Podcast 39: Elizabeth Talks about Getting Fired — and Do You Want More Time for Friends or for Solitude

It’s time for the next installment of  “Happier with Gretchen Rubin.

Update: For our upcoming Very Special Episode, Holiday edition, we want to hear from you: What’s the thing that’s the essential element of the holiday for you? For instance, for Elizabeth, the essential element of Thanksgiving is stuffing.

And keep sending in those responses to our other holiday question: what’s your Try This at Home for staying happier, healthier, and more productive over the holidays?

In other news, Elizabeth reveals that she has persistent acid reflux. TMI?

 Try This at Home — this week, it’s an involuntary try-this-at-home: Get fired. Elizabeth describes the first time she got fired, and why in the end, it made her feel more free. Of course, we recognize that many people would say that getting fired had no upside for them.  She’s talking about her personal experience. It’s about dealing with the thing you fear, and learning that you can move forward.

Know Yourself Better Question: Would you like to have more time to spend with friends, or more time in solitude — or both?

I mention the journals of May Sarton.  In her books, such as Journal of a Solitude, she writes a lot about the difference between solitude and loneliness.

Listener Question: “How do you deal with negative press or hecklers or adversity?”

RoyalsCrowdGretchen’s Demerit: I felt bad because I’m not that into sports, and I just wasn’t terribly excited about the fact that our hometown team, the Royals, won the World Series.  Everyone in Kansas City was so thrilled! I wish I’d felt more excited.

Elizabeth’s Gold Star: As a surprise treat, Jack and Adam took Elizabeth to dinner at Benihana, one of her favorite restaurants.

Call for comments, questions, observations!

Have you ever experienced the involuntary try-this-at-home: getting fired? We’d be fascinated to hear your experience.


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HAPPIER listening!

  • My essential element: the thrill of anticipation. For me, the “eve” is almost always better than the actual holiday.

  • Klarafu

    Candles in the dark!

  • Mimi Gregor

    Even though I am almost sociopathically a loner, the thing that is most important to me about Thanksgiving is being with loved ones. The food, though important, is secondary. And it most certainly is not about shopping! I really don’t get these people who desert their families on Thanksgiving Day to go to a big box store to shop. Egads!

  • Ruth Carter

    I was made redundant from a truly terrible job and that saved me from an imminent descent into depression. I hadn’t realised quite how ill my job was making me until I stopped doing it. Redundancy really was a blessing in disguise. For me, Christmas isn’t Christmas without midnight mass. I never usually stay up beyond 22:30 so it’s different to be awake at that time. I also like the combination of candles, carols and companionship which feels extra special somehow.

  • Lisa

    I was semifired from a job when I was dealing with depression issues. I really didn’t learn anything because I kept pushing until I ultimately was “laid off” from a job and forced to take time to recover. It ended up being the best thing ever.
    Thanksgiving for me is all about having family around and the stuffing. Since I moved away from my family, it hasn’t quite been the same, but we are trying. I love Christmas time, the lights, the carols, the crisp air. It’s all about the feelings for me.

    • gretchenrubin

      It’s great to hear that a tough experience ended up being helpful in the long run.

  • “It’s funny how you can dread something that in the end is going to make you super happy. That’s a happiness stumbling block for sure.” Please, please please dedicate an episode to this!

    I looove teaching and even speaking. But I dread it so much that I wonder: Is the time of dread leading up to it (when I feel horrible) worth the kick I get out of it when I actually do it? My inclination is to want to make my life dread-free. 🙂

  • Amit

    Hi Gretchen, Elizabeth,

    Thank you for your valuable podcasts and specially your cool and composed style of speaking (specially your thoughts on managing criticism in this one.) Yes, specially specially : )

    Like the ‘Moderate / filter / see who is criticizing since most times it doesn’t improve the object of communication’ advice…

    IMH(S)O (SO = Subscription of Opinion : ) ), following make the critic:

    1. Message of ‘Present your best self’ missing in early role-models and or social circle.

    2. Spending most of one’s time in fight-freeze-or-flight mindset.

    3. Stopping being open to making new friendships.

    4. Following one’s ego’s ‘superiority-inferiority’ / ‘predator-and-my-prey’ philosophy.

    5. Unloved as a child

    (Most of the above is mentioned in Jim Carrey’s Commencement Address at the 2014 MUM Graduation on ‘light’ & ‘identity’ which I also mentioned in my comments at http://gretchenrubin.com/happiness_project/2015/11/how-does-one-find-ones-identity-whats-your-answer/ )

    Mostly the (chronically critical) attitude is not their fault (as a child.) However, it is their responsibility (as an adult) to improve behavior / communication skill with newer times / knowledge.

    And finally in reply to your question on holidays; it’s Love & Light : )

    Thank you.

    Happy holidays in advance to all : )

  • Laurie

    Though being with family and friends is most important, those little elements like pumpkin pie and turkey mean so much. One Thanksgiving tears ago, we were in the midst of moving and we didn’t have any of the “correct” foods handy. We stopped by the only thing open – a convenience store – and were able to buy some sliced turkey for sandwiches. It made us happy and it continues to make me happy when I think about it!

  • Jessica Lizzio Fusco

    The “Happy Birthday” song is what makes the holidays, specifically Thanksgiving complete for me. In the month of November, my family has 5 birthdays including my own and we always celebrate those birthdays together with candles in a pie at the Thanksgiving table. This tradition started when I was small and endures today, it wouldn’t be Thanksgivng without birthday candles and the family singing!

  • Cyndi

    To stay more sane during the holidays, I gather up all of the loud retail demands (in the form of catalogs, flyers and tv ads) and softer, yet just as demanding social media holiday influences – and push them aside. I’ve spent too many years chasing the commands and demands of “Christmas retail”. I now enjoy my own pace of shopping for a few items that I think my loved ones will enjoy.

    I have more important reasons to celebrate the season that have nothing to do with buying merchandise.

  • MaggieRose59

    Thanksgiving is our favorite holiday here. It is a peaceful, quiet, family time. We don’t have television so there is no interruption from that quarter. We all love each other and love being together, which is a big reason for giving thanks. I prepare the meal and, since I love to cook, that is a happy thing! Through practice and planning the turkey dinner has become really effortless so even though I make everything from scratch I have plenty of time to visit with everyone.

    Christmas was my favorite when my three boys were young. We always kept that a peaceful, quiet day as well. We limited the number of gifts to three each, plus three that were for all of them, and they got gifts for each other. We also spread out the gift opening all day. They would open something and go play for a while. Then an hour or so later they would come and ask if they could open another one. We would be opening the last gifts at 7 or 8 in the evening. It was a wonderful way to savor the day and they learned to appreciate the gifts more.

  • Jess

    loved the Simpson’s “Benihana” clip at the end of this episode 🙂

  • Jackie

    I was fired once. A day of relief and I had already reduced my office to a box. On my way home I thanked God and said, “this is a day if opportunity “. Within hours I got a random phone call and soon after met our adopted children’s brother who became our foster son. You never know!

    • Jackie

      I went back to school while he settled in and got my MSN. Two years as a FNP.

  • Michelle

    For holidays, my family decided on a set menu years ago, when our children were young (they’re 14 and 11 now). To me, MAKING the meal is significantly less stressful than DECIDING on what the meal should be. That said, Christmas Eve is homemade pizza and Christmas cookies. The End. I would like to comment on Gretchen’s “demerit”. We live in Kansas City, and while I could not bring myself to watch the World Series, the city’s energy was amazing! That said, I think the inability to make others “care” leads to a large amount of misunderstanding and challenges for this world. Caring about the World Series is a trivial matter, but caring about climate change or epilepsy research (which is important to our family) or your local school board’s decision can be important. I know that it’s impossible to make others care, but I feel like others’ lack of caring about causes and ideas that are important to you result in a lot of relational unhappiness.

  • PJ Kaiser

    Not being into sports doesn’t warrant a happiness demerit. I was “into” sports only because of peer pressure when I was growing up. After I left college I gladly left it all behind. I actually feel that I’m happier as a result because all teams eventually lose and I didn’t enjoy the roller coaster of emotions throughout the season. My life has enough drama already! On the other hand, I’ve also learned to not spout my negative attitude towards sports in public. If I’m at a party and somebody starts talking about their favorite team I will just politely nod and change the subject or find somebody else to talk to.