The days are long; the years are short.
Currently my friend Laura and I are reading this book called The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. I found the book on accident when I took the interns to Target in Bowling Green after we checked out the farmer’s markets there. The kids were wandering around between the book section and the shampoo section and my eye landed on the book. Without thinking I just put it in my basket. It was one of those things where you just know you’re supposed to grab it. It was probably the title that got me. I feel like I’ve been working on my own haphazard happiness project for the past year. Although I would have to more aptly title it the happiness struggle. However, once I got the first year of teaching in rural Kentucky under my belt I did feel considerably happier. In fact, except for the tragic loss of Geoff’s grandfather and so much of our live stock and guardian animals, I feel like I was making real progress with my happiness. I was approaching pre-Kentucky levels of happiness. The book has definitely given me a lot of things to ponder.
The author is super smart and a research nerd, so automatically I love the book. (Check our her webpage here.) She researched every aspect of happiness from psychology to economics to philosophy to religion to everything. She quotes frequently from people who made their life’s work the pursuit of true and enduring happiness.
I bring this up because, although she has not mentioned it yet, I think perseverance has to have something to do with happiness. Hanging in there when times are tough has to be like and investment in the happiness stock market. If you can hold out, ride the wave, keep your investment in the market, then eventually you will yield a pretty big happiness dividend. Assuming you’ve invested in the right things.
Here is the tricky part: when you are in the middle of your ride on the happiness stock market it is really hard to keep track of the reasons you invested in the first place. Geoff and I moved out here for ideological reasons. We believed we could give ourselves, and one day our family, a better life. More than that, we believed we could help other people. If we were to tabulate our success today we would definitely be in the red. So far we’ve mostly helped ourselves to heartache. When I was sitting on my couch three years ago reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle I felt the way I could most closely live out my beliefs is by doing what we are doing now. Its hard to hold on to those idyllic, pastoral images in the face of the actual reality. We have great days here, and, unfortunately, our bad days are a million times worse than the bad days of my old life. What if we made some huge, colossal mistake? What if we were really supposed to do urban gardening, ride sharing, composting, and homesteading in the middle of San Antonio? Mother Theresa said,” We can do no great things, only small things with great love,” What if Geoff and I tried to do too big of a thing? I don’t know.
Don’t fear, America, we’re not giving up. We’re hanging in there. We’re just hoping the next few months bring a little more success. We will hang our hats on even the smallest victories at this point.
I am heartened by the Gretchen Rubin’s observation that the days are long but the years are short. There will be a time when Geoff and I look back on these last few months and marvel at how far we have come. For now, though, the days are long.
I used to have a poster in my classroom with a quote from the french novelist Proust. Today I looked up the quote again, because I feel like I needed the reminder, only to find that the quote was part of a much larger passage. See below:
“We do not receive wisdom, we must discover it for ourselves, after a journey through the wilderness which no one else can make for us, which no one can spare us, for our wisdom is the point of view from which we come at last to regard the world. The lives that you admire, the attitudes that seem noble to you, have not been shaped by a paterfamilias or a schoolmaster, they have sprung from very different beginnings, having been influenced by evil or commonplace that prevailed round them. They represent a struggle and a victory.”
— Marcel Proust
Geoff and I are on a journey. We are deep in the wilderness at this point. I hope one day we will look back on this struggle, filled with wisdom, and call it a victory. That will be quite the happiness dividend.