A couple months ago, I stumbled across a couple of online discussions of Gretchen Rubin's book The Happiness Project. Feeling skeptical (oh, please, not another navel-gazer telling forth the virtues of wandering the world and ditching everyone and everything that doesn't exist solely for her happiness) yet intrigued by the chatter, I tried the first chapter on Kindle.
Then I picked up the full volume at the library and buried my nose in it. Gretchen Rubin had lots to say that I found pretty compelling, honestly. Including the argument that making an effort to be happy is less narcissistic than it seems. If you're happy yourself, it's a whole lot easier to make the folks around you happy. Think about that for a half a sec. Whom do you most like to be around? Who lifts you up? Who's most likely to rejoice with you in your successes or genuinely feel your pain without making it all about them?
The book left me thinking. And thinking some more. And making a few changes. For example: Rubin confesses to being an underbuyer. An underbuyer? I thought. You mean there's a word for people like this? People like me, who can't bring themselves to buy toothpaste or waxed paper at the store, even when it's on sale, until they're absolutely out of it and no-holds-barred need the thing right now? And then don't have the time to run to the store? People who know the bigger quantity of, say, organic chicken feed is a better deal, ounce-for-ounce, than the half-size bag, but buy the half-size bag anyway because it just sounds cheaper right now?
AND HERE I THOUGHT I WAS ALL ALONE IN THE WORLD!
Spend out, Rubin urges. Which is not the same as, live beyond your means. She's talking about losing your fear of stocking up, of having what you need on hand before the need becomes dire. About using the good things (the nicer china, for example) now instead of leaving it stored away for that pie-in-the-sky "some day." And also, about letting of the need to obsess over whether every single expenditure of time and money is "worth it."
I remembered these words the other day when it became clear to me that 75% of the large batch of peanut butter chocolate chip cookies I had made had mysteriously disappeared during a window of time when about ten different children had occupied my home. I wanted to sputter, "HEY! Don't you guys know that we have to SAVE those cookies?! Can't you make a batch of cookies LAST more than twenty four hours?!"
Spend out, a voice in my head whispered.
As if my cookie-making time is just sooooo valuable. I could have been calming the riots in Egypt or bringing lasting peace to Afghanistan during that time, you know. Oh, and those ingredients! So expensive! The hidden caviar and cardamom tucked inside each cookie! What ever will I do if Michelle Obama stops by for tea and I don't have a day-old cookie to offer her ... because my kids and their friends were happily wolfing them down???
Now, if you'll excuse me, I hear there's a sale on milk at my neighborhood grocery store. With all those little cookie eaters running around here, I'd better go stock up. Happily.
(Cookie photo from allrecipes.com. Yum.)