when you're in the trenches of parenthood and attempting to maintain some semblance of a marriage while raising people at the same time.  But at the same time, I don't think it's wise to spend too much time contemplating and analyzing and working on your own happiness; life will pass you right by.  Your spouse's life will continue to happen and your kids will be moving into their first college dorms or tiny walk-up apartments far sooner than you think they will.  I will have more time to work on my clutter then.  

What makes you happy?  Would you embark on your own "happiness project"?