As part of trying to live joyfully this year, I read and tried to put Alain de Botton’s book “Status Anxiety” into practice. The book’s main points:
- We should resist grasping for more, and instead try to celebrate art, literature and philosophy that focuses on the mundane, the ordinary.
- We should value goodness and virtue.
- We should try to ignore the noise and judgement from others about how to live our lives and come up with our own idea of what makes our lives rich and happy and try to stick to that code.
- We should opt out of the materialism game and instead appreciate what we already have.
I tried my best to work on this in the month of January, and as I mentioned, we had decided not to eat in restaurants this year, do lots of cooking, and stay home, in general try to enjoy ordinary family life, devoid of treats, vacations, and shopping sprees. I must mention that this way of living is not NEW to us. We’ve been living this way for years. I just tried to enjoy it more. Did it work?
I don’t think I’ll ever not be able to eat out, once in a while. It just means too much to me. But there were some cool facets to living this way: I really took a look at the material goods I already have and learned that the most meaningful items were, mostly, not the expensive items I owned. My grandmother’s butterfly pin, the wedding quilt my in-laws gave us and photos of my family (extended and immediate): this is the “stuff” that gives me great contentment. I didn’t read any great works of bohemian literature this month (I did read Melissa Ford’s book “Life From Scratch”, which if you haven’t read it yet, RUN to Kindle, your local bookstore, whatever, and buy it. So Fun!) but last year I read “War and Peace”, which shocked me by being super enjoyable and accessible. I couldn’t put it down. Tolstoy’s philosophy seems to fit in neatly with de Botton’s. I did join a book club, which I hope will be a nicer herd of women than the people in Geochick’s notorious group. I thought hard about cliques, tried to avoid mean people and befriend kind ones.
For the month of February, I am going to try to learn from my dad’s favorite group of thought-leaders – the Stoics – and see if any of their thousands of years old theories will help me live more joyfully. Spoiler alert: I’m pretty skeptical, I’m kind of a wuss and think I’m about as resilient as a hothouse flower, but I’m going to give it a shot. The book I’m reading is by Tom Morris, and it’s called “The Stoic Art of Living”.