“I’m ordering for some books from Amazon,” he said. “Do you want me to get anything for you?”
Now, the Big Man and I order from Amazon independently. For one thing, I always wait until I have enough items to qualify for free shipping; he doesn’t.
So it was unusual for him to ask me that question. I kept thinking about it later, and finally asked myself—what’s the big deal? The Big Man is often thoughtful (more often than I). Why was I so touched by this little gesture?
I realized: because it was out of the ordinary.
There’s no way to know, but I wonder if his action is tied to the Happiness Project. I’ve been trying to bite my tongue, to resist nagging, to pitch in more, to do the little tasks he particularly dislikes, to be more enthusiastic and appreciative.
For example, speaking of book-buying, I stopped nagging him about the fact that he sometimes orders thrillers in hardback, several times he has bought a book without looking to see that we already owned it, and—did I mention this?—he doesn’t worry about qualifying for free shipping. I decided to let it go. After all, as a writer, I should hardly complain about people buying too many books.
I’m very well-acquainted with the feeling that if only people would be nicer to me, more thoughtful, more considerate, more full of praise and appreciation and admiration, then I would be able to reciprocate.
My sister and I have a phrase for this: “I need to get a present in the mail.” That means that we need some unexpected affirmation, some thoughtful treat from somewhere, to buoy us up.
But the fact is, I can’t make someone send me a present in the mail. The only person I control is myself. So did my happiness-project-inspired changes in behavior make me happier?
Yes, they did—even completely apart from any change in behavior on the part of the Big Man.
Big surprise: it turns out that being a nagging, pestering, shirking person isn’t the best road to happiness. So changing my behavior made me feel happier.
But, in an added bonus, I think my changes have made changes in the Big Man, too. It seems to me that he’s become more tender and patient.
Now, that’s not very scientific standard of measurement. Maybe I’m just seeing what I want to see. Maybe—but who cares? If I think we’re happier, then we are happier.
Now that I’m focusing on the Amazon moment, however, I realize that I didn’t say a word to the Big Man about how much I appreciated his consideration. Now I need to tell him.