Monday, March 19, 2012

More on Happiness.....

Gretchen Rubin would be someone I would have a really good time with as a friend. Our most obvious common interest is LM Montgomery. Apparently, when she identified children's literature as an interest of hers, she read everything written by LM Montgomery (among numerous other children's books). This caused me to think about my own interests: am I also interested in children's literature or just LM Montgomery's writing? I think the answer is that I am interested in children's literature but probably not enough to join a weekly club. I am also not a Harry Potter fanatic. For example, I own the first four books and have never touched the fourth one. All of the movies after the fourth or fifth one are films I will have to watch in their TV versions. But- I have read five out of the seven Narnia books and A Wrinkle in Time.  Gretchen obviously seems to have more time (or interest) in reading than I do. My adult nonfiction stack seems to grow larger and larger with books I want to read but haven't found the time for yet. I can't also add a bunch of children's books I read long ago and admired but would need to reread for a book group. I'll let her have that one for herself.

However, Gretchen's children's literature group reminded me of something about myself. It actually made me pat myself on the back somewhat. Some of the changes she describes are changes I made consciously after college without thinking exactly of my happiness, per say, but my sanity. I really needed a break and some outlets of lowering my stress after college. To this end I made an effort to get involved in some activities I had enjoyed as a child. This is the exact advice she gives herself- and one of the reason's she starts the children's literature club. My outlet of happiness was to join a music club. During my senior year in college I joined the Sigma Alpha Iota women's music fraternity. My hope was to have performance opportunities as an alumnus. Here we are fifteen/sixteen years later and that is exactly what that organization did for me. But- it also did much more than that (without my knowledge). Through my involvement in SAI here in San Diego I've formed a group of lasting friendships that are priceless. In some cases I have nothing else in common with my fellow club members other than our  interest in music. However, in some cases, the friendships have expanded beyond the group into outside friendships. Joining a group with people who have a common interest really is a way to create more happiness- whether it's the enjoyed activity itself or the contact with others, I have experienced first-hand Gretchen's notion that happiness can be found in a club.

All of this fit into her chapter on learning how to play. Another fun idea she had was to start a collection. Hers was a bluebird collection. I wondered if I should take up my old collection of stamps or if I should start something new. The more I thought about it the more I thought renewing my interest in stamps would bring me the most happiness.  Part of happiness is recalling happy times. And working on my stamp collection as a child was a very happy experience for me.  It wasn't really me that started the collection. Sure- I took the stamps off their backs and arranged them in books but I didn't actually obtain them myself. My father brought them home from work. He and his colleagues received correspondence from people all over the world - remember this is during the 1980's before email and the Internet. All communication was via snail mail. This was a good thing for me- once word spread that my father's young daughter collected stamps I received all kinds of stamps for my collection. More important than the actual collection, however, were the connections made with people through the exchange of the stamps. Just by tearing a small square off of an envelope and handing it to my dad at work I grew to recognize people's names and job titles. Unfortunately, much of this was also possible because of the use of secretarial staff in hospitals back in the 1980's. This was back when a real person actually answered the phone and they had people to dictate and type manuscripts and other correspondence. With the changes in health care, I doubt such a collection would be possible for a young daughter of a doctor today.

The collection was so much more than a collection. It was a conversation piece, reason to connect with others in my father's office and a community building activity. It brought happiness.

I'm eager to explore more of Gretchen's ideas about happiness.