Why Be Happy?

I was looking at a draft of this post as an earthquake just rippled through New York. Several of my workmates felt it. I didn’t — I was dreamy, lost in a break from work, reading my own blog.

My niece made this heart in the sand. Kids are amazing.

Here’s the post I was looking at when the rest of NYC felt the tremor —

***Maybe I should stop looking for happiness and start looking for meaning.

In How To Land Your Kid in Therapy the writer Lori Gottlieb asks: “Could it be that by protecting our kids from unhappiness as children, we’re depriving them of happiness as adults?”

I’ve blogged about this  A Generation of Disconnected Kids And decided I’m going to walk the middle ground between helicopter mom/tiger mom and neglectful mom.

Gottlieb’s article is tearing up the blogosphere. Even the blog, The Quotidian Hudson, http://quotidianhudsonriver.com/, devoted to the awesome Hudson River, quotes Gottlieb’s article:

“Happiness as a goal is a recipe for disaster.”

That is something it seems we don’t teach much anymore.  As the founders/Jefferson put it, Happiness is not an unalienable right “the pursuit” is… (Robert Johnson)

I think part of my problem with over-parenting is that I am overly involved with my kids’ happiness. I need to step back and let them pursue their own happiness. Then I can pursue my own.

I can do less, but that means I need to ask for more help. Asking For Help.  And that’s not easy.

But remember my Number 2 Rule? Pile on the People!

And though everyone’s talking and blogging about Gottlieb’s Atlantic article. I hope the discussion on overinvolved parents (read mothers) doesn’t devolve into a mother-bashing session,  ’cause God knows, we mothers are doing the best we can.

That would be a nice after-shock to the article — if people had a greater appreciation for a mother’s work and helped one another out more.

Letting Go of Lists

On my happiness list, the last item is “Embrace uncertainty.” And the second to the last? “Live every day as if it were your last.” These are hard to follow because I love making lists and planning my day.

There was one day, three or four years ago, when the darlings, Josie and I were in Italy for Thanksgiving and we had absolutely no plans. We followed the Improv rule, “Accept every offer.” If someone suggested we stop somewhere, that’s where we went. We chased a ball in a church courtyard for a long time.

We got lost in Venice. Someone said, “Let’s stop at that pizza place.” We did. We ate pizza under a bridge.

Then someone pointed to a boat and said, “Oh those clementines look good.” So we bought clementine oranges off of a boat. The kids tried to peel the clementines in one peel so you could hold them back together again and they’d look whole. They were the best clementines ever.

Then the kids wanted to spend hours feeding the pigeons in St. Mark’s Square. But I took a break with a cappuccino at a café off the square. When the waiter delivered my coffee in the white china cup, there, in the frothy milk, was a heart.

When I let go of my agenda, things surprised and pleased me — things I didn’t even think were possible.

I had that list of Summer To Do things. And some of the things I’ve done and some I haven’t. And I’m not sure I’ll get to them today. After all, my last item is “Quit making lists.”

  1. Update my resume
  2. Get more help for Chris and household management
  3. Research joining a writer’s room or applying for writer-in-residence program
  4. Befriend new families in kids’ new Fall schools/classes
  5. Prepare kids well for camp
  6. Have a party while kids are at camp
  7. Replace or do something about annoying kitchen cabinets
  8. Eat more fish
  9. Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge
  10. Comment on and read other blogs
  11. Tweet every day
  12. Do a reading of my work at least once a month
  13. Plan an international trip for me and the kids
  14. Get my bike tuned up
  15. Quit making lists
What’s on your Summer To Do list?

Power of Niceness

I am really struggling with one of my daughters (Let’s call her C). She’s 10. Every single thing that comes out of my mouth, C can/will/does contradict.

I am tired of this and have asked her to make today a radically, completely, goody-goody nice day. Extreme niceness would be such a refreshing change. And it works. Why does my husband, Chris, have a Broadway career despite his steady slowing Parkinson’s Disease? The man is just plain nice. Over the years he has cultivated so many friends. He has no ego. Of course, talent helps.

I am in the middle of the book, “The Power of Nice: How to Conquer the Businesss World with Kindness” by Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval. It’s chock full of examples about how one simple act of kindness – helping someone with their luggage in the subway, let’s say – can change your world. In business and in life.

I have always been an exceedingly nice person. And at times, I do feel the sting. I think people have equated niceness with dumbness. In Gretchen Rubin’s book, “The Happiness Project,” she talks about research that shows negative people are perceived of as smarter people. I can think of a few examples of this at work (but since it is Lent and I’ve given up gossip, you’ll have to fill in your own names.)

While the negativist may win in the short-run, to sustain a long-term Broadway career, you mustn’t be all crabby and egocentric. You must be nice.

I would love to share this blog post with my darling C, but I’m afraid she’ll contradict me and be embarrassed by me. Mothering is not for the faint of heart. Or for the woman who is so nice, she is a doormat for her 10-year old. Niceness also means being nice to oneself and standing up for rightness.

This post relates to my Number 2 Rule – Escape through Literature. I got a lot out of “The Power of Nice” and “The Happiness Project.”