This post is part of an occasional series, where we feature cool stories about being Awesomely Awake, grateful and full of hope as a family.
Read more of these interviews here.
I recently finished Gretchen Rubin’s book, “Happier at Home: Kiss More, Jump More, Abandon a Project, Read Samuel Johnson, and My Other Experiments in the Practice of Everyday Life.”
Each month, Rubin tackles a different theme as she experiments with concrete, manageable resolutions—and this time, she coaxes her family to try some resolutions, as well. Rubin focuses on one theme each month as she experiments with concrete, management solutions that she also invites her family to attempt with her as well. She takes on this project for a whole year. Considering being happy at home is all we focus on here at Awesomely Awake, I thought it would be great to interview her. I am honored that she agreed!
I will let the interview and the book speak for itself, for the most part, but I will say that reading this book opened my eyes to some of the more trivial things that I could do better at home. There are things I could eliminate or do differently to make life happier — for my entire family.
Me: Thank you, again, Gretchen for agreeing to this interview for Awesomely Awake, a community for intentional and creative parents who seek out happier days at home. After reading Happier at Home, I instantly wanted to start my own project like this that would tackle some of the things that I struggle with at home. It is an honor to have you here with us today.
1. Let’s start with your First Personal Commandment “Be Gretchen.” You have written in both books that being yourself — living authentically — is your greatest happiness tip. Can you give us three or four tips on how to be ourselves, especially at home?
- Remember that just because something is fun for someone else doesn’t mean it’s fun for you – and vice versa. Drinking wine, shopping, doing crossword puzzles, skiing … these are all “fun” things that aren’t fun for me.
- Know what suits you. I feel like a killjoy for turning off my daughters’ music when I walk into a room, but I’m very sensitive to background noise, and it makes me very crabby. I’ve come to acknowledge that I do better without music playing.
- Ask yourself, “Why am I doing this?” One of the biggest wastes of time is to do something well that you don’t have to do at all. Many things we do out of habit, or because someone else thinks they’re important. Do you really want to do holiday cards? Do you really want to volunteer for the bake sale? Do you really want to have a date night with your husband? Make sure that your time, energy, and money are being used for the things that really represent your values?
2. I loved the fact that you are a writer and a mother and yet you wrote in your book, “that your ordinary day is precious.” Tell us a little about your average, ordinary day and what it’s like at your house.
I get up at 6:00 to work for an hour before the rest of my family gets up. At 7:00, I get up my daughters, make breakfast, and then walk my younger daughter to school at 7:45. I usually go to the gym after that, then spend the rest of the day researching, writing, answering emails, doing interviews, having lunch or coffee dates, etc.
3. You conclude “Happiness at Home” with the intention that NOW is NOW. Awesomely Awake was created on the notion that all we ever have is right now and that we simply can’t let it slip away. And yet you also confess that you often just want to work — to get stuff done and that surrendering to the moment is very difficult at times. How do you walk the very fine line of being productive as a mother and writer while also enjoying the moment?
This is a constant tension for me. It helps just to keep this aim uppermost in my mind. When I have the urge to march around barking out orders, or to sneak into my office, I remind myself of how important this part of life is. It helps me to schedule specific times for it – I have a Wednesday adventure with my older daughter, as I describe in Happier at Home, and we have “Game Time” on Saturdays, when we drink cocoa and play games, and other things like that. I also take a lot of photos and organize mementos meaningfully (which I find much harder than just saving it all, which is my impulse.)
Gretchen Rubin is the author of several books, including the #1 New York Times and international bestseller, “The Happiness Project“—an account of the year she spent test-driving the wisdom of the ages, the current scientific studies, and the lessons from popular culture about how to be happier. On her popular blog, The Happiness Project, she reports on her daily adventures in the pursuit of happiness. Visit The Happiness Project and learn more about finding your own happiness.