How many times each week are we asked how we are? And how many times do we reply with the same stock response without a second thought? In my case it was always that word, fine. Never great. Never brilliant. Never awful either mind. But always … fine.
I just assume people don’t really want to know anyway, so best to be polite. Or maybe it’s poor form to be too effusive, bit too touchy-feely for a quiet introvert like me. I was once described as an ’emotional void’. By a friend. I took it as a compliment (I’m in HR, it pays to have a poker face).
So what was it about turning 40 that made me really examine this habit. Well it occurred to me that it was just so … so mediocre. Is that really all we expect from life, fine. What about joy, excitement, surprise, fun, thrilling, contentment. Basically, happiness. And I mean real happiness. Not plaster-on-a-smile, take-a-deep-breath and fake-it-till-you-make-it kinda happiness. I mean the deep down, fundamental, feel-it-in-your-bones type.
Don’t get me wrong, not everyone is one of those
annoying joyful people who bounce out of bed each morning singing The Hill’s are Alive. Or in my son’s case, I’m Not Your Toyyyy (Israel’s winning entry at the Eurovision. Maybe letting him stay up to watch it wasn’t my smartest move. There’s only so much clucking chicken Euro-pop one can handle. Even made me buy the album. Sorry, I digress.).
“I wasn’t depressed and I wasn’t having a midlife crisis, but I was suffering from midlife malaise.[…] Bogged down in petty complaints and passing crisis, weary of struggling with my own nature, I too often failed to comprehend the splendour of what I had. I didn’t want to keep taking these days for granted.”
This was it. This was IT. I had one of those ‘Aha’ moments, when someone exactly articulates what you have been so struggling to pin down in your own head. Like Gretchen, I had a good life and so much to be thankful for. I just wanted to learn how to feel the joy from that life now and not in hindsight. So I resolved to embark on my own happiness project. A year of conscious observation, learning from others and basically being an experimental guinea pig.
Oh I had grand aims. Involving research, categorisations, experiments, interviews, podcasts, posting daily to my instagram. #Allthethings.
But you may have noticed, it’s the end of May. And this is my first post.
However in the spirit of dusting myself off and learning from the (lack of) activity, I’m revising my grand plans into a more manageable project. Each week I’ll tackle one small experiment, informed by the wealth of wisdom that is out there on this topic in literary, podcast and YouTube formats from the likes of Gretchen Rubin (both her book and her Happier podcast with Liz Craft), Emma Gunavardhana (brilliant thought-provoking interviews on her podcast The Emma Guns Show), Sarah Powell and Jules von Hep (more great interviews and body confidence on their podcast series Wobble) and many others besides. I’ll bring you my thoughts on what works for me and what doesn’t, as well as my pick of where to go if you want to dive deeper.
Onward and upward, as Gretchen would say!