Recently, I read 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 by Gretchen Rubin. I discovered it quite by accident, while searching for something else by the same name. Well, I was looking for something else called The Happiness Project. That whole title is quite the mouthful and, if two books had that same title, I would say someone has a case for a lawsuit. But that is neither here nor there. What is both here and there is that it was a happy accident and I enjoyed reading the book.
Since the book’s title is so long, I don’t feel the need to explain too much about it. It’s pretty self-explanatory. Gretchen Rubin spent a year focussing on happiness. The blurb on Amazon puts it this way: “Gretchen Rubin had an epiphany one rainy afternoon in the unlikeliest of places: a city bus. ‘The days are long, but the years are short,’ she realized. ‘Time is passing, and I’m not focusing enough on the things that really matter.’ In that moment, she decided to dedicate a year to her happiness project. In this lively and compelling account, Rubin chronicles her adventures during the twelve months she spent test-driving the wisdom of the ages, current scientific research, and lessons from popular culture about how to be happier. Among other things, she found that novelty and challenge are powerful sources of happiness; that money can help buy happiness, when spent wisely; that outer order contributes to inner calm; and that the very smallest of changes can make the biggest difference.”
Rubin came up with a list of her Twelve Personal Commandments and urged readers to do the same. She stressed that the Twelve Personal Commandments aren’t specific resolutions, but are, rather, principles to apply for living a happier life. I found this to be rather challenging because I got hung up on Rubin’s First Commandment, “Be Gretchen.” She meant it in a “To thine own self be true” sort of way, but I kept thinking, “I want to be Gretchen! Gretchen is a New York Times bestselling author! Gretchen has a super popular podcast and is a sought after speaker! Gretchen graduated from Yale Law School and clerked for Sandra Day O’Connor! Gretchen was probably never tempted to rip off someone else’s list of Twelve Personal Commandments because she was too lazy to come up with her own! Who the heck wouldn’t want to be Gretchen? Being Gretchen sounds divine!” Yeah, I have issues. So, I never did find a big stone and chisel out my Twelve Personal Commandments, but I did keep reading.
It probably goes without saying I also failed to compose a Manifesto. I did, however, enjoy writing my Secrets of Adulthood list. Rubin’s Secrets of Adulthood included zen things like, “Outer order contributes to inner calm.” No, duh! It also included more mundane things like, “Try not to let yourself get too hungry.” Good advice for us all! Testify, Gretchen! Testify!
Here’s a partial list of Christi’s Secrets of Adulthood:
- Never be embarrassed by how early you go to bed.
- Always buy bananas of varying degrees of ripeness so you don’t end up with a gobs of overripe fruit, which, while fine for smoothies, are revolting for just peeling and eating.
- If a pair of underwear crawls, throw them away as soon as you remove them. Do NOT, under any circumstance, put them in the laundry hamper where they will enter the wash cycle and find their way back to your underwear drawer.
- Read more books.
- Audiobooks count as reading.
- Laugh often and loudly.
- Make someone else laugh often and loudly.
- Use the good stuff. Burn the candles. Eat from the kitschy, vintage dishes, even if you’re just eating an almond butter and Simply Fruit sandwich. Use the expensive lotion on your ashy legs even though it was a gift and you’ll never in a million years be able to replace it.
- Surround yourself with colors that make you happy even if it starts to look like you’re living in Pee Wee’s Playhouse.
- Pets should have interesting names.
- People who give pets interesting names are worth knowing.
- Give heartfelt compliments.
- Wear comfortable shoes.
- A true Netflix binge requires commitment and dedication and is not for the faint of heart.
- Experiences are more important than stuff, but, let’s face it, stuff is good, too.
- Never waste food. Even the blackest of bananas can make a delicious smoothie.
The great thing about a Secrets of Adulthood list is that you can add to it when inspiration strikes. It seems far more complicated to write an amendment to something called Commandments–like you’d need special approval from Charlton Heston or something (which is complicated further still by the fact he died in 2008).
So, how did reading The Happiness Project impact my life? Thank you for asking. At the time I picked up the book, my life was in a tailspin. Folks, it was bad. No, actually, it was baaaaaaaaad. To be honest, things still aren’t great. I’ll tell you about it someday. But today is not that day. You may have noticed I took a sabbatical from My Imaginary Talk Show in order to keep things out of the imaginary tabloids. But, I’m still standing. Following the principles of The Happiness Project did increase my happiness level. I squeeze in a few minutes with a good book whenever I can. My ashy legs are coated with some incredibly luxurious lotion. My underwear don’t crawl. I have a plethora of freezer bananas. And I can step right back into hosting My Imaginary Talk Show without worrying about ratings and sponsors. I may not be Gretchen, but being Christi has its perks.