I get quite happy when I finally hit the exact right word I’ve been looking for after fumbling about using words that didn’t quite fit.
For instance, I was working on this presentation about OEM boards and their design implications. For weeks, we were using the word “flexible” in the presentation and then it dawned on me just as I was about to press “send” that the right word was “versatile.” I got inordinately excited about this–versatile!–so my boss probably thinks I’m a tad eccentric, but hey, I was excited about it!
Now, thanks to Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, I now know that the word I’ve been looking for is not itchy, or U-curve or even mid-life crisis – it’s midlife malaise.
Malaise! It’s perfect, isn’t it? Here’s how she describes 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?” [...]
“Is this really it?” I found myself wondering, and answering, “Yep, this is it.”
But though at times I felt dissatisfied, that something was missing, I also never forgot how fortunate I was. When I woke up in the middle of the night, as I often did, I’d walk from room to room to another to gaze at my sleeping husband tangled in the sheets and my daughters surrounded by their stuffed animals, all safe. I had everything I could possiblly want–yet I was failing to appreciate it. (p. 2)
So, at only a few pages into the book, I’m very glad to have bought it this weekend. Just for that word alone–Malaise!
I was never planning to buy it though. It struck me as one of those trendy books where a person thinks of something wacky to do and then chronicles it simply to get a book published at the end of it. But I was introduced to Rubin and her work by Andrea, because while I was trying to get a “celebrity sighting” of The Bloggess at BlogHer, Andrea was trying to see if she could spot Rubin. I trust Andrea’s taste; so if she thought Rubin and her book were great, then I was going to give it the benefit of the doubt.
Plus, I just finished reading the book Freedom by Jonathan Franzen, whose characters, although exquisitely drawn, are so deeply entrenched in their own midlife malaise that I thought I needed a fresh break. Something light. Something positive.
What Rubin ends up deciding to do to overcome her “malaise” is to see if she could make herself happier but consciously working on it. She takes on happiness as if it is a project and charts her tasks with checkmarks and x’s along the way. She allocates a subject to focus on each month, with tasks related to those subjects. So for example, she chooses “Energy” for her launch month of January. Drawing on research insights related to energy and happiness, she identifies tasks to take on. So for January, she must: Go to sleep earlier; exercise better; toss, restore, organize; tackle a nagging task; and act more energetic.
I’m really looking forward to following Rubin’s journey, and picking up some extra insights along the way too.
- Have you read The Happiness Project yet? Why not read along with me!
- Tell me what you think about making happiness a project with to-do lists and charts, like Rubin does.
- And last but not least, I’m looking for great book recommendations to help me get through this winter. Do share your faves!