A Little Happier: A Jammed Zipper Teaches an Important Happiness Lesson

I learned a very useful lesson from a very ordinary situation.

I was taking off my favorite spring coat, and I discovered that the zipper had become stuck. When I looked at it, I saw that the zipper’s two ends were uneven, and the teeth were misaligned.

I jammed the zipper up and down several times, but that didn’t work.

I stepped out of the coat and asked my husband Jamie if he could get the zipper to unzip. He jammed it up and down a few times, and that didn’t work.

The next day, our older daughter Eliza came over for a visit—she comes over every Sunday—and Jamie said to her and my younger daughter Eleanor, “You two need to try to get the zipper on Mom’s coat unstuck.”

They didn’t even try.

I thought, “Well, maybe I could take the coat to a tailor, maybe a tailor could fix it.”

A few days later, as I was getting ready to leave my apartment to head to the airport for another leg of my book tour, I was feeling very annoyed by the fact that I couldn’t wear that coat, which was the perfect weight for my destination.

Then it occurred to me: I hadn’t actually tried to fix the zipper. I’d quickly and carelessly tried to force it, then I’d attempted to foist off the task on other people. But I hadn’t taken the time and energy to examine the zipper, figure out what was actually going wrong, and try to deal with it.

I sat down cross-legged on the floor, pulled the coat onto my lap, and looked closely at the zipper. I could see where the teeth had become pulled apart. I tried a few times to push them into place—and I got it to work. It didn’t even take me very long.

My zipper situation was a good reminder of an important truth. If I’m complaining about a problem, and asking other people to help me solve it, I should ask: Have I, myself, actually taken the time and energy to focus on the problem, to try to solve it?

Surprisingly often, I have not.




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