Tag Archives: meeting

What Did Flannery O’Connor Pray For?

Often when I read, I’m struck by something, but I’m not sure why.

I’ve read The Habit of Being several times — it’s a collection of Flannery O’Connor’s extraordinary letters. O’Connor is one of my favorite writers, but I can hardly bear to read her fiction; it makes my head explode.

On July 1, 1964, O’Connor (who was a devout Catholic) wrote to Janet McKane:

Do you know anything about St. Raphael besides his being an archangel? He leads you to the people you are supposed to meet…It’s a prayer I’ve said every day for many years.

A week later, she wrote McKane a follow-up letter, with the prayer, which reads in part:

O Raphael, lead us toward those we are waiting for, those who are waiting for us: Raphael, Angel of happy meeting, lead us by the hand toward those we are looking for. May all our movements be guided by your Light and transfigured with your joy.

O’Connor died of lupus two weeks later.

I’ve often thought about this idea, that was clearly so  important to O’Connor — the prayer for being led to the people you are supposed to meet. This struck me as an oddly specific domain for an angel — and why did this matter so much to O’Connor?

But yesterday, I was at an event, and someone told the story of how at a networking event, she’d met a guy, and she told him, “You should meet this other guy I know,” and she’d introduced them, and now they’d started a huge project together.

This chance meeting, and her introduction, had transformed their lives.

As I heard her tell this story, it suddenly became clear to me: for O’Connor, working on her writing, sick, weak, living with her mother in Milledgeville, Georgia, because she couldn’t manage to live on her own, the hope of “meeting the ones we are looking for” would have been enormously important.

We’ve all waited and hoped for a “happy meeting” to occur.

It’s a very important thing, to play the role of making introductions, connecting people, helping to lead them to the people they need to meet. It can be such a huge thing in a person’s life. I myself set up someone I hardly knew on a blind date, and the two people ended up getting married.

As I’m thinking about O’Connor…I wonder if her prayers to meet the person she was looking for was tied, at least in part, to her art.

On March 4, 1962, she wrote to Father J. H. McCown:

I’d like to write a whole bunch of stories like [“Everything That Rises Must Converge“], but once you’ve said it, you’ve said it, and that about expresses what I have to say on That Issue. But pray that the Lord will send me some more. I’ve been writing for sixteen years and I have the sense of having exhausted by original potentiality and being now in need of the kind of grace that deepens perception, a new shot of life or something…

Sometimes this type of renewal comes from an encounter with another person.

Has anyone ever made an introduction for you, that transformed your life? Or have you ever played that role for someone else?


9 Tips for Why Starting a Happiness-Project Group Will Boost Your Happiness.

Every Wednesday is Tip Day.
This Wednesday: 9 reasons why starting a happiness-project group will boost your happiness.

A few days ago, I posted about happiness-project groups — for people who want to launch or join a group for people doing happiness projects together. My new and improved starter kit is ready, for those who are interested (just email me at grubin at gretchenrubin dot com if you want a copy).

If you’re wondering whether being a part of such a group would indeed boost your happiness, I believe the answer is yes: in two ways.

First, making and keeping a happiness-related resolution will make you happier. Feeling in better control of our circumstances, cultivating an atmosphere of growth, making an effort to ensure that our lives reflect our values — these steps will make you happier, and a happiness-project group will help you accomplish this.

Second, wholly apart from the purpose of the group, just being part of a new group will make you happier. Meeting new people, pushing yourself in a new direction, being part of something — these aspects of a happiness-project group will boost your happiness, as well.

1. Being part of a group will help you feel accountable for keeping your resolutions, which is why people join groups like Weight Watchers and Alcoholics Anonymous. You’re much more likely to stick to a difficult resolution if you know you’ll be asked to report on your progress — or lack of progress.

2. Research shows that when you commit to a regular, ritualized form of connection, you’re more apt to stay in touch with people. Being part of a group that meets regularly helps solidify relationships.

3. Socializing individually is more intimate, but socializing in a group also carries benefits. I’m a member of many groups, and in my groups, different members have pulled in their friends, and through this, I’ve made new friends. In a phenomenon called “triadic closure,” people tend to befriend the friends of their friends – and this is very satisfying. Also, it’s easier to maintain friendships in a network than to maintain a lot of “one-off” friendships.

4. Everyone, even introverts, get a boost of happiness and energy when they interact with other people. Also, people enjoy almost all activities more when others are involved.

5. Having lots of close relationships makes it far more likely that people describe themselves as “very happy.”

6. If you feel the way I did, you may feel like you’re making the same resolutions, without any progress, year after year. In a group, you can share ideas and encouragement. You may discover a solution you never considered, or get energy from the knowledge that other people share the same difficulties.

7. For happiness, it’s important to get support – but just as important to give support. As a group member, you’ll be able to help other people to make progress in their lives, and that will give you an enormous happiness boost.

8. In the tumult of everyday life, it can be hard to take the time to think about the things that really matter. By setting aside this time for deliberation, you can make sure that your life reflect your values.

9. Being part of a group is fun! Fun may sound trivial, but it’s not. People who report regularly having fun are much more likely to describe themselves as very happy.

Some people believe that it’s selfish to want to be happier. I disagree. I explain my reasoning here, Happiness Myth #10: The biggest myth–it’s selfish to want to be happier, but that post can be summarized in the Second Splendid Truth:

One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy;
One of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.

The epigraph to the book The Happiness Project is a quotation from Robert Louis Stevenson: “There is no duty we so much underrate as the duty of being happy.” Joining a group to make the effort to address your own happiness will better equip you to turn outward, to make other people happy, as well.

Good luck!

* I just found Bakadesuyo, which describes itself as “just the interesting stuff,” and there really is a bunch of very interesting stuff there. I spent waaaaay too much time poking around.

* If you’d like a copy of the new and improved starter kit, for launching a group for people doing happiness projects together, email me at grubin at gretchenrubin dot com. Just write “starter kit” in the subject line. If you want to start your own individual happiness project, apart from a group (which is how I did my project), look here for some ideas about getting started.