I recently began reading The Happiness Project that has been repeatedly touted by a few of my fellow bloggers. I had been struggling to find happiness in my overwhelming days and figured, what did I have to lose? Even if I only gained one tip on how to be happier, I’d feel it was worth my time immersed in the book. Within thirty pages I was hooked. I loved how simply Gretchen Rubin laid out her own personal plan and how it wasn’t preachy or unrealistic. I had already mentally began laying out my own plan in my head as to which of her tips I could apply to my own life.
After having only the first couple of chapters I got together for drinks with some friends. One friend is a “higher up” in the New York publishing world and has read pretty much EVERY book ever bound. Books that made it to the shelf and many more that haven’t (and may never). I figured I’d ask her if she’d read this new love in my life. I was excited to share my enthusiasm with her, figuring she’d have the same zest for adding happiness to her days and I was curious which of the tips she’d already applied.
I was not prepared for the grimace and utter PAIN that spread across her face when I mentioned the book and its author. I’m not sure exactly, but I’m pretty sure after I asked if she’d read The Happiness Project, she said, “I detested that book.” and had even worse things to say about the author who she has personally met and dined with on several occasions.
I asked her how she possibly could have HATED the book. She said it was just so “simple” and “obvious”. She thought there was nothing between the pages that an intelligent, normal, everyday person couldn’t think of on their own as far as how to be happier. Maybe I should have told her FIRST that I was reading it and loving it. Maybe then she wouldn’t have said all she said and in turn made me feel so, well, SIMPLE. So sophomoric. After she finished her book bashing session, I meekly told my friend that I was reading the book. And finding it fantastic. Yes, there have been parts and pages that I didn’t gain much from, but overall, I told her, in the short time I’ve spent immersed in the book, it had effected me positively. I should have offered my own foot for her to ever so gently place in her mouth.
But then I realized that the book is on the best seller list for a reason. MILLIONS of people are reading the book and loving it. It’s on hundreds, if not thousands, of book club lists. People are praising the words on the pages as life altering and inspirational. Actually, one of my favorite bloggers who is brilliant, interesting and insightful actually hosted a get together at her home as a kickoff to her “Happier Hours” series and had the author of the Happiness Project in attendance to speak and inspire conversation on Happiness. And word on the street was that the event was an enormous success. The book and the author stimulated fabulous conversation. Because, simply put, people can’t get enough of being happy. And people are always looking for easier, simpler, more effective ways of finding happiness.
I also just finished reading, The Plain Truth by Jodi Picoult. It was a heart wrenching yet wonderful story about an Amish girl being tried for the murder of a child. I won’t get into detail about the story line, but I will say, as my first foray into the Amish world, I was surprised by my feelings. I didn’t know any of their beliefs and honestly (and I’m ashamed to admit), always just thought they were a bit odd. The way they ride around on their buggies. Don’t use modern technology. Dress alike. Are so withdrawn from the world. After reading the book I’ve learned that the Amish really just live their lives Plain. Simple. They actually refer to themselves as Plain because that is what they strive to be. They live to blend in. Never stand out. Be one of many. They don’t want to look different than anyone around them. They don’t want to do anything that will set them apart. They go as far as confessing to a forbidden act so that they can be forgiven and go back to the norm.
I stopped throughout the book and thought at times how refreshing that could be. To get up every day and not have to wonder what to wear (they all wear exactly the same simple clothing), what to do (they all get up and tend to their farms and cook from the food that they cultivate on their farms), or how to BE. They don’t worry about being Unique or Original. Yes, some may be nicer or easier to get along with than others but for the most part, their lives are relatively simple. Little drama. Little competitiveness. And where some might find the thought of life like that painfully boring and stifling. I don’t know, I think I could get used to it! Especially if I knew no other way. (Please note, I’m sure I’m simplifying their way of life and their beliefs tremendously as I’m basing this all on ONE book but I do know that the author wrote the book based on fact so I don’t think I was mislead to a great degree…)
Simple. In its definition are the words: Clear, Understandable, Easy, and Manageable. Are those words so bad? I have thought about that slightly upsetting discussion on the book over drinks with my SIL repeatedly since it happened. I’ve been dwelling on how it made me feel and have come to a conclusion. I feel like I spend so much of my time trying to be agreeable and nonconfrontational. So maybe Simple is something to strive for. Maybe I should accept my simplicity and flaunt it. I’m not sure I’d push my kids toward following the crowd, not making a name for themselves or being “one of many” but I do think there’s something pure and beautiful about being Simple. Being uncomplicated and easygoing. I don’t think it’s necessary to put so much pressure on standing out or doing everything differently. I think life could be easier and more pleasant without so much of that. Maybe.
All I know, is that I will continue to read the Happiness Project and find little joys in it. And screw anyone who has a problem with the new smile that you’ll see simply plastered on my face.