“Bed, of Course. Bed with Books, Children, Dogs.”

“Bed, of Course. Bed with Books, Children, Dogs.”

Happiness interview: Lea Carpenter.

I met Lea Carpenter many years ago, because we were both involved in the New York Public Library (one of my favorite New York City institutions). She's always been an ardent lover of libraries, literature, and books of all sorts--so I was thrilled when I heard that she was writing her first novel.

I'm so happy for her, because her debut novel, Eleven Days, is just about to hit the shelves, and just today got a great review by Michiko Kakutani in the New York Times. Who called her "an extraordinarily gifted writer." Zoikes!

Gretchen: What’s a simple activity that consistently makes you happier?

Lea: Exercise. Scrambling the perfect egg.

What’s something you know now about happiness that you didn’t know when you were 18 years old?

It comes from within. And it is fleeting, by design.

Is there anything you find yourself doing repeatedly that gets in the way of your happiness?


 Is there a happiness quotation that has struck you as particularly insightful?

"J'ai decide d'etre heureux parce que c'est bon pour la santé." It's Voltaire; I trust him. [I decided to be happy because it's good for my health.]

If you’re feeling blue, how do you give yourself a happiness boost? Or, like a “comfort food,” do you have a comfort activity? (mine is reading children’s books).

Reading. Swimming, if that's an option.

Is there anything that you see people around you doing or saying that adds a lot to their happiness, or detracts a lot from their happiness? 

Texting must detract. I lack evidence, but it must. It's so rife with ambiguity.

Have you always felt about the same level of happiness, or have you been through a period when you felt exceptionally happy or unhappy – if so, why? If you were unhappy, how did you become happier?

I agree with the experts that we each possess "set points," but that theory needs something like what bankers call a MAC clause. Because certain events sure shift you from center. A wedding, for example. A loss.

Is there some aspect of your home that makes you particularly happy?

Bed, of course. Bed with books, children, dogs.

Have you ever been surprised that something you expected would make you very happy, didn’t – or vice versa?

I don't expect happiness. I do think becoming a mother exceeds everyone's expectations, emotionally. Parenting is one place where emotion isn't circumscribed, or conditional. IMHO, as they say.

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