I try to keep up with Penelope Trunk's blog
, partly because she has some good advice, partly because she's so freaking crazy it's entertaining, but mostly because she makes me think.
She says stuff that makes me instantly angry, and then I get to think about why I'm angry, and whether I'm angry because she's challenging my assumptions, or because her assumptions are so, so very wrong the only appropriate response is a verbal smack-upside-the-head. Sort of like the verbal indignation I could get into in the comment threads over at DovBear's, before all the good trolls left.
Her most recent posts have me rethinking whether I really want to be happy - given that I've set myself to be able to be happy OR right, but not both.
Do I want to be happy, by accepting the fact that Bad Cohen really is permanently disabled, and re-imagining what our future life will be like, given that he can't work for pay or at home at anything like even his former capacity (he's a lazy git, but then so am I, so that used to be ok), or do I want to keep feeling oppressed and indignant and confused that *everyone* around me seems to be more well-off, financially?
Penelope links to Ben Bernanke's commencement speech at some Southern college, where he mentions (of course) Easterlin's studies on happiness. Have you ever noticed that you can be perfectly happy living in cheap quarters, being poor (the Western definition of "poor" of course, in which you still have running water and heat), as well as with a good expensive Scotch and a nice house, etc? We adjust. So long as we're not worse off than the majority of the people we spend time with, we think we're doing pretty well.
I was happy being poor and struggling after college, because so were all my friends.
But what happens when you're 35, working all the time at a job that doesn't interest you, just so you can make enough to pay for daycare and medical bills (and maybe heat), when all your friends are doing fascinating jobs, living in beautiful and/or giant houses, taking vacations, etc.?
Maybe I need to make friends with some single moms who are struggling. Or find some other grad students with kids who are broke and stressed out.
But of course, I really love living somewhere quiet, somewhere with a garden, somewhere where I don't have to feel constantly bombarded by noise and other people. And that takes money (or a family house, like the one we're squatting in now--although I'd prefer one with up-to-code electricity and plumbing and insulation).
The more we focus on what we can't control, the more miserable we get. (there's science behind this, I'm just too lazy a git to go find a link)
SO, I figure I can jump-start happiness either by convincing myself I'm actually in control of what's happening, by getting involved in Bad Cohen's doctoral program search and choosing to embrace the next really sucky step in our lives, or by giving up on the idea of personal wealth and stability and focusing on very, very small things I CAN actually control, like what I eat, or repainting the kitchen, or trying not to smack The Kid when he drives me crazy for the fifth time in a single hour.
Clearly, reading Penelope Trunk is likely to make you just as crazy as she is.
Don't say you weren't warned.