Note to Self: Don’t Let a Happiness Project Work Against My Happiness.

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Ah! What exquisite relief! For the last several months, I’ve been haunted by a literary allusion that drifted on the very edge of my memory. What was it? I kept asking myself.

It related to my own experience with my happiness project. I always remind myself to guard against the danger that my happiness project, itself, might work against my happiness. Yes, I want to Take time for projects, but I didn’t want that resolution to become a source of conflict with my husband. Yes, I want to Go shelf by shelf, to clear clutter, but that didn’t give me license to toss my daughters’ dusty stuffed animals without their permission. Yes, I want to Keep a one-sentence journal and Exercise, but I didn’t want to do that at the expense of spending time with my family and friends. A tension.

Now…what was that allusion? Who is the character in literature so busy working for the benefit of a distant goal that he or she utterly neglected the family around her?

Just…out…of…reach…

Bliss! I finally remembered. Do you know? Mrs. Jellby, from Charles Dickens’s novel, Bleak House. The “telescopic philanthropist” Mrs. Jellaby is so busy promoting her misguided foreign charity that she dreadfully neglects her own children.

Here’s the irony: at the very time when I was writing this post, and in direct contrast to the point I was making, I spoke curtly to my older daughter, because she was distracting me while I was trying to write! Sheesh.

Now I must go re-read Bleak House. And to apologize to my daughter.


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.

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