books

Until recently, I couldn’t ever really recall a time in life when I had ever felt “happy”. Sure, there were happy moments. Time spent with friends. Holidays. Maybe a special event that had happened at school. However beyond a handful of isolated events, I couldn’t really recall an extended period of happiness. Extended periods of depression, embarrassment, misery and anxiety I could recall.

Happiness? Not so much.

But I wanted to be happy.

Prior to weight loss I assumed that all of my unhappy feelings stemmed directly from my weight. Therefore, I was shocked and dismayed to lose a significant amount of weight and still not be happy. Sure, I was much happIER, but was I really happy? I still was nervous about my appearance, sad I wasn’t making any moves to change the direction of my career and I felt like I never had time to do anything. Then again, since losing weight I had more confidence, was able to do more things that I enjoyed and had moved out on my own.

I wasn’t happy, nor was I unhappy. I was just sort of there.

I shouldn’t really be using the past tense for that last part…as that’s how I’ve been feeling over the last few months. This is why I started trying to get my Spark back, organize my inbox and set up a calendar. I didn’t exactly realize it when I started, but I was in fact initializing my own version of a “happiness project”.

When these ideas started floating around in my head, I had only heard of this book in passing and frankly, I had no idea what it was about. The title, however, stuck in my head and when I was facing the question, “What should I do with this Barnes and Noble Groupon?”, I decided to pick it up.

And I am really glad I did.

As it turns out, author Gretchen Rubin was having similar thoughts about happiness several years ago. She decided to spend a year trying to make herself happier within her own parameters, if you will. She didn’t want to completely change who she was to be happy, but rather she wanted to figure out what would make the person she already is happier. She wanted to “Be Gretchen”.

She broke the project up, each month tackling a new subject that she thought was fundamental to her own happiness. Some of the particular subjects she chose didn’t exactly pertain to my life, yet I found them all equally interesting and insightful. Sure, I’m not married, nor do I have children, but reading about how she wanted to change the way she interacted with her husband and children provided ideas that could be used in any relationship. The entire book just really made me understand how the way I choose to perceive certain happenings in my life have a direct effect on my happiness:

Am I choosing to be pissed off all day because my co-worker does something annoying at work? I mean, I’m the one sitting in a huff all day…who’s fault is it really?

Obviously, it’s my fault! I can’t control what other people do, but I can control what I do. And I should.

One of the big areas where I am really at fault was something that Rubin touched on during the month of November, during which she was trying to “Keep a Contented Heart”. One way she decided to do such is to focus on cultivating good manners. One set of manners she realized needed to be refined was her manners of conversation:

I was a ‘topper’: ‘You think you had a crazy morning, let me tell you about my morning.’ I was a ‘deflater‘: ‘You liked that movie? I thought it was kind of boring.’ (Rubin, p 266)

Cough. Sputter. Look away.

This is one of my most unattractive behaviors. I actually have tried to curb it somewhat, and I’ve gotten much better at holding my tongue, except in two situations:

1) The other party is otherwise getting on my nerves and I am having a difficult time keeping up appearances.

2) The other party is also a supreme topper and/or deflater.  (Hello competitive streak!)

God help us both if the other party is a combination of 1 AND 2.

Thing is, when I go into these conversations, I never actually mean to be so caustic. Often times I did think the movie was boring…or I really did think my morning was worse. I feel like I’m lying to the other party if I’m not honest about it, and therefore can’t think of any reason why I should say otherwise or bite my tongue. But then, I see how upset I make the other person and the reason becomes painfully obvious. It goes all the way back to childhood and things your mother probably told you:

If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.

Amen, sister.

The book also gives you tips on how you might go about your own “happiness project”, reminding you that everyone’s project will look different, but nearly everyone can benefit from one. I don’t know if I will ultimately start an official happiness project, but I really do feel better and more conscious since I read the book. There is food for thought and I’m going to keep chewing away at it.

Starting with how I plan on reacting to this:

       

“OMG! COSIE! STOP IT!!!! ARGHHHH!”

*deep breath*

You’re a silly cat. Go ahead. Enjoy my chilled Brita filtered water, you deserve it.

Additional Reading:

The Happiness Project Blog

Have you ever attempted a “Happiness Project”?

Hello

Sorry for abandoning you yesterday.

I have an excuse.

I was having a “girl day”.

For those of you who don’t know, a “girl day” is one of those days where you hang out in bed (or on the couch…one in the same, in my case) and watch sad movies and read chic lit all day. I don’t really have these days very often, but sometimes, they are completely necessary. The whole holiday season is kind of bearing down on me, and I didn’t really decide on a “girl day” in advance…my body and mind demanded it yesterday upon waking up.

I started off with breakfast.

That would be an egg white, turkey bacon sandwich on whole wheat bread. I put a little canola mayo on there, to keep it from being dry. There is also a slice of Kraft Fat Free American cheese. I have no idea when the last time I purchased American cheese was….hmm…

After breakfast I wound up thinking about RENT again, so I decided to watch the movie. Upon opening up my DVD drawer, I learned that I actually have a copy of the final Broadway performance on DVD…unopened. I debated watching that instead, as the stage play is much better than the movie, but I still was focused on Adam and Anthony, so I decided to stick with the movie.

Always makes me cry!

Then I decided to have a snack. I had a bowl of Cheerios with a banana. Then I decided to have a date.

I had never eaten a date before, but I picked this package up a couple of weeks ago at Trader Joe’s. Yesterday I learned something that I didn’t previously know:

I don’t like dates.

Something about the texture. I didn’t really like the flavor or sweetness either. I may try to make something with them and see if I like them better as an ingredient than as the main event. Some things are better left as supporting players.

After my failed date attempt, I decided to read for a while. As a woman who holds a bachelor’s degree in English, I really love to read. I always have. I do go through cycles, however, where sometimes I read constantly and then other times I barely read the ingredients on my food labels. Earlier this year I re-read all  of the Harry Potter novels as well as all of the The Dragonriders of Pern series, minus the last couple of books. This means that I read 19 of those books, but fell into one of my non-reading stints during “Dragonsblood”.

Yesterday, I perused my book shelves for something that fit my mood. My eyes caught on these:

These would be the “Jessica Darling” series by Megan McCafferty. I read the first three books in the series a couple of years ago. They are actually considered young adult fiction, which according to Wikipedia means people from the ages of 14-21. I, am 28, and even a couple of years ago I would’ve been beyond the ages described. Oops.

Although I did find the first book difficult to trudge through because of how teenaged and whiny it was, I got sucked in anyway. I just like Jessica Darling. Her sarcasm and attitude actually remind me a lot of myself and despite the fact that I was 10 years ahead of her in “Sloppy Firsts”, I still enjoyed reliving the terror that is high school through the character’s eyes. Plus, Marcus Flutie. What a head trip.

Anyway, I’ve had the last two books in the series waiting on my shelf since I finished the third. I had actually tried to read “Fourth Comings” before, but my head just wasn’t in the right space when I had tried. I decided it was time to revisit Jessica Darling once more. I’m enjoying it a lot more this time around. Maybe it’s because it’s about that time after college where you just don’t know what to do with yourself. I can completely relate. Nevermind that Jessica is recently graduated at 22 and I’m 28 and 5.5 years out of college. That is completely irrelevant!

After reading for a bit, I knew it was time for a movie. Two out of my three Netflix DVDs had been returned, so there was only one in house…and luckily it was a chic flick. I had read this book several years ago and I had really loved it. I remember having difficulties putting it down and I remember how I cried at the end. I was interested in seeing what they had done to the story to adapt it to the big screen.

Unfortunately, “The Time Traveler’s Wife” was completely awful as a movie. It lacked so much of the emotion that the book had. It cut things out and changed scenes that I felt were important. I remember being completely in love with the character of Henry. Not so much on the big screen (er…well…my 26″ Sony Bravia…). I did really enjoy the performance of Ron Livingston as Gomez though. I found myself more endeared to him than to Henry.

But the movie served its overall purpose.

Despite its inferiority, I bawled uncontrollably at the end.

Yes. Crying is the goal on “Girl Days.”

After more reading and putzing around it was dinner time. I spent a lot of time debating what to eat. I considered cooking up my spaghetti squash, but really, to be an official “girl day,” you must eat take out or delivery. Preferably Mexican food. So I wandered up to The Little Chihuahua. Their food is completely delicious and while it is a little more “California” than I would usually prefer, it’s totally a winner. I got my usual:

The most gigantic tostada known to man kind. Pricey? A little. But. So. Freaking. Good.

I also got one of these, but regretted it. I had never had the mango flavor, and it was good, but I just found it too sweet.

Overall, I had a great day. It felt good to have nothing planned and to just hang out with my cat and relax. I’m sure there won’t be too many more days like this during this last 5 weeks of 2010.

What do you do on a veg day? Read? Watch movies?