I just finished reading “Happy at Last: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Finding Joy” I’m not planning on reviewing this book – though I did enjoy it. I wanted to focus on a particular passage that struck me:
Some argue that the loss in happiness due to unemployment is actually worse than that due to divorce. It can lead to passivity – a lot of television watching – and alcohol consumption. Even in countries like Holland and Sweden, which give the unemployed good financial support, there is still a drop in happiness, health, and mental health. And you don’t get used to it, even after two years; and when you go back to work, there is a scar, some permanent damage to our capacity to enjoy our work.
I’m not going to deny it, being unemployed is tough. There are days where I have what I call “household ADD”. I find myself wandering from room to room doing little things here and there but not really finishing anything. It is weird, especially for me because I am usually pretty focused. Some days are worse, there are times where I feel more than a little hopeless. But, that’s ok. I wallow in it for an hour or two, and then I get over it.
However, it hasn’t been all bad. I have a great network and a lot of good friends who have done their best to help me in my search, but the economy isn’t really cooperating. That’s not their fault, nor my own. Thankfully my family can live on one salary for an extended period of time. And even more thankfully, my husband is still gainfully employed.
I’ve also done a few things to maintain a schedule and to help provide a daily purpose. I usually do not turn on the TV until after my husband comes home from work. I don’t need it to keep me company – during the day it is just a bunch of mindless junk anyway. Occasionally I’ll watch “Cash Cab” while I’m on the Stairmaster because I find it fun to play along. Every morning I eat a healthy breakfast to start my day. I always workout for about an hour in the morning. There is nothing that lifts my spirits more than a good workout. I have days where I don’t want to do it, but I find that if I drag myself into the exercise room and just “do a little something” that I’ll complete a full workout and feel much better afterwards. I’ve also come to love my local library. Reading is a great way to expand my mind and I’m in the habit of reading about a book a week now. Best of all, it’s FREE! I hope that I can continue this once I start working again.
Having all this extra time has allowed for a lot of reflection as well. There have been times in my life where I’ve been on that hedonic treadmill, pure and simple. I wanted a new car, some nicer clothes, a better house and so on. I’m not a big “shopper” in the usual sense, but when it comes to some of the bigger wants I’ve had them all. I’ve come to realize that they never make me happy – they typically add more stress. New car? Don’t get it dinged in the parking lot! Bigger house – how much are my taxes?!?!! Come to find out I don’t need a lot of stuff to be happy. You know what I felt most grateful for yesterday? Here are the top 3 (and there are many more):
- Napping on the floor in the sun with a really warm purring black cat
- Eating eggs benedict and steamed broccoli with hollandaise sauce for dinner
- Feeling the satisfaction of having a clean house
What is missing here? Everything to do with money, career, and possessions. I’m a driven person. I’m not patient. I’ve been told that I can be too competitive. When I look at my life and who I am, those parts of me aren’t really the highlights. They’ve made me appear successful on the outside. What makes me really successful – and what will make me survive this period in my life – is all about who I am on the inside.