Every once in a while, I put my finger on something that bugs me. This sounds as though it might make me unhappy, but in fact, this greater clarity about my own nature makes me much happier.
For instance, I remember the tremendous relief I felt when I noticed a pattern among certain books, plays, and movies that I dislike. For instance, I can’t stand to read or watch Oliver Twist, The Fugitive, Atonement, Othello. Can you see the pattern?
It’s the theme of unjust accusation. I can’t stand the theme of unjust accusation. I’ve never seen the movie The Shawshank Redemption, even though people keep telling me that it’s a great happiness-related movie, because of the unjust accusation. It’s a little sad to realize that we can’t encompass everything—I find it very painful to relinquish the fantasy that with enough effort, I could appreciate everything, even unjust accusation, which appears so often—but it’s also very freeing. (I must confess, however, that my various book groups sometimes get impatient with my question, “Does this book have unjust accusation?” Usually I can smell it a mile away.)
Once I realize what I don’t like, I can avoid it (more or less).
The same thing happened with pesto. And with drinking alcohol. And with board games.
Just today, I realized something else that bugs me. I dislike being asked to identify my “favorite.” Some people seem to love this exercise. Favorite book, favorite movie, favorite restaurant, favorite memory.
I, however, find this exercise distressing. First of all—how can I possibly pick something like a “favorite” book? It’s impossible! And to me, picking a “favorite” somehow makes all the other options seem less interesting. I don’t even like picking something like a favorite part of the day. Sometimes, like Maria, I’ll pick a few of my favorite things—but I can rarely pick just one favorite.
But some people love to consider questions like this.
How about you? Do you enjoy identifying your favorite, or not?
From 2006 through 2014, as she wrote The Happiness Project and Happier at Home, Gretchen chronicled her thoughts, observations, and discoveries on The Happiness Project Blog.