Yesterday I finished reading Gretchen Rubin's 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. And, in spite of its long-winded title and my misgivings about the subject, it was very good! I certainly didn't expect it to be. I spied it in the 14-day loan section of the local library and, since I was already focusing my own energies toward living more mindfully, the book seemed like it could be helpful.
I must admit that I almost did not read Rubin's book. I hate limited loan periods and almost never avail myself of books in this category. Although I am an avid and at time voracious reader, I get stressed when I have to read on a deadline. It makes the joy of reading feel more like work, more like a grind. I much prefer the month-long loan periods of the majority of the library's selections, which can also be renewed for several more months if no one places a hold on them. So my experience with The Happiness Project almost died before it even began.
But last week as I was looking for some engaging reading material for my date with the elliptical machine at the gym, my stack of magazines weren't doing it for me. The book I was reading at the time (Margaret Atwood's The Robber Bride) didn't really seem best for a sweat session, as much as I was enjoying it. Then Rubin's vibrantly colored book caught my eye. I hesitated for a moment, then slipped it into my gym bag and set off.
The Happiness Project captured me from page one. I thought that the book might discuss airy-fairy hedonism, but instead Rubin declared that she was looking for realistic ways that she could enhance her happiness in her present life (a freelance writer married with two children). I cringed a little at the word "happiness," but I found what Rubin meant by happiness lined up with what I defined as mindfulness, relishing ordinary and daily joys, and living in the now.
I can't tell you how many quotes from The Happiness Project I would like to share with you . . . but can't. The reason for this is that, upon finishing up the book at the gym last night, I immediately returned it to the library to ensure that I stayed within the 14-day loan period. I forgot that I wanted to share a block of text from page 212 about St. Therese of Lisieux's (who I totally want to read more of now) thoughts on God, mission, and living. Oops. If you do happen to get your hands on a copy of The Happiness Project, be sure to check out the bottom paragraph on page 212.
The fact that Gretchen Rubin is a blogger -- and her blog actually evolved into an integral part of her project -- is a fun bonus. Check her out at the aptly named The Happiness Project site. Rubin has also set up a sister site, The Happiness Project Toolbox, to help interested readers get started on their own projects. I particularly like the group page of the toolbox site, where visitors can either join existing groups working on a resolution together, or create a new focus group.
Which brings me to my next point. Do you want to start a happiness project, or a slimmed down version of one? If so, what would you choose to focus on?