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What makes Gretchen happy

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 - Gretchen Rubin

This book was everywhere a few years ago. This wasn't a scribd book - I actually own it. I bought it a while back when my wonderful husband was having a bit of a life crisis and I thought that maybe it would provide me with some insight so I could help him through. His life crisis has passed, and I didn't actually get very far into the book at that point.


But - you may have noticed that I've now read three non-fiction pop-psychology/pop-culture/self-helpish books in the last couple weeks. I decided to give this one another go, since I'd never finished it.


Really, this is a blog turned book of the "stunt memoir" type (for more information on the "stunt memoir" see the book riot blog post here). Gretchen Rubin spent a year blogging and studying the question of what makes her happy, and from that, she hoped to provide insight to other people on the question of happiness and why a person might want to have what she began to call her "happiness project."


I love a good stunt memoir, actually. I've read several of them. They are pretty much only as good as their author is likeable and/or engaging. Rubin isn't as engaging as a lot of authors. I feel in a lot of ways like I know her, and we have a fair amount in common. Her first impulse is to research - which is true of me as well. When she has a question, say, in this case "what is happiness," her initial act is to find a bunch of books on the subject written by experts, philosophers, people who are deep thinkers, and read them for insight.


Which is funny, right. Because that is exactly why I bought this book - I was looking for insight into something a person I love was struggling with, so I turn to Gretchen Rubin, who has just written a whole book about being happier, for advice.


She's also a law school graduate, like me. She's an introvert and a reader. Again, like me. And some of her flaws seem to be similar to mine as well. Why am I even talking about this? I have no idea.


Anyway, the thing about this book is that it was really a book about what makes Gretchen Rubin happy, and one of the things that it makes clear is that each individual person is made happier by different things, and that it is important to let those things make you happy. I have a tendency to seek happiness through behaving aspirationally - for example I want hiking the Pacific Crest Trail to be something that makes me happy. But, I have to admit that while I love being outdoors, being hot, sweaty, dive-bombed by bugs, and climbing up and down big-ass hills simply doesn't make me happy. I loathe it, actually.


My idea of a perfectly happy outdoor experience involves an old fashioned camp trailer, a pile of books, a lakeside prospect, my golden retriever laying contentedly at my feet, and a cold growler full of craft beer. That is less cool that being made happy by hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. It is less fit. Less active. But it is what I like and what makes me happy. If I want to aspire to being a hiker, I need to do it with the full expectation that it will feel like a chore. Because to me, it is a chore. I might be happy when it is over, because I will feel like I've accomplished something. But I have to be Moonlight Reader, and admit, that is not my idea of recreation.


Anyway, this book actually is available on scribd. And it made me wonder if perhaps a "happiness project" wouldn't be a worthwhile endeavor. Because the ultimate takeaway of the book is "know yourself."*


This is harder than it seems like it should be.


*Also, she's a big proponent of decluttering.