Wednesday, May 19, 2010

How would you rate your happiness?

Two days ago I stopped in at the local library. I had books to return and it was time to check out the new rentals section. One of the librarians, she used to be the Youth Librarian and had me in to do life journal workshops, for the teens, is now a Research Librarian. She was holding a stack of books to put back on the shelves and said to me, "Oooooh, you are JUST the person I was thinking about. Third book down, in my stack, pull it out."
I did and saw a bright pretty blue cover of a book, The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.
We talked about things for a moment and then I asked her why she wanted me to see this book.
"Well, first of all, a lot of what she talks about are things that you and I have talked about so I just thought of you."
I didn't do many workshops with the kids but I did spend a bit of time with her in preparation and clean up and we did talk a lot. I tend to ask people questions about their passions outside of work, how they deal with things, what have they done interesting recently, those kinds of questions. I'm not really interested in how they make their money unless it has some interesting stories attached, stories that deal with real people.
I brought the book home. The sub title under The Happiness Project says, Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun.
I consider myself a happy person. I also know that being unhappy and depression are not the same things. I know it's possible to change how I feel by changing how I look at something, how I feel about it or just basically changing my attitude. Sometimes I don't want to change anything I want to wallow. And, a good cry cleans the eyes.
I haven't had time to read much of the book but the first chapter and that made me smile. She mentions, right off the bat, Benjamin Franklin and his Virtues Chart.

Boy that took me back, in time. I think I was probably in my 30s when I came across his autobiography and found the Virtues Chart. I love things like this. I looked at his list of virtues and thought they made sense so I would create my own tracking chart.
Each day Franklin would score himself on how he did with each virtue.
I don't remember how Franklin progressed with his chart, mine was a flop after a week. I don't think Franklin had to deal with two little boys, making ends meet, working at the YMCA, and just trying to do all the things that people in their thirties, with a family, have to do.

Temperance, silence, order, resolution, frugality, industry, sincerity, justice, moderation, cleanliness, tranquillity, chasity and humility.

If you have or had small children you can see what a challenge some of those were going to be.

John, not Zeus at the time, he hadn't earned that moniker yet, just shook his head. Between work, rebuilding the house, parenting and soccer he barely had time to sleep.

I think like the author did that the one thing I did come away with is the understanding that tracking your progress helps. Writing down how you are doing helps show the positive and the pitfalls of your progress.

I haven't been back to the scale. Most of the time I have no use for them. I much prefer to gage my health, by a quick inventory. I put on the shirt that "had mysteriously" shrunk in the dryer this morning and it's not tight. It doesn't feel stretched across my back. So something has sifted. I take this as a good enough sign. There is no need to ruin this HAPPINESS feeling by actually standing naked on that scale.

My head cold is tapering off thanks to the antibiotics. I can see some progress in my garden and that makes me smile. I think THIS YEAR I might actually have a handle on keeping some kind of order, in there.

So, how am I doing on old Ben's list now that I am 30 some years older?

Temperance, hmmm well Zeus and I often split a beer when we go out. I'm not in trouble with this one.

Silence, I like silence. I can be alone with my thoughts. Most of the time I find background music annoying. Why on earth would somebody think they knew what music I wanted to listen to at a certain time of day?

Order, I'm working on this. Life is easier when everything has a place and gets put back in said place. Disorder is negative energy and it creates an unhealthy place to spend time in. Just because you know where everything is and can lay your hand on it after you move twenty piles of crap does not mean you have "some kind" of order. The disorder is telling you more about that part of your life. Why isn't it important to you to clean it up? What message are you telling yourself over and over?

Resolution, I have to look this one up. I'm sure I have it but I would like to see how Webster's really defines it.

Frugality, it comes and goes. I'm not frugal when it comes to buying Riley cute little shoes and outfits but my refrigerator is full of Tupperware containers.

Industry, I may not be a captain of it but I am industries. (straightening up my shoulders)

Sincerity, yup, I'm sincere about just about everything. I think the opposite of sincere is phony and I don't think anybody I know would call me that.

Justice, life isn't always fair but I try to be.

Moderation, oh dear, well look for a low grade on this one. I tend to overdo. One of my kids often said with his child like lisp, "Mama did over doed it".

Cleanliness, I remember my mother in law telling me I would wear out the clothes by washing them so often and in her day people didn't take showers every day. Didn't change how I did things but it was an interesting glimpse into history. I wash my hands a lot, clean behind my ears and keep my hair short so I can shampoo it every day. I probably smell like dove soap to people that get close to me.

Tranquillity, I can be peaceful at the drop of a hat. I can sit with my eyes closed and daydream anywhere. I can lower my blood pressure every time they put that wrap on my arm and pump it up. I can sit still. I went to Quaker school from third grade to sixth grade. I learned how to sit quietly and think about things. No jumping up to sing, plopping down to kneel and pray, just sit.

Chastity, have to look this one up. I can only think of Chastity Bono right now and she's Chas, now.

Humility, probably not a high score on this one either. Zeus tells me I can't toot my own horn but he's a "lapsed" Catholic and has a lot of Puritan in him. My response is if I can't toot it nobody else is going to. Besides, shouldn't we be proud of what we do? It's not like I'm going to get a billboard on the Interstate to announce it.

Enough chatter, it's time to go work in the garden with moderation and enjoy the tranquility.

:)Bea Creating is easier than you think.

P.S. Two blog sites you might find interesting:


  1. Hi Bea,
    I just love love love reading your thoughts. Gretchen - I followed her blog for quite a long time about a year ago and then lost her link in a blog template transfer.
    I didn't know she had a book out.
    Just yesterday I was thinking about Ben Franklin - reflecting about electricity of all things!
    What would the world be without it...a day dream...hmmmm...more like a dark dream....
    when more people realize that happiness is a 100% choice - and some may just strike that eureka moment through reading your thoughts, well, then, the world will be a much better place and then maybe electricity won't be quite as necessary as it is now as we will all light up each other, as you do each day, here.

  2. Bea, you should absolutely TOOT YOUR OWN HORN! You should be proud of your accomplishments and be free to rejoice in your successes. I probably fare fairly low on most things in that list but I try my best to be good at everything, every day, so that should count for something. :) Enjoy your day, my friend.

  3. Wow, Trudi, now, gosh darnit my head is so big, my sun hat won't fit it! lolol Thank you my friend, for your thoughtful comments.
    I think I overdid it again, working in the garden, it's so hard to stop. Now, I need to shower and take a power nap. :)Bea

  4. Moriah, all we can do is give it a shot.Some days we can get a handle on things and others, no way. I really try to be in the moment now and let the rest of it fall into place on it's own. The world won't stop if I don't get something done, you know? :)Bea

  5. I've enjoyed her blog

  6. What a thought provoking article/post...after I stop running to get the work done I will return to this book at our library. I have been a very bad girl lately at Amazon...Seth's Book guild is an addiction. I am glad you like the photos...I promise to get back to my Full Moon collaboration as soon as I open on May 28th and finish my "Summer of Love" art donation for our MIDLAND THEATER. Imagine and Live in Peace, Mary Helen Fernandez Stewart

  7. All this introspection is very interesting.
    And you're right,,just keep tooting that horn!

  8. Sounds like a great book! and yeah...many of those virtues...could only happen at nap time ;) its always good to try though, right???

  9. I don't think happiness and unhappiness are constant states (although some people are only happy when miserable). Life is made up of little happy and unhappy moments and a few big ones.

    When a homeless guy finds $20, he's going to have a happy day - it's all relative.

    As for Ben Franklin's virtues - I don't have any of them and that makes me very happy. Maybe personal cleanliness, but I avoid cleaning the house. And chastity, but not by choice. No tranquility, humility or industry whatsoever. Hmm...

  10. Another great post Bea. I hope we shall see some photos of the garden soon. I love that list, although I fall down terribly on the keeping things in order. My room is a mess again and I guess, apart from when I clean it up, it always will be! I need a bigger room, that's the answer. (~winks~). xx