Tag Archives: music

Ever Been Inspired with a Moment of Transcendence from an Unexpected Source? Like Oklahoma!

Do you ever have an unexpectedly strong emotional reaction to something?

I sometimes get what I think of as my “America feeling.” Usually when I get this feeling, it’s so strong that I actually get teary.

It hits me at the oddest time. I often get it when I’m waiting in line to vote. I felt it when I got my daughter’s emergency passport, and the officer was giving us our directions. (You can hear me tell the story on episode 31 of the podcast: “If you have an appointment, you’re in line A, for ‘appointment’; if not, you’re in line B, for ‘bad planning.'”)

I felt it the other day. My sixteen-year-old daughter was playing music from her playlist, and of all things, it included the song “The Farmer and the Cowman” from the Rodgers and Hammerstein 1943 musical Oklahoma!

Yes, the song is dated, and it trades in cliches. Nevertheless, I love it, and the America feeling hit me hard.

Andrew Carnes:
The farmer and the cowman should be friends,
Oh, the farmer and the cowman should be friends.
One man likes to push a plough, the other likes to chase a cow,
But that’s no reason why they cain’t be friends.


Territory folks should stick together,
Territory folks should all be pals.
Cowboys dance with farmer’s daughters,
Farmers dance with the ranchers’ gals.


Aunt Eller:
I’d like to teach you all a little sayin’
And learn the words by heart the way you should
I don’t say I’m no better than anybody else,
But I’ll be danged if I ain’t jist as good!

This song gives me such a strong America feelings — I tear up every time I hear it. Which makes me feel a little ridiculous, but there it is.

Because yes it’s true: Territory folks should stick together, and I don’t say I’m no better than anybody else, but I’ll be danged if I ain’t jist as good.

If you want to see the clip from the movie Oklahoma!, with singing and dancing, watch here.

In my experience, moments of transcendence — so precious for happiness — don’t always hit me the way I’d expect.

How about you? Do you ever get a feeling of transcendence — or the America feeling — from an unexpected source?

Podcast 22: Creativity! Listen to Rosanne Cash, Save Your String, Fight Drift, and a Lesson from the Writers’ Room.

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

This week, we have a theme! Creativity.

Update: Elizabeth and I, and our families, were recently in Kansas City together, to celebrate our mother’s birthday. We shot a quick little video to say hi to listeners. Check it out here.

Try This at Home: Save string — which is a phrase from journalism that means, find ways to save your little bits of ideas. To read more about choreographer Twyla Tharp’s process, look in The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life. Woody Allen discusses his method saving string in this Wall Street Journal interview.

PodcastNotebookElizabethHere’s a photo of Elizabeth’s podcast notebook (string not pictured).

Do you “save string?” What do you save, and how do you save it? Fabric scraps, art supplies, recipes, quotations, ideas for a garden, ideas for April Fool’s Day pranks…let us know.

Interview: Our guest is my friend, the brilliant singer, song-writer, and author, Rosanne Cash. She’s a Grammy-winning singer and composer who has recorded 15 albums and won countless awards.

Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset
Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset

As we discuss, she wrote a terrific memoir, Composed, which I read years before I met her, and loved. Elizabeth also loved it.

Her latest album, The River & The Thread, a collaboration with her husband, producer, and co-writer John Leventhal, won three Grammy awards.

It was so much fun to talk to her! I was just sorry that Elizabeth was in L.A. and couldn’t join us in person.

The song Rosanne talks about in the interview is When the Master Calls the Roll.

Now you’re probably dying to see Rosanne perform in person. In September, you can see her in Nashville at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Info here. Or if, like me, you’re in the New York City area, you can see her at Carnegie Hall. Info here.

Gretchen’s Demerit: Here’s the link to the video of the 5×15 talk I gave ondrift and a post I wrote about drift. I’ve saved the string–but I haven’t turned it into anything (yet).

Elizabeth’s Gold Star: Elizabeth gives a gold star to Jenna Bans, the creator of The Family, the TV show that Elizabeth writes for.  (Trailer for the show here.) Jenna Bans gets a gold star for building a great creative atmosphere in the writers’ room.

Elizabeth and I have a favor to ask. We’re part of the Panoply network, and Panoply has created a listener survey. If you could take a few minutes to take the survey, it will really help us — and Panoply — learn more about our listeners. Thanks!

As always, thanks to our terrific sponsors. Want to avoid post-office pain, and buy and print official U.S. postage for any letter or package, right from your own computer and printer? Visit Stamps.com to sign up for a no-risk trial, plus a $110 bonus offer — just enter the promo code HAPPIER.

Also, thanks to Casper, the online retailer of premium mattresses.  Pay a fraction of what you’d pay in the store, get free delivery, and returns within a 100 day period.  Get $50 off a mattress purchase by visiting Casper.com/happier, promo code HAPPIER.

We’d love to hear from you: have you saved string— and if so, did it make you happier? Like Rosanne Cash, have you figured out ways to help you quiet the critics in your head?

Comment below. Email: podcast@gretchenrubin.com. Twitter: @gretchenrubin and @elizabethcraft. Call: 744-277-9336. Here’s the Facebook Page.

To listen to this episode, just zip to the bottom of this post and hit the red “play” button.

Or if you’re reading this post by email, click to view online, to listen to the podcast from this post.

Want to know what to expect from other episodes of the podcast, when you listen toHappier 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!

HOW TO SUBSCRIBE: If you’re like me (until recently) you’re intrigued by podcasts, but you don’t know how to listen or subscribe. It’s very easy, really. Really. Instructions here.

If you want to listen to more than one episode, and to have it all in a handier way, on your phone or tablet, it’s better to subscribe. Really, it’s easy.

Again, be sure to subscribe and listen and subscribe on iTunes so you never miss an episode. And if you enjoyed it, please tell your friends and give us a rating or review. Listeners really respect the views of other listeners, so your response helps people find good material. (Not sure how to review? Instructions here; scroll to the bottom.)

HAPPIER listening!

I Had a Very Odd Experience at the Gym This Morning.

Something odd happened to me this morning.

Right now, I’m in Dallas for my book tour for Better Than Before (buy early, buy often!) I was in the gym, walking on the treadmill, when suddenly I felt something shift in my personality.

The experience lasted about twenty seconds.

It was like a dial turned inside me. Or like the chips of glass inside a kaleidoscope made a new pattern.

I was still myself, but somehow in different proportions. I felt, for that moment, what it would be like to be…different. More light-hearted, more easy-going.

One fact about me is that I’m intense. There’s a relentlessness to my nature. And I don’t mind that. My discipline is my freedom. My sister Elizabeth tells me that I’d make a good monk. I’m an Upholder, and I love being an Upholder! Even though I recognize the downsides to it.

But for just a minute, for some reason, I felt like a different person. Then I snapped back to normal.

Something like this has happened to me once before. A few years ago, I was walking down Lexington Avenue, and suddenly I felt all my ambition vanish. It was as if I’d been carrying a heavy backpack for decades, and suddenly it slid off my back. I’d never consciously realized it before, but I have a voice in my head constantly saying, “Did you…?” “Should you…?” “Could you…?” For a moment, it was shut off, and then it returned.

And that was what I felt, this morning. I experienced myself as if I were just a little bit different. It was odd, and exhilarating, and a little sad. It would be fun to be less relentless! And yet I must Be Gretchen.

This is the music that was playing when it happened — Rachel Portman’s Main Theme from the soundtrack of the movie Chocolat. I guess it set off some kind of unexpected response.

Also, for a writer, having a new book out makes everything feel very heightened, so I’m sure that also contributed to it.

Have you ever had an experience like this? It was very odd. For a moment, I was someone different. Not very different, but different nevertheless.

“Good King Wenceslas” Gives Me an Uncanny Feeling. Ever Happen to You?

The holidays are approaching, and Christmas carols are beginning to play, and I again experience the eerie feeling that I experience every year, when I hear the carol “Good King Wenceslas.”  Here’s the song; here are the lyrics.

For reasons I’ve never fathomed, this carol affects me with uncanny strength. Every phrase, every note stirs me. My hair stands on end, tears prickle in my eyes. Why? I have no idea. This carol is of fairly recent vintage and apparently scoffed at by academics; doesn’t matter.

Sire, the night is darker now,

And the wind blows stronger;

Fails my heart I not how,

I can go no longer….

I do often experience this kind of reaction when I encounter examples of what I call “symbols beyond words” in writing. The lyrics of “Good King Wenceslas”  also use symbols beyond words, but I don’t have this reaction to many other songs–though now that I think about it, as I write about in Happier at Home, I have the same reaction to “Raggle Taggle Gypsy.”

I thought I was the only one to experience this, so I was stuck by this passage from Carl Jung’s unforgettable memoir,  Memories, Dreams, Reflections:

 When I visited the stupas of Sanchi, where Buddha delivered his fire sermon, I was overcome by a strong emotion of the kind that frequently develops in me when I encounter a thing, person, or idea of whose significance I am still unconscious.

I love “Good King Wenceslas” so much that I included an allusion to it in the text of the book I wrote with a friend, Four to Llewelyn’s Edge.

Do you ever have this kind of reaction to something you hear, see, or look at?

I’ve listened to the song about thirty times while writing this post.

Why “Twilight” Inspired Me To Do Better With My Resolutions.

Assay: I’m a huge fan of Twilight (books and movies)—a fact about myself that continues to fascinate and puzzle me. Last night, I went to see the fourth movie in the Twilight series, Breaking Dawn, which inspired me to look back at a post I wrote two years ago. I really love that post, so here it is again.

Following my resolution to Enter into other people’s interests, last week I watched the movie Twilight with my older daughter. This wasn’t a sacrifice for me; I love Stephenie Meyer’s books (oh, how I love children’s and young-adult literature), so I was curious to see the movie.

I found the movie interesting for many reasons not relevant here (other than to say I’m thinking about Jung generally, Frazier’s The Golden Bough, and George Orwell’s discussion of “good bad poetry” in his essay, “Rudyard Kipling”), but in particular, I loved the depiction of wordless, instantaneous, passionate love.

Many of my happiness-project resolutions are meant to help me be more tender, more loving, more-lighthearted, more appreciative…more romantic.

My husband and I met when we were in law school. I still remember the first time I saw him walk into the library—a shock ran through me, and I could practically feel my pupils dilate. He was wearing jeans and a rose-colored Patagonia pull-over (which I still keep in my closet). I walked over to a friend and whispered casually, “Who is that guy?”

Our law school is small, and our social circles magically started to overlap, so I met him, and my crush deepened. One important night, we sat next to each other at a dinner party. There was that afternoon when we ran into each other on the law-school staircase in front of the stained-glass windows.

But he had a girlfriend, and I had a boyfriend. Then he broke up with his girlfriend. A week later, on May 1 (I just looked up the exact date in my calendar), I broke up with my boyfriend. It happened in the morning, and I went out into the courtyard and made a general announcement of the break-up to a bunch of friends—to see what his reaction would be.

No reaction. “Hmmmm,” I thought. “Maybe I misread this situation.” Had I imagined what I thought was between us? After all, the two of us had never talked about anything of importance, certainly not about “us”; we’d never spent any time alone, only in chaperoned groups (except that once he’d asked me to breakfast at the Copper Kitchen before our Corporations class, an occasion so thrilling to me in prospect that I slept only a few hours the night before); and neither of us had ever made even the smallest romantic overture toward each other.

But that same afternoon after my break-up, he told me he was going to walk to Wawa’s (the New Haven version of QuikTrip) to get a Coke, and did I want to come? I did. We walked to Wawa’s, then back to the law school, and sat on a bench beneath some blooming magnolia trees. He said something completely incoherent, then took my hand; this was the first time we ever touched. At that moment, if he’d asked me to marry him, I wouldn’t have been at all surprised, and I might well have said “Yes.” (We did get engaged several months later.)

Now, so many years later, is it the same? Yes and no. Yes, because I still love him passionately, and more deeply, because I know him so much better. No, because he pervades my entire life, so now sometimes it’s hard to see him. Married people are so intertwined, so interdependent, so symbiotic, that it’s hard to maintain that sense of wonder and excitement.

If I’ve learned one thing from my happiness project, it’s that if I want my life to be a certain way, I must be that way myself. If I want my marriage to be tender and romantic, I must be tender and romantic.

Am I tender and romantic? Am I appreciative, thoughtful, forbearing, fun-loving? Or do I march around the apartment snapping out reminders and orders? Am I quick to feel annoyed or aggrieved? When we first met, I honestly wondered whether it would ever be possible for me to read when we were sitting in a room together; I found it so hard to concentrate that I couldn’t make sense of anything more complicated than the newspaper. Now, I find it hard to tear myself away from my work and my email to hold up my end of a marital conversation.

So, inspired by the springtime, and the memories of early love brought back to me by Twilight, I’m going to redouble my usual efforts to keep my resolutions related to love. Think of small treats or courtesies. Leave things unsaid. Give proofs of love. Don’t expect praise. Take time to be silly. Fight right.

Have you found any good ways to stay tender and romantic in a long relationship?

Here, to me, is the great mystery: we’re perfectly suited to each other—but how did we fall in love before we knew each other at all? How is that possible?

* The movie also reminded me to Be Gretchen and accept my taste in music. I loved the song from the Twilight piano scene, “Bella’s Lullaby,” and instead of dismissing that pleasure, I let myself enjoy it—and in the process, came across this engaging post by the composer Carter Burwell. (To listen to the song, listen to the clip on his post, or this preview.)

It reminds me of another soundtrack song I love, The Promise, from the mind-blowing movie The Piano. The pairing of the two songs/movies is interesting, because The Piano is about wordless passion between adults, with their complications, instead of teenagers.

* Join the happiness discussion on Facebook.