Gretchen Rubin

What Secret Truth of Life is illustrated in the movie Junebug? The Second Splendid Truth.

As a special surprise for me, the Big Man rented Junebug last night; he knows it’s one of my favorite movies.

We watched it for the first time last July, and I was struck by Happiness-Project-y it was. It’s all about the nature of happiness, and love, and many other things as well.

Seeing it for the second time was even better.

This time, I realized something I hadn’t, before. The happiness hero of the story is the pregnant daughter-in-law, Ashley. She doesn't seem like she would be, but she is.

She overcomes her competitiveness and dislike. She takes the blame so her new sister-in-law doesn’t get in trouble. She responds cheerfully when people are rude to her. She is thankful, easily pleased, and trusting. She acts happy.

The Second Splendid Truth is that…
One of the best ways to make myself happy is to make other people happy.
One of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy myself.

As a consequence, I have a duty to be happy, because my happiness is so important to other people’s happiness. That means, then, the duty to fake it when I don’t feel it.

Problem is (and I certainly fall into this trap), when you act happy, and people believe you are happy, you don’t get credit for being cheerful, enthusiastic, and energetic. People assume it’s coming easily. You’re taken for granted, and while sometimes people will be lifted by your happiness to become happier themselves (which is good), sometimes people will feed off your happiness as a cushion for their own unhappiness (which is bad).

The first time I saw the movie, I thought that Ashley is a simpleminded, sweet, friendly, lonely chatterbox.

But with the benefit of having seen the whole movie, this time I saw that Ashley is choosing to act happy. She’s also desperately unhappy.

But her happiness (partly real, partly faked) lifts up everyone in the movie. Everyone depends on it.

Oops. It just occurred to me that this post will mean nothing to folks who haven’t seen the movie. Sorry. I could go on and on…if you haven't seen it, and you're interested in happiness, you'll love it.

Oh, how I love Lifehacker. It makes me feel like I can learn to do anything, and do everything better.

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