Tag Archives: Alain Du Botton

The Year of Living Joyfully: What Did I Learn?

I proclaimed 2011 the year that I would live joyfully. I even said I would try to write every day about joy.

Eh, I mostly complained.

I found that trying to live joyfully was not really practical. As my dad said a few weeks ago:

“Maybe joy just happens and you enjoy those few moments. But you don’t try to plan your day around it.”

I think that’s maybe the definitive word on the subject.

I did make five unexpected discoveries through the process of writing this blog which directly led to more happiness in my life.

1. Friends. I was really lonely in my SAHM life, and until this year didn’t have any real friends who understood the sort of strange hold infertility still had on me. They couldn’t comprehend how anxious I was to keep my twins safe and secure. They didn’t get why I was so devastated by my miscarriage, since I already had two kids. I pasted a fake smile on my face everywhere I went and acted the way I thought someone should. It felt like a charade.

But this blog opened the door to a whole secret society of women who wrote about similar feelings. About survival guilt, the need to always be grateful. These women were funny, bitter, real, optimistic and helpful. You all made my life so much better, richer, thoughtful and more fun. I really can’t thank you all enough.

2. The importance of making occasions special

I tended to slog through life as if everything was a chore to be gotten through. That is a natural tendency of mine. It’s probably some sort of genetic thing, plus a legacy of the pain and tragedy endured in my 30s. But this year we did a few things that were SPECIAL. We went to Disneyland, we saw my parents for Thanksgiving, my daughter and I saw The Nutcracker for the first time, I went to a concert with Esperanza and Bodega on my birthday, Darcy got a hotel suite for our anniversary. Those moments when I was able to break free from routine and enjoy either the wonder of others or be silly or live glamorously: those were joyful moments and I think I did a pretty good job of inhabiting them fully. It’s those moments that I remember as I look back on 2011.

3. The lessons of “Status Anxiety”

I tried to embrace different philosophies in my attempt to seek joy. Most of them didn’t help me, and a comment Lut Cass made stuck with me for the most part:

“I find that philosophy was invented by men who had too few household chores.”

Isn’t that awesome?

One book, though, I did enjoy: “Status Anxiety”, a prescient slim tome written almost a decade ago. Botton encourages people to not keep up with the Joneses, but to live a simpler, slower life devoted to more bohemian ideals. He also taught me that spending time with my peers in my area, who only really talk about working out, how perfect their kids are, remodeling and starving themselves is not good for me. Each time I would return from speaking to people like this, a little bit of my soul would die. That’s why the blogosphere is so necessary to me. Y’all are real and down-to-earth.

4. I love writing

Blogging, which some people consider writing and others don’t, is something that makes me tremendously happy. Everyone in my family is a published writer (my brother was nominated for a Pushcart this year, my dad is a well-known Bay Area journalist and novelist, my mother has won several major poetry contests) so I was the rebel who worked for the “man” and turned my back on my heritage. I so didn’t want to be a writer, mostly because I would never measure up to my lineage. Now I know that while I am by far the lesser writer of the Carrolls, I don’t really care anymore. I just love what I’m doing.

5. Laughing is really important

Whether it was:

– Texting with Esperanza about what cars are the douchiest. (Her: Audis. Me: Range Rovers.) And our bottom fives. (1. War 2. The Babble Top 100 Mom Blogs List 3. Social inequity 4. The Kardashians 5. Disease)
– Hilarious Tweets from The Bloggess

– Laughing at Darcy’s stories
– Listening to the epic tale of the time well-known, sincere, urbane Brooklyn musicians Matt and Kim played at a last-minute concert promoted and organized by my brother. The concert featured a buddy’s first (and last) performance as “Mr Hand”: he played samples of obscure dialogue like “I smell a rat” over loud, techno beats – and Caged Match to the Death. Talk about a mismatch of audience. “Kim looked really scared.”
Cake Wrecks

SO that’s what I learned. In short, laugh, have friends, enjoy the fun times and don’t hang out with douchebags.

What did 2011 teach you? What’s your current Bottom 5?

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Day 27: Does Adopting the Status Anxiety Philosophies Help?

Back to Living Joyfully…

This month I decided to try to adopt the philosophy of Alain de Botton to try to live more happily. In a nutshell, this means trying to let go of keeping up with the materialism of the Jones and living a life where you are more appreciative of what you have.

I guess I’m kind of shallow, because I have to admit this has been really, really hard. It’s not that I have a need to consume, per say (although I wouldn’t say no to a trip to Anthropologie right now). But I’m having massive issues with eating.

My brother told me a story today. He and his wife are on a frugal kick right now as well. He was at school today and my SIL called and asked if he wanted to go get lunch with her. He said yes, of course. When she picked him up he asked where she wanted to go out to eat. “Home!” she said and neatly turned the car in the direction of their condo. My brother said his heart sank.

I laughed in appreciation. I’ve detailed my own love of eating in restaurants. This month, although we were supposed to eat out exactly zero times, we ate out twice. Those meals were the highlight of January, so far! I’ve realized that it doesn’t matter if it’s Chez Panisse or IHOP. I just like the experience of making a choice of what I want to eat, having someone bring it to me and not having to clean the mess. I also think it’s better for us as a family. Dinner is so hectic at home, the kids have a million requests and it’s just not very enjoyable any of us.

So I’ve learned that eating out is important.

Part two: what I did like about “Status Anxiety” – tomorrow

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