I’m working on my Happiness Project, and you could have one, too! Everyone’s project will look different, but it’s the rare person who can’t benefit. Join in — no need to catch up, just jump in right now. Each Friday’s post will help you think about your own happiness project.
Some people think it’s ridiculous to celebrate holidays like Mothers’ Day and Fathers’ Day – that these are just commercial holidays forced on us by clever marketers. But I think it’s nice to be prompted to think lovingly about your mother and your father, and the mothers and fathers in your life.
While writing about being blamed for things and scolded for little transgressions in her convent, she noted, “I noticed this: when one performs her duty, never excusing herself, no one knows it; on the contrary, imperfections appear immediately.”
So true, right? You do something perfectly and reliably, nobody notices. You make a mistake, everyone complains.
This is particularly true of parenthood, which involves a myriad of tasks, small but pesky and relentless, that need to be done without fail. “I packed lunch for four years,” a friend told me, “and all I hear about – to this day – is that time in first grade when I forgot to put in my son’s dessert.”
It’s true that parents don’t get a gold star for everything they do right, but often, just hear about it when they mess up. But it’s also true that, as my mother once told me, “The things that go wrong often make the best memories.” Here’s an example.
Of the countless times in my childhood when my mother drove carpool, or picked me up to go to an orthodontist’s appointment, or wherever, I have only the haziest recollections. All I remember is the time when she was very late picking me up. But this is an important memory.
It was a snowy day when I was in grade school — fourth grade, I think — and my mother was late. She’s completely reliable, so I was anxious about the fact that she wasn’t there, and I was embarrassed about being left over when all the other kids had gone home, and I was worried about what would happen if she didn’t show up. She didn’t come, and she didn’t come, and finally I was sent to wait in the library, in the main building of the school, until someone came to get me.
It got later and later. I could feel the building emptying out. Still no sign of my mother. The snow was getting heavier. I was getting more and more anxious.
Finally, I saw my mother coming up the steps to the library, and I had to fight back the urge to burst into tears from sheer relief. She was staggering under the weight of my sister, who was probably four or five years old, both of them covered with snow, and she was slipping around on the unshovelled walkway as she battled her way to the door.
And I thought to myself, “Nothing can ever stop my mother from coming to get me.”
I remember that her car had become stuck on a patch of ice, but I have no recollection of what happened next. Did my father come to get us, did the school receptionist give us a ride? I’ve never asked my mother about that afternoon, so perhaps my memory isn’t even accurate. But that’s how I remember it.
And that’s how I think about my mother.
* From the Department of Happiness and Money: a new study suggests that handling money eases both physical and emotional pain — even if it’s not your money!
* Yet another shameless plug: Mothers’ Day is May 9, and a lot of people have told me that they’re giving The Happiness Project to the mothers in their life as a gift. Great! Also, if you’d like me to send your gift recipient a personalized, signed bookplate, just send me the address and name, and I’ll mail it right off. Or ask for one for yourself! I’m happy to send as many as you want. My email is grubin [at] gretchenrubin [.com].