Tag Archives: love

In Honor of Mother’s Day, One of My Happiest Memories of My Mother.

Today is Mother’s Day in the United States and Canada.

Some people think it’s ridiculous to celebrate holidays like Mother’s Day and Father’s Day – that these are just commercial holidays forced on us by clever marketers. But I think it’s nice to be prompted to think lovingly about your mother and your father, and the mothers and fathers in your life.

The other day, I was contemplating (as I often do) an observation made by my spiritual master, St. Therese of Lisieux, in her extraordinary memoir, The Story of a Soul.

While writing about being blamed for things and scolded for little transgressions in her convent, she noted, “I noticed this: when one performs her duty, never excusing herself, no one knows it; on the contrary, imperfections appear immediately.”

So true, right? You do something perfectly and reliably, nobody notices. You make a mistake, everyone complains.

This is particularly true of parenthood, which involves a myriad of tasks, small but pesky and relentless, that need to be done without fail. “I packed lunch for four years,” a friend told me, “and all I hear about – to this day – is that time in first grade when I forgot to put in my son’s dessert.”

It’s true that parents don’t get a gold star for everything they do right, but often, just hear about it when they mess up. But it’s also true that, as my mother once told me, “The things that go wrong often make the best memories.” Here’s an example.

Of the countless times in my childhood when my mother drove carpool, or picked me up to go to an orthodontist’s appointment, or wherever, I have only the haziest recollections. All I remember is the time when she was very late picking me up. But this is an important memory.

It was a very snowy day when I was in grade school — fourth grade, I think — and my mother was late. She’s completely reliable, so I was anxious about the fact that she wasn’t there, and I was embarrassed about being left over when all the other kids had gone home, and I was worried about what would happen if she didn’t show up. She didn’t come, and she didn’t come, and finally I was sent to wait in the library, in the main building of the school, until someone came to get me.

It got later and later. I could feel the building emptying out. Still no sign of my mother. The snow was getting heavier. I was getting more and more anxious.

Finally, I saw my mother coming up the steps to the library, and I had to fight back the urge to burst into tears from sheer relief. I was so happy to see her! She was staggering under the weight of my sister, who was probably four or five years old, both of them covered with snow, and she was slipping around on the unshoveled walkway as she battled her way to the door.

And I thought to myself, Nothing can ever stop my mother from coming for me.

I remember that her car had become stuck on a patch of ice, but I have no recollection of what happened next. Did my father come to get us, did the school receptionist give us a ride? I’ve never asked my mother about that afternoon, so perhaps my memory isn’t even accurate. But that’s how I remember it.

And that’s how I think about my mother.

Podcast 110: A Very Special Episode on a Major Happiness Stumbling Block–Are You Lonely?

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

Update: This is the month of #trypod, when we’re all trying to help people discover new great podcasts. And our current producer Kristen Meinzer and our former producer Henry Molofsky are both involved in terrific podcasts.

In the new podcast By the BookKristen and her co-host comedian Jolenta Greenberg zealously follow the precepts of a particular self-help book, to see if the advice actually works. First up: The Secret. It’s funny, thought-provoking…just terrificBy the Book is part of a pilot project run by Panoply, so you can vote for the podcast to get greenlit here.

Henry is the producer over at the blockbuster mega-hit Missing Richard Simmons. In 2014, the exercise guru and very public figure Richard Simmons vanished from view. In the six-part series, Dan Taberski tries to figure out what happened. Very suspenseful, and really makes you think about many different issues — the podcast has generated a lot of analysis and discussion. My own view of what happened? Obliger-Rebellion! But listen for yourself.

Very Special Episode: Loneliness.

Loneliness is one of the biggest, most serious happiness stumbling blocks out there. One of the keys — maybe the key — to happiness is strong connections to other people. The lack of these bonds, even temporarily, is a major happiness stumbling block.

When we know what kind of loneliness we’re feeling, it’s easier to see possible ways to tackle it. For instance, have you experienced…

For instance, have you experienced…

  • New-situation loneliness
  • I’m-different loneliness
  • No-sweetheart loneliness
  • No-time-for-me loneliness
  • Untrustworthy-friends loneliness
  • Quiet-presence loneliness
  • No-animal loneliness
  • No-friend-group loneliness
  • I’m-alone-in-this-experience loneliness
  • Parent-of-young-children loneliness/Empty-nest loneliness
  • Everyone-else-is-having-fun loneliness

 

So what to do about loneliness?

  • Take steps to connect with others (obvious, but important)
  • Show up
  • Revive a dormant friendship. We talked about this in episode 79.
  • Nurture others.

 

I mention two books that I highly recommend: John Cacioppo and William Patrick, Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection, and Emily WhiteLonely, a memoir about the author’s own experiences and research into loneliness. Also, in my books The Happiness Project and Happier at Home, I write a lot about how to build and strengthen relationships.

I also mention the immortal line from Russell Hoban’s brilliant picture book A Bargain for Frances: “Do you want to be careful, or do you want to be friends?” (If you’d like to read a New York Times piece I wrote about my love for Frances, it’s here.)

Demerit: Elizabeth skipped a Moms’ Night Out.

Gold Star: I give a gold star to Eliza and Eleanor for encouraging (nagging?) us as a family to get a dog. Our dog Barnaby makes us very happy.

If you want easy instructions about how to rate or review the podcast, look here. Remember, it really helps us if you do rate or review the podcast — it helps other listeners discover us.

I do weekly live videos on my Facebook Page to continue the conversation from the podcast — usually on Tuesdays at 3:00 pm ET. To join the conversation, check the schedule.

As always, thanks to our terrific sponsors

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Happier with Gretchen Rubin - Podcast #110

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Want to know what to expect from other episodes of the podcast, when you listen to the award-winning Happier with Gretchen Rubin?” We talk about how to build happier habits into everyday life, as we draw from cutting-edge science, ancient wisdom, lessons from pop culture—and our own experiences (and mistakes).  We’re sisters, so we don’t let each other get away with much!

Want a new podcast to listen to, with the same vibe as Happier? The Onward Project is the family of podcasts that I’ve launched, for podcasts that are about “your life–made better.” The first shows are Side Hustle School and Radical Candor. Elizabeth’s show with her writing partner, Sarah Fain, will be Happier in Hollywood, so stay tuned for that.

HAPPIER listening!

For Valentine’s Day: 7 Mistakes That I Keep Making in Romance and 5 Things I Do Right.

In writing The Happiness Project and Happier at Home, I thought a lot about what I can do to make my romantic life better.

In general, I’m a fan of using milestone days to prompt me to think about changes I might undertake to make myself happier, healthier, more productive, or more creative.

Certain days, such as January 1 or my birthday,  remind me to reflect on my life and my hopes for the future.  Recently, Inauguration Day prompted me to think about the highest ideals of the United States, and how I can live up to them, in my own life.

And Valentine’s Day is a great reminder to think about my romance!  My husband Jamie is the love of my life, but sometimes I don’t treat him with courtesy or interest. I have to remind myself — don’t be nicer to a stranger on the street than I am to my own husband. (In fact, research shows that married people often show more consideration to others than they do to each other.)

For instance, I make these relationship mistakes over and over, even though I know I shouldn’t. In the scheme of things, they’re fairly minor (which I’m quick to point out), but they are annoying. And in marriage, it’s good not to be annoying, whenever you can avoid it; marriage is a long, long road.

7 Mistakes That I Keep Making in Romance

  1. Even though I know it’s rude, I will often read my emails while I talk to my husband on the phone.
  2. I leave my clothes in a heap in a corner of our bedroom, even though I know it gets on his nerves.
  3. I give him a smart-alecky answer when he absent-mindedly asks me the same question more than once, even when it’s just some little thing I could easily answer.
  4. I leave empty diet soda cans scattered around the apartment.
  5. Months ago, for his birthday, he asked if we could get the carpets cleaned as his present, and I told him I’d organize that as my gift, and I haven’t done it.
  6. I haven’t made a doctor’s appointment for myself, even though he really wants me to get a check-up.
  7. I “snap” at him and speak sharply when I get anxious about something — when I fear that we’re running late, when I’m worried about whether we’re following the right parenting strategy, when I’m concerned about some work issue.

But it’s true that with time and effort, I’ve learned to do a better job in some ways.

As I write about in Better Than Before, my book about habit change, what we do most days matters more than what we do once in a while. I’ve managed to cultivate these good habits:

5 Things I Do Right

  1. I give him a warm, attentive “hello” and “good-bye” every time he comes home or leaves the apartment.
  2. I spend a few minutes clearing clutter in the early morning, right before I walk our dog Barnaby, so the apartment looks at least superficially tidy when he emerges in the morning.
  3. I text him funny or interesting updates during the day — pictures of something I see on the street, or Barnaby asleep in my office, or “Five years ago today” “One year ago” photos of our family (I do this so he doesn’t assume that every text or call from me involves an annoying logistical question).
  4. I’ve learned that as a Questioner (as opposed to an Upholder, Obliger, or Rebel), he doesn’t like being questioned, so I refrain from asking many questions that I’d like to have answered: “Where are we going for dinner?” “What time do we need to leave?”
  5. I make the bed on the days when he doesn’t make the bed. I love having the bed made, and so does he.

Ancient philosophers and contemporary scientists agree: a key to happiness is strong relationships, and if we’re in a romantic relationship, it has a big influence on our happiness.

How about you — what romance mistakes do you repeat, and what good habits have you cultivated?

“The Salvation of Man is Through Love and in Love.”

To usher in the new year of 2017, I wanted to post one of my very favorite passages in all of literature:

We stumbled on in the darkness, over big stones and through large puddles, along the one road leading from the camp. The accompanying guards kept shouting at us and driving us with the butts of their rifles. Anyone with very sore feet supported himself on his neighbor’s arm. Hardly a word was spoken; the icy wind did not encourage talk. Hiding his mouth behind his upturned collar, the man marching next to me whispered suddenly: “If our wives could see us now! I do hope they are better off in their camps and don’t know what is happening to us.”

That brought thoughts of my own wife to mind. And as we stumbled on for miles, slipping on icy spots, supporting each other time and again, dragging one another up and onward, nothing was said, but we both knew: each of us was thinking of his wife. Occasionally I looked at the sky, where the stars were fading and the pink light of the morning was beginning to spread behind a dark bank of clouds. But my mind clung to my wife’s image, imagining it with an uncanny acuteness. I heard her answering me, saw her smile, her frank and encouraging look. Real or not, her look was then more luminous than the sun which was beginning to rise.

A thought transfixed me: for the first time in my life I saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth — that love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which man can aspire. Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of man is through love and in love. I understood how a man who has nothing left in this world still may know bliss, be it only for a brief moment, in the contemplation of his beloved. In a position of utter desolation, when man cannot express himself in positive action, when his only achievement may consist in enduring his sufferings in the right way — an honorable way — in such a position man can, through loving contemplation of the image he carries of his beloved, achieve fulfillment. For the first time in my life I was able to understand the meaning of the words, “The angels are lost in perpetual contemplation of an infinite glory.”

–Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

If you haven’t read Man’s Search for Meaning, run out and get a copy now.

What Makes the Perfect Gift? Probably Not What You Think.

Lately, I’ve been shopping for holiday gifts, which raises questions. What makes a good gift? Is it better to surprise people, or to shop from a list they provide? Should I spend hours searching for just the right gift?

If you’ve asked yourself these kinds of questions, John Tierney wrote an interesting New York Times article, The Perfect Gift? It’s the One They Asked For.

He looked at the research, and it turns out:

  1. Focus on long-term enjoyment, not short-term drama. Recipients enjoy a gift more when it’s something they can really use, not something that’s a sensational reveal.
  2. It’s better to buy lots of people the same good present than to give everyone individual gifts that aren’t as good. We tend to think we need to give unique gifts, but recipients don’t care much about that.
  3. Re-gift without shame. Studies show that most people aren’t offended when their gifts are re-gifted.
  4. Take suggestions. If people tell you what they’d like as a gift, buy them what they’ve asked for instead of a surprise. (In my family, we’re all expected to write long lists for ourselves, to make gift-giving easier for each other.)
  5. If you give a gift card, make it as general as possible. The more specific it is, the less likely it is to be redeemed.  People like flexibility.
  6. Gift-recipients enjoy a gift if it’s something they like, no matter how much time or effort went into its purchase. For gift-givers, however, putting time and effort into a gift makes them feel closer to the recipient. Pouring a lot of energy into buying a gift is something that is nice for the giver, not as much for the recipient.

Bonus tips from me:

  1. Items that are personalized seem more special, and these days, it’s easy to order personalized notepads, journals, mugs, sticky notes, etc.
  2. Think about The Five Love Languages. If your language is “Receiving Gifts,” remember that for other people, gift exchanges aren’t as meaningful as they are for you; try not to be hurt or angry if people don’t take the same time or effort that you do. And if the recipient of your gift speaks the language of “Receiving Gifts,” remember that to such a person, gifts have tremendous importance as expressions of love, so take gift-giving seriously.