“The answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything is 42.”
Some of you reading this blog will know the origins of that line. I forgot about it, but was reminded this year by one of my students when I was lamenting the completion of my 42nd year on this earth. She smiled at me brightly and said something along the lines of “Good things will come to you in this forty-second year.” I rolled my eyes and thought of the year I turned 20. The year many of my friends gave me sympathy cards in celebration of arriving into my second decade because I was so miserable about that number.
So here I am in this monumental year, grateful for my fabulous job at MCLA, the PRESS project, my honey honey Douglas, my studio work, my family and friends, my gorgeous garden and home, oh and my little animals. Yet I’m restless, amazed that I am 42. That more times than not I am a ma’am, not a miss when I go to the store. I never get carded. That to many 20-somethings I am old, out-of-date and irrelevant. I don’t feel that way, and I am like a week or so away from doing my first ever chin-up in my entire life.
If you look back at my life, it makes sense that I am restless. I went to school like most kids. Then, I graduated from college, worked for five years, then went back to school for two years. Then I worked for five years and went back to school again for two years. Now, I’ve just finished my sixth year of working. I am definitely not interested in going back to school, but clearly, if I really consider this pattern, I need something to change-up in my life. Leaving my job is certainly an option, but I am too committed, ambitious and terrified to do that just now. So then what do I do?
While killing time in the Atlanta airport recently, I saw this book:
Gretchen Rubin had an epiphany one rainy afternoon in the unlikeliest of places: a city bus. “The days are long, but the years are short,” she realized. “Time is passing, and I’m not focusing enough on the things that really matter.” In that moment, she decided to dedicate a year to her happiness project.
In this lively and compelling account, Rubin chronicles her adventures during the twelve months she spent test-driving the wisdom of the ages, current scientific research, and lessons from popular culture about how to be happier.
Among other things, she found that novelty and challenge are powerful sources of happiness; that money can help buy happiness, when spent wisely; that outer order contributes to inner calm; and that small changes can make a difference.
Each month she tackles a new set of resolutions, giving herself check marks or gold stars to celebrate her successes.
This last bit made me want to start my own happiness project right away. Maybe this is the answer to my restlessness. Gretchen begins by identifying overarching principles in her life. I have come up with my own personal principles that will guide my path through restlessness. Many of mine are completely and 100% inspired by hers.
- Be Melanie
- Let it go.
- Listen and engage, politely and sincerely.
- Act the way I want to feel.
- Do it now.
- Identify the problem.
- RELAX!! (You don’t always have to be doing something.)
- Less is more. (Remember to say no.)
- Do what ought to be done.
Next, perhaps the best way thing to do is to follow the Happiness Project lead. There are definitely little things I’ve been wanting to change in my life, and some big things. Gretchen talks about her need to be appreciated and praised, to have the little things she does everyday get acknowledged. She wanted that daily gold star. Enter the resolution chart. A chart that you keep daily to keep you on task for whatever you want to do to create more happiness in your life. (You can get a copy of hers by going to the downloads page of her website.) Gretchen addressed a new set of resolutions each month. And she gave herself the appreciation for doing it with the checkmark or gold start. I absolutely LOVE THIS. I am so motivated by little rewards and commitments like this. (i.e. Nike Training Club.) This seemed like a really fun way to tackle the restlessness.
I have 12 resolutions that I am going to work on, beginning today, July 1, 2012.
- Be Melanie.
- Tidy/Organize/Purge 30 minutes everyday.
- Review schedule and plan specific tasks the night before.
- Floss your teeth.
- Work in studio minimum one hour four days a week/Work in studio minimum five hours one day a week.
- Make time for friends.
- Think of small treats and courtesies for others, especially Doug.
- Avoid time-wasters.
- Show Up.
- No Interrupting.
- Work on one annoying, difficult or long-standing task for an hour everyday until they are gone.
- Sit and do nothing for 15 minutes everyday.
So far today I have been me, tidied for more than 30 minutes, flossed my teeth, avoided time wasters and interrupting. It’s only 3:30. We’ll see about the rest of them. I’ll post an update about my progress later in the week.
If you like this idea, get the book, contact me and maybe we can create our own little Happiness Project group here in the Berkshires. Accountability is a big part of success!