What was wrong with me? It was a beautiful morning in New York on Saturday and I was so blue. The sun was shining without a cloud in the sky—making it a picture perfect day for my friend Kim’s wedding in Saratoga Springs, just a little over 3 hours outside the city. I had just woken up after 9 glorious hours of sleep. But perhaps I woke on the wrong side of the bed because I was a total grump for no reason whatsoever (actually, since I’ve resolved to always be entirely honest on this forum, more like mega beyotch). All the little things that morning set off my short fuse like the attitude I got from the little witch at the post office, not being able to find my little nude boy shorts to wear under my party dress, little Fast Eddie and the fact that I forgot my little stack of books at the office, which I planned on reading en route to Kim’s wedding extravaganza. Oh, and I was hungry. The plan was to swing by the office to pick up my books before departing from Port Authority but after being stuck in “$^#@%%$# traffic”, I decided (not accepted) that the special time I planned out weeks ago to tackle my summer reading list just wasn’t going to happen. I was embarrassingly upset and felt ridiculous but I couldn’t help it , even though I knew this was day was about Kim and John and their wedding. I love Kim! And I love weddings! What was wrong with me? Why couldn’t I snap out of it and just be happy? Just think of all that wedding cake I was going to have..
Luckily I was traveling alone so I didn’t need to rationalize my 5 year-old behavior to anyone, but even I was having a hard time being in my own company so when I saw Hudson News I made a mad dash to pick up a big book so I wouldn’t be left alone with my thoughts. “Ooh, 50 Shades of Grey!” After all the water-cooler hype I’ve heard, I had to scoop it up but wasn’t sure I wanted to be reading it in public (after all the water-cooler hype I’ve heard). (I haven’t started it and still don’t know what I am in for). I decided I would need to buy another book then spotted something blue on the shelf that instantly grabbed my attention.
Kim, the blushing bride herself, had mentioned this book to me just last month. I remember Kim was having a really terrible day and at the time I couldn’t understand where she was coming from. She was about to get married to a great guy, she was looking like a bombshell from her own version of bridal bootcamp and her honeymoon to Mexico was just around the corner. “What is her problem?”, I thought. I tried to be kind and give her support so she would feel better but I wasn’t tremendously successful and seeing that my words didn’t help my friend, I felt a little defeated. The next day she came to work a different woman. She took it upon herself to take action to self-soothe and picked up a book called The Happiness Project. I’m so glad she did because from what I know now after reading it, the author, Gretchen Rubin, offers far more thoughtful, eloquent and articulate advice than I ever could. Rubin writes about her adventures in New York as she test-drives the studies and theories about how to be a happier person and I found her process for continuous self improvement fascinating and seemingly easy to apply. In fact, her words helped me then and there and I plan to apply one theory in particular to one very important relationship in my life and my own pursuit of happiness.
Whenever someone makes a book recommendation to me, I always ask one question that helps me decide whether or not I am going to get the book. “What was the biggest revelation you had when you read _________?” That’s the budding impatient New Yorker in me, I always want to drill down to the point (or as my friend Janene would say in one of her famous “Janene-isms”- “get down to the meat and potatoes”). I once asked that question to a stranger reading “The Snowball: Warren Buffet and the Business of Life” on the 6 train. He told me what it was that fascinated him: a single incident in Buffet’s life that shaped the code of principles he employed with every business decision he made with his company, Berkshire Hathaway. I derailed my own afternoon plans and rushed to Barnes & Noble to learn more that day.
If you’re anything like me, you will want to know that the biggest revelation I got from The Happiness Project came from a single line of text where Rudin reflects on the unhappiness she experiences with her spouse then takes responsibility for the difficulties in her relationships with him. She opens up, “Like everyone, he’s a combination of good and not-so-good qualities, and the worst of my bad habits was to focus on his faults while taking his virtues for granted.” Gosh, being someone that experienced a monumental sadness through the unhappiness of a relationship-turned-failed-relationship, it utterly stung to read that line. Then I felt grateful having read it because it was a reminder that taking anything for granted in life is a source of unhappiness and a large part of the book is about identifying the sources of happiness and unhappiness.
I’m not energetic enough, per say, to start my own Happiness Project, which is to tackle one resolution every month (ex: organization, family time, money, creative outlet) but I couldn’t ignore the single line of text and another takeaway I got from THP was the loud and clear reminder that happiness is something to focus on all the time, not just during the low times (kind of like saving money). I decided I would work on a major relationship in my life and that is my relationship with the city of New York, a city I love and where I have wanted to live my entire life, but now, too often, have found myself focusing on its faults (overcrowded, humid subway, nonstop work mode) and taking its virtues for granted (diversity, public transportation, a fast paced career I love). My project will be called The Big Apple Project and twice a month I will go explore an uncharted place in an uncharted neighborhood. Of course, I will take you with me as I explore a new museum, coffee shop, market, concert, park, etc; and everything in between that this city has to offer so please be sure to check back regularly to see where this project takes me:
Oh, PS: Kim’s wedding was such an amazing time. She was stunning, she danced to every song and I’ve never seen her look happier. (I love you, Kim)