What if you took a year and went through your book shelves, your notebooks and all the things the world tells us about how to be happy? Would it work? Or would it just be a jumble of a year filled with self-help mantras battling for attention?
Gretchen Rubin tried it. She spent a year researching and playing, reading and trying new things. If there was a study, a book or a philosophy about happiness, she devoured it. And then she followed its advice. and she blogged about it. And the blog became a book, winningly subtitled “Or, Why I Spent A Year Trying To Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun.”
And we are paying attention. Rubin's book was out just a week when it hit No. 2 on the New York Times bestseller list, and is the 14th hottest seller on Amazon (even including fiction).
Rubin has clearly hit a nerve. There are a lot of us who are are having hard times right now, and we want to know that the key to making them better lies inside us.
“As I looked out the blurry bus window, I saw two figures cross the street — a woman about my age trying simultaneously to balance an umbrella, look at her cell phone, and push a stroller carrying a yellow-slickered child. The sight gave me a jolt of recognition: that’s me, I thought, there I am. I have a stroller, a cell phone, an alarm clock, an apartment, a neighborhood. Right now, I’m riding the same crosstown bus that I take across the park, back and forth. This is my life — but I never give any thought to it.
I wasn’t depressed and I wasn’t having a midlife crisis, but I was suffering from midlife malaise — a recurrent sense of discontent and almost a feeling of disbelief. “Can this be me?” I’d wonder as I picked up the morning newspapers or sat down to read my e-mail. “Can this be me?” My friends and I joked about the “beautiful house” feeling, when, as in the David Byrne song “Once in a Lifetime,” we’d periodically experience the shock of thinking “This is not my beautiful house.”
“Is this really it?” I found myself wondering, and answering, “Yep, this is it.”