It was about six weeks ago that I experienced what I would describe as my "rock bottom" moment. The combination of TC's arduous recovery, my mom's battle with cancer, and this endless winter had me feeling more hopeless than I had ever remembered feeling before. It took a few really hard days for me to see my way out of the darkness and begin looking forward again. What propelled me forward was the realization that, for many reasons, I have to live through this difficult period. And if I have to live through this, I have to stay healthy. And while eating well and working out are important, our psychologies also play a huge role in our physiologies. Therefore, the only way to go forward was to acknowledge what I could not change and work on changing what I could: myself.
I began putting real effort into altering my mindset, paying attention to my breathing, and staying present. Yoga was no longer an optional part of my lifestyle. It was essential. I started experimenting with all kinds of small changes that I hoped could manifest in big improvements, and so far, I feel drastically happier.
Many of the little things I had long suspected contributed to happiness are identified in Rubin's book. She set a series of happiness resolutions each month related to a specific focus. It's definitely more ambitious and time consuming than anything I would think to do, but the underlying purpose of her experiment is pretty admirable: to find maximum joy in her present life. In designing this project, Rubin was led by an understanding that I wish I has grasped earlier. She didn't want to wait for a fall-to-your-knees, heartbreaking catastrophe to start appreciating her blessings. She wanted to live fully and graciously in the moment.
This is a book I will likely read every year or so. It's so chock full of suggestions that it's probably wise to take notes while reading, otherwise it's quite easy to forget some of the "Ah ha!" moments that occur. In the future, I am very much looking forward to blogging about some of the specific strategies she mentions and how they have found meaning in my own life.
One immediate takeaway from The Happiness Project is the importance of being honest about how you like to spend your time. As I examine the content of my days over the past few weeks, I am surprised by how much pleasure I take in reading and writing. Now that I recognize how important these two activities are to me, I have been spoiling myself with plenty of time for both. Racing through three or more books a week, I finally decided to give http://www.goodreads.com a real go. I was dying to get suggestions from friends and to share some of my favorite reads with others. When I return to the classroom, I think it would be really cool to incorporate this site into my language arts instruction and help my students ramp up their enthusiasm for reading.
In the meantime, here are a few books I've enjoyed over the past few weeks:
While I'd label it as the perfect spring break/beach book, be forewarned should you choose to read it in public. There were many parts I was laughing creepily out loud or trying to contain my laughter using weird, tight lipped grins. Read in public at your own risk.
Because I would certainly like to spend less time in the hospital in the future and because I am witnessing first-hand the misery that is chemotherapy, I thought it was important to educate myself about some of the simple ways we can help our bodies fight cancer on a daily basis.
Most everyone I know has been affected by cancer in some way. This book does a beautiful job of illustrating how we can better support our loved ones through a cancer diagnosis and how we can modify our own lifestyles to avoid cancer. Spoiler: it involves a lot of green tea and Indian food.
1) It was written by the cousin of one of my good friends.
2) It's currently being made into a movie produced by and starring Hilary Swank.
3) Once I picked this book up, I literally could not put it down. The characters in this story are so compelling, I felt like I knew them personally. Anyone who has served as a caregiver before will appreciate Michelle Wildgen's delicate storytelling and the dignity she gives to the character of Kate. It's a beautiful story.
Are you reading something you love? Please share!