Some time ago, I was given a book by my long-suffering friend, who has a history of thoughtfully and carefully selecting gifts for me that I inevitably complain about when I finally get around to taking them off the shelf a few years later. While that sounds terrible (and it is), the bigger picture is that his gifts always get a strong response from me, positive or negative—it's a testament to how well he knows me that the best gifts are awesome, and the ones I complain about are video games that would have been awesome if it weren't for one or two major problems that aren't apparent until you're playing the game for yourself. Keeping things on the shelf for years isn't a sign of disrespect or a lack of interest; with an entire lifetime hopefully still ahead of me to pick things up off the shelf, I like to keep things in reserve until I'm in the right time and place to get the most out of them. Such was the case with this book—Gretchen Rubin's The Happiness Project—which reentered my life at exactly the right time.
Life circumstances were stressing me out, and equally importantly, I was recently disappointed by Michael Dorn's Time Blender and needed a new book that preferably wouldn't turn out to be only half a story because the first hundred pages were mostly drawn-out introduction for a sequel. I reasoned that good fiction hinges on too many variables, but nonfiction can get away with less if the topic is sufficiently educational and thought-provoking on its own. What nonfiction did I have on my shelf?
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 had always looked like an interesting read, yet it kept slipping out of sight every time I went digging through my collection. I wouldn't be surprised if a little bit of divine intervention kept me distracted with other books the last several years; I wanted--needed—something to lift my spirits, and if something called The Happiness Project can't, then I'm moving to another universe.
In short, the book is the story of one woman's year-long effort to focus on improving her own happiness in various aspects of her life. The tales she relays about her own successes, the quotes she produces from famous thinkers, and the way she analyzes everything from energy to parenting to friendship have inspired me to reexamine my own situation, apply some of the techniques she's found beneficial, and consider a Happiness Project of my own. In fact, this post is part of a mini-project to write more often, because writing makes me happy. So as to have time to properly digest each chapter, I've only been reading one chapter every day or few days; it's been barely a week, and already I'm seeing a result from applying what I've read.
There's more I could say, but I'd like a little more time for my thoughts to simmer before launching into a full overview of the book (which I'm sure you can find elsewhere) and how it's been moving me to change my approach to my own happiness (which I'm sure I'll write about if I move forward with a formal Happiness Project in the future). The important part is that I'm happy to be reading, and reading is making me happy. For now, I'll leave it at that.