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The Wide Range of Emotions Movement (or the Shit That Happened Jar)

Wide Range of Emotions Jar

Once again, I started leaving a comment on someone else’s post that got a tad too long.  I decided to break it out and write my own post rather than take up all of her real estate by plopping down what amounts to a house-size comment on her property.  So go over and read Justine’s Happiness Jar post.

Like Justine, this is exactly the type of project I would bookmark and then never make.  And if someone made me one, I have a feeling that it would sit unused on my kitchen counter or desk.  As I read her post, I realized that it’s one of those things I am drawn to and annoyed by at the very same time.

Part of it is because it is inherently unhelpful with a false helpful exterior.  If you scratch with your nail at the “this is helpful!” surface, you can see just how useless the jar is within three seconds.  It tells you — in retrospect — that you were happy at times this past year.  Which should be apparent if you are doing any sort of exercise which demands that you look back at your year, such as looking at an old calendar or rereading your blog or thinking.  The majority of us can rationally say even during a shitty year that some good things happened in the last 365 days.  We do not really need a jar to collect those things and remind us on December 31st.  So… what?  So we can have tangible proof of happiness in case we don’t believe ourselves when we tell our internal self that we didn’t spend the whole year weeping in darkness, even if it sometimes feels that way? (Yes, I’m looking at you, 2003.)

Perhaps Alton Brown’s unitasker manifesto has seeped into all facets of my life, but I want the clutter around me to serve a purpose.  Make me an “I don’t know what to eat” jar where I can drop menus from restaurants I like and recipes and slips of paper recounting particularly good meals.  Whenever nothing sounds good to eat, I can open the jar and rummage through there for inspiration.  Or make me an “I want to write but I don’t know what to write” jar where I can drop post ideas and story ideas and character names, and whenever I have the urge to write and yet don’t know what to write, I would reach in there and grab out the ideas.

Those two jars would be useful.  They would move my life forward instead of asking me to stand in place and look back.

But that’s not really why I’m down on this jar because there are people out there who convince themselves that every moment of their year was dreck and they perhaps could use a jar so they could remember that good things happened too.  Even so, I’m down on this jar because I’m a tad sick of the happiness bandwagon.

Which could just be the bitter, black-hearted punk rocker who resides inside my left ventricle popping up to Bikini Kill your Pinterest ass.

Or it could be the realistic side of me that believes that all these happiness-focused projects are to the detriment of our well-roundness.  Why are we so obsessed with happiness?  We have people writing obsessively about how we have to be happy as if it’s the only emotion we should experience. Why are there so many Pinterest projects that focus on happiness?  I like to be as happy as the next person, but I fear this movement to be happy all the time, to focus on happiness all the time, to strive only towards happiness and wash every other emotion off our body as if it’s someone else’s vomit.

I fear it because this movement assigns a value to happiness, which means it also inversely assigns a value to non-happiness.  Every other emotion then becomes something we want to sweep under the rug, move away from, get rid of, get past.  And no, no one wants to exist in a constant state of sadness, but if that is your life at the moment, you shouldn’t receive the message that your life is a grey mess with no Pinterest worth.  That your life is something that people should want to avoid, work past, get out of.  Is the type of existence we should want to change and move away from.  Has less value.

Humans need to experience a wide range of emotions.  Doing so creates empathy.  Teaching people to focus on happiness doesn’t create empathy, it reduces us to striving for one emotional note.  A great emotional note, but a single emotional note.  I want to teach my kids that there are a lot of emotions in this world — we even have some that we don’t have a name for that takes us paragraphs to describe.  Because when we only teach happiness, we take away coping tools, we create a fear of sadness (and — I believe — that extends to become a fear of mental illness in general, especially depression), and we make them Stepford-like individuals who only want to focus on the pleasant and never want to do the hard work of relationships.  Since, you know, healthy relationships can sometimes be messy.  Only unhealthy, surface relationships never dirty your white kid gloves and look happy from the outside all the time.

So I don’t want to only focus on happiness.  I don’t particularly want to feel sadness, and I don’t aim to feel it, but when shit happens, I allow myself to feel it fully.  Even when it’s scary.  Even when it feels terrible.  Because I think not doing so is dangerous.  I allow myself to feel boredom, to feel hopelessness, to feel anger, to feel annoyed.  My goal is to not allow myself to stagnant in any single emotion, nor is it to talk myself into an emotion.  I don’t talk myself into anger over things I’m not enraged about any more than I want to talk myself into happiness if I don’t feel bluebirds fluttering around my heart.

If I was going to make a jar at all, it would be a “shit that happened” jar, and I would dump everything from the year into it.  The good, the bad, the little tangible reminders of the whole year.  All of it.  Because it would be nice on December 31st to say, “whoa, I had a year.”  Not, “I had a lot of happiness this year!” but “I experienced a pu-pu platter of emotions this year, and that experience makes me a better writer, a better friend, a better community member.”  Because one I think has value to all the people around me, and one I think has value only to myself.

Though I actually probably won’t make the “shit that happened” jar mostly because I have a blog, and my blog is my shit that happened jar.  Every December 31st, I can go back through my blog and see what happened to me that year.  And I hate clutter.  And a jar would just be clutter.  Unless it’s a “what should I eat” jar or that writing idea jar.  Both of those ideas rock, so excuse me because I have to go Pinterest them.

P.S. I would love to see the focus also shift from personal happiness to creating situations that could lead to happiness for others.  But that’s a post for a different day.


1 KeAnne { 01.27.13 at 7:46 am }

First of all, love Alton Brown! He’s the smartest person on the Food Network & I wish he’d do more shows instead of hosting.

I’m suspicious of happiness or at least this unending quest for it. I fully support allowing yourself to feel the gamut of emotions. How can you know what happiness is if you have never felt despair? How can you appreciate it if you haven’t felt anything else? It’s like we’re becoming enslaved to happiness and the pursuit and maintenance of it. How exhausting. If you aren’t happy all the time, does that mean you have failed?

Maybe I just see life as too complex for a binary classification as happy or unhappy.

2 ANDMom { 01.27.13 at 8:26 am }

I don’t see a Happiness Jar as a bad thing, or a focus on only happiness. I see it as a way to remind yourself on those bad days, those bad weeks, months, years … that good things are happening too. To take you OUT of your “nothing good ever happens” mindset by making you mindful of the good and happy. It gives you something tangible to remind you when your memories are caked with the shit that happened.

And maybe that’s not useful to every person at every stage of life, but … I can see it’s purpose, really. Not to be HAPPY HAPPY all the time, but to see that in the shit, there IS happy. Because sometimes it’s all too easy to focus on the sad, the grief, the despair, the frustration and gloss right on by the first rose of spring, that funny joke, that perfect song on the radio.

I know for me … if I didn’t have thousands of pictures of the first two years my twins were alive, I would not remember all the good. That is my “happy jar”, the proof that we had tens of thousands of good moments even when my memory only dredges up the bad. And I need that tangible proof sometimes, not to erase the horrible things, but to temper them, to balance them.

3 Meghan { 01.27.13 at 8:44 am }

I totally agree with yuu that we focus WAY too much on happiness. Being happy is good and all, but we have to learn not only how to sit with the other emotions, but ways to deal with and recover from the especially difficult ones. Similar to the whole ‘every kid gets a trophy’ phenomenon, I think we’re doing our children a huge disservice.

4 clare { 01.27.13 at 9:29 am }

i think I need a jar of writing ideas ASAP prestuffed with all the things I can’t remember about this darn thesis — totally brillant idea mel! Same with the food ideas one. I might just tape a list on the inside of a few cabinets and the fridge!

and I agree.. we need a full range of emotions for so many reasons. I am always amazed when people say strongly judgmental things about sad people, grieving people, and depressed folks (or better — people who happen to be sad or grieving or depressed at a given moment) and I think ‘wow’ have you never tasted that particular experience??? one girl honestly said, no, not till her dad died, then she realized how differently she saw people going through such things. Then I feel sad, because nothing make me feel more alive and more joyous as when I’ve moved through a dark cloud and get to the sunshine on the other side. I would never give up the hard times, fewer woudl be okay.. feeling more confidence and in control during them would be great, but never would I want to have them wiped out of my existence

5 Kathy { 01.27.13 at 9:41 am }

Very interesting post/take on putting things on a jar. I will be back to comment on your and Justine’s posts, but wanted you to know I was here and read this and love when you think outside the box or the jar in this instance. It challenges me to do the same.

6 Ellen K. { 01.27.13 at 9:51 am }

A happiness jar would sit empty on my countertop for probably a year, at which point I’d take off the labels and move it to my vase cabinet with the vague idea that I might someday host the kind of party with simple mason jars to hold everything, with a cute tag in handwriting that is much nicer than my own. This is not because I’m NOT happy, but I am too private; my happy memories aren’t for public display. I have a day planner for that. Also, I’ve never liked “inspire” decorating and crafting. (I agree that we are getting overly focused on happiness.)

The restaurant jar and the brainstorming jar: now those I would like. Also, I wouldn’t mind a few more empty glass jars in assorted sizes for this pretend party, and some cute ribbons as well. : )

7 GeekChic { 01.27.13 at 9:56 am }

I frequently rail against the cult of positivity in North America. No I’m NOT positive, happy and glowing all the time, thanks.

I’m quite fond of Barbara Ehrenreich’s “Bright-Sided” which delves more deeply into this issue. Her essay “Welcome to Cancerland” (which you can find on the web) is a good introduction (and is re-printed and expanded upon in the book).

8 Ellen { 01.27.13 at 10:35 am }

Every night at dinner, we go around the table and mention something we are grateful for that day. While it has the whiff of “happiness,” the interesting thing about grateful is that it doesn’t have to be something good. One kid at our table recently mentioned an injury and said he was grateful it wasn’t worse; there’s a part of me that would like to capture these ‘grateful’ moments. I think they much more interesting than bits of happiness.

9 Kate (Bee In The Bonnet) { 01.27.13 at 11:07 am }

That postscript says it all… I really do think that’s part of the larger problem. I cannot stand all the inspirational quotes (most of which actually make no sense when you parse them out… I swear you could tuck the words ‘dream’, ‘inspire’, ‘soul’, ‘happiness’, and ‘love’ into a bunch of other words, paste it onto a pretty picture, and that shit would get passed around Pinterest like the plague…), mostly because they all seem to focus on what a shitty person you are for not focusing on living some sort of extreme fantasy happiness. And in truth, as you point out, genuine happiness has so much less to do with creating happiness for ourselves and more to do with creating situations where happiness is possible for many.

But anyway, yeah. The happiness jar is a nice idea, because I *do* think it’s so much easier to remember the struggles than it is to remember the pleasures. And I think that’s because we really do spend a lot of our mental energy on getting ourselves out of those struggles. We don’t let happiness saturate our brains because it’s a pleasurable state to exist in– we don’t focus on thinking about what it would take to move us out of that state. But the sad and shitty times? We really think hard about what we’re lacking, or what would need to change to exit Shitsville, tout suite, and so when it comes down to the end of the year, we can very easily say, “Oh, 2007 was the worst year ever. I was in so much physical pain, and I had no money and I hated my job.” instead of saying, “2007 was rough, but hey! It’s the year I started my blog! And the year I met lots of cool people, and the year I began my path toward parenthood and the year I met so-and-so, who is now one of my best friends, and the year that there was that one night when we sat around a candlelit room and ate frozen pizza and listened to Stan Getz while discussing renovation plans for our house.”

So while I definitely don’t agree with such heavy focus on remembering our own happiness and creating our own happiness and ignoring all the hard stuff, I suppose I can understand taking the time every so often to force ourselves to spend at least as much time mentally rolling ourselves about in the stink of our happy times as we do pondering what it would take to get us *back* to those happy times.

And for the record, I think the dinner idea jar is flippin’ brilliant. Grab yourself a mason jar and some chalkboard paint and some tongue depressors, put that shit on a piece of pretty fabric or some old barnwood, write up a “tutorial”, and post that link to Pinterest. People would go apeshit for that. Make it extra cheesy, like, call it “Dinner Dreams!” or “My Heart’s Inspiration”, and you’d find instant Pinterest fame. Do it!

10 LN { 01.27.13 at 11:17 am }

At dinner, I always ask my kindergartener his most favorite and least favorite thing from the day. His most favorite is always right at the surface, something silly, or fun, or particularly unusual that happened at school. But his least favorite is always much more difficult for him to access, if at all. Is it that he is just a positive person (I’ve heard that such people exist)? Is it that he doesn’t dwell on negative things (like his mother does)? Or is he guarding these least favorite things? They are part of his private separate school life, and he no longer wants to share everything with me. (I might try to “fix” things, or judge the situation incorrectly, or demonstrate in my reaction that I disapprove in some way.) Or is his least favorite thing being with me, and he is protecting me or being polite by not mentioning it?

11 Battynurse { 01.27.13 at 1:13 pm }

This is a great post. I like the idea of a shit that happens jar. I can see where a happiness jar might be a useful short term project for someone who tends to be very pessimistic or is in a place where they are unable to see anything good but as a year long quest to only see the happiness, not so much.

12 Delenn { 01.27.13 at 1:32 pm }

I am mixed on the jar. I pretty much agree with you on the whole “happiness” bandwagon stuff. But I do know that the past few years have been rough for my family (and others). Each year ends, and part of my soul wants to say “good riddance” to that year…and I know that it wasn’t all bad, nor all good. Part of me thinks a Shit Happens jar would be more appropriate.

In the end, I agree that neither work for me, because that is what my blog is for–to read over the entire year for both the ups and the downs.

(I just wish the downs were not so plentiful lately!)

Thanks for this post.

13 Justine { 01.27.13 at 2:28 pm }

HA! You’ve just made me feel tons better about my own ambivalence. For reasons that are different from what originally bothered me about it, but equally helpful in winning the argument with my husband about whether I’m really a negative person.

I need both of your jars, too. Right now one of them lives on Pinterest (I don’t use that one much, either, to be honest), and the other is a collection of notes in a very messy word document, other people’s posts, and NaBloPoMo. The jar might be a slightly better method of organization for the second of those two.

LOVE the postscript. That would be a project I’d happily work on.

14 Megan { 01.27.13 at 3:07 pm }

I agree to a point. I think that we put a lot of eggs in the happiness basket, and that we tend to focus a lot on trying to be happy at all costs. But I also think that a lot of people really get into their own heads and descend into this dark place where they only focus on the drama and the poison and the unhappiness. I like to think the happiness jar idea is for them – but maybe it should be labeled the “other perspectives” jar. Stepping back from yourself a little bit helps, I think – when you put your face too close to a poem you can only read one or two words and you don’t see the beauty of it until you “zoom out.”

15 Audrey { 01.27.13 at 7:03 pm }

I’d look at that jar full of paper slips and think if I made some jam that would REALLY be a jar full o happiness!

(love AB, love the What to eat jar idea even if you were kidding)

16 a { 01.27.13 at 7:29 pm }

Yeah, I don’t get this focus on one emotion. I’m more concerned with doing things that are interesting or fun or things that need to get done. I don’t worry about whether I’m happy about it – I’d rather just be happy to notice when I am happy. Obviously, I’m good at noticing when I’m unhappy (and making sure everyone else notices too! :D) but I think I notice when I’m content, bored, happy, etc. too.

That said, I’m not interested in Pinterest because I find “inspirational” stuff unappealing to me. I guess I just don’t like being led by the nose. So, my view of all of these sorts of things is that they are completely useless. I don’t do introspection too much either.

17 Pam { 01.27.13 at 9:14 pm }

Hi Sweet Mel,

You hit the spot for me somehow with this post — I’m in that place where I can’t even read the comments before so please forgive my reiteration. When I first read this — before I read the entire thing — I thought to myself that it reminded me of the suggestions given in a marriage therapy book — it said, basically, that the human mind tends to rewrite everything to fit its negative narrative script when things are going south — and so its useful to look through old photos — have a reminder of the good — to bring yourself there and rewire the pathways going awry — (I think I need to look through old photos right now) — but then after reading your post ( and very nearly copying and pasting the Bikini Kill section and just writing “YES, THIS”) I thought about dinner out with a friend the other night (an old high school friend) who said, after I had shared the current state of dissolution in my family of origin “you know, no one else has stories like this of their familly” — and it made my mood go dark — as if it could go darker — because it is isolating to feel as if you are the only one — (and rationally, of course, I know it’s not true) BUT I have begun to feel that the internet is beginning to reflect a very shallow view of human experience — that in being the creators of our own brands –rather than shine the light in the darkest corners — we’ve polished up the brightest spots and focused tightly on those. No one picks up Martha Stewart to read about her failed marriage (if there was one) or her missteps as a mother (if there were any) — they pick it up to project themselves into a world of farm stands in the Hamptons and luminarias made of ice.

I’m tired of farm stands and luminarias.

I think we have a responsibility to live an examined life. It would be a really interesting world if everyone wrote a post about why they were on Pinterest — what it was that they were escaping from — what kept them up at night, what dogged them from childhood, what did they, in their hearts, believe of themselves — and where do you suppose they learned it…

Now that, that I would find inspiring.



18 Siochana { 01.27.13 at 9:16 pm }

Love this post! Especially your point that we need to experience all kinds of emotions to learn empathy.

19 Stephanie { 01.27.13 at 9:47 pm }

I actually like the idea of a happiness jar. I wouldn’t use one, but I can see the beauty in it. What I hate is the whole Pinterest culture. It’s not enough to reflect quietly on things that make us happy or grateful. No, we have to take a soft-focus close-up picture of something that loudly proclaims just how HAPPY we are. And that picture has to be pretty enough – or we have to be influential enough – that it gets pinned again and again and again, so that everyone can be loudly, publicly HAPPY (and, of course, so that the person who created the pinnable picture in the first place can get lots and lots of pagehits). Pinterest was cool at first…just a place to keep track of stuff. But it’s morphed into this twee, narcissistic alternate reality where women spend hours creating pinnable pictures (complete with blog watermark, of course!) so that other women can spend hours manically pinning pictures of stuff that ISN’T EVEN REAL. *deep breath* OK, sorry, I got a little bit carried away. Apparently Pinterest won’t be making it into my happy jar.

20 Chickenpig { 01.27.13 at 11:09 pm }

HAH I love this.

I have a FB friend who is always going on and on and on about “Finding his Bliss” here and “finding his bliss” there. Blah blah blah. I finally broke down and asked him “What the hell is it with all this Bliss shit?” We don’t have a right to happiness..or bliss…or any other emotion. Give me the All the Shit that Happened jar any day. I don’t need a jar to remind me of the happiness I’ve experienced any more than I need a jar to remember the misery. At least not yet 🙂 G-d help me when I can’t even remember the stuff that happened a year ago. Geez.

21 Shelby { 01.28.13 at 12:47 am }

When my little guy is feeling a lot of emotions, which, as a three-year-old happens often and usually within the span of three seconds, I try very deliberately to say, “it’s OK to feel angry (insert whatever emotion, but usually angry)” because it has been pretty clear that all states deemed ‘non-happy’ are to be avoided at all costs. As someone who tries hard not to wear my heart on my sleeve, I’m a guilty role model. It’s an unspoken message we all get and the movement towards ‘polished’ social media (everyone’s happy, smiling facebook covers and profile pics, the journal-worthy documentation of Pinterest-inspired parties–everything one of your previous blogs described) make us feel it more so. We’re so continuously surrounded by feigned happiness that it becomes the only end goal. Could this be why we are seeing a generation of kids who seek only self-fulfillment?

22 Mary { 01.28.13 at 7:55 am }

This post REALLY resonnated with me this morning. I’ve started to type half a dozen things, but what I come to is the significant difference between happiness and joy. The one is a transient, fleeting thing that cannot be grasped with the tightest grip, or the most complete Pinboard. The other is eternal, lasting. It comes from the rational mind. From making a choice to accept it, in the midst of the struggle that is life. Joy is transformative and active. It isn’t just how one feels, it is in how one lives. breathes and moves. Life is hard. It is in our choice to get up and live it anyway that joy resides.

23 Tiara { 01.28.13 at 10:29 am }

Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t need to be reminded of when I was happy or reminded of what I have to be grateful for…those thoughts are always with me…what I like is being reminded of how I made it thru dark times or difficult challenges…it’s easy to forget how far I’ve come. I was recently reading a journal from a few years ago & was hit with a sense of pride with how I’d dealt with a particularly tumultuous time in my life & have come so far…it’s that kind of reminder that doesn’t come often but makes such a big difference for me.

24 Katie { 01.28.13 at 11:10 am }

“So I don’t want to only focus on happiness. I don’t particularly want to feel sadness, and I don’t aim to feel it, but when shit happens, I allow myself to feel it fully. Even when it’s scary.”

Yes yes yes. I don’t LIKE feeling sad, but I need to feel it. I remember when I was in college, and I was on a high dose of Zoloft. This was about a year and a half after my suicide attempt. I was to the point where I couldn’t feel anything. I was completely numb. I never cried. I never got excited. It was awful. I finally went off the meds, and it felt amazing to feel again. I’m still on a low dose of anxiety meds, and there are times when I feel depressed or overwhelmed. But then I remember what it was like to not feel at all, and I’d rather feel the sadness than that.

It’s not about always being happy. It’s just about being, period.

25 k { 01.28.13 at 12:16 pm }

I wrote about this concept at some point last year I think (now I’ll have to go and find it). The reality is this culture is afraid to feel. We are afraid to be more than visibly perfect, and that means we’re supposed to remember how happy we were yesterday to make up for feeling shitty today. So instead of dealing with feeling shitty today we sweep it under the rug and “count our blessings” instead. Not that there isn’t value in counting our blessings or getting some perspective, mind you, but what are we teaching our children when we wont’ deal with our bad stuff?

26 Katherine A { 01.28.13 at 12:55 pm }

Some of the problem I have with a “happiness” jar is that some of the stuff that I find meaningful and good isn’t really “happy” per se. It’s like you were saying in the post – there are so many things that happen that have many complex emotions attached to them.

Case in point: I was talking to a (fertile) someone the other day, and she was talking about how many children they wanted to have. Then she looks at me guiltily, and I said (and for once, in that moment meant it), that it was okay, I’d started to work to come to peace with the idea that I probably wasn’t going to have the family I’d always envisioned. For me, acknowledging that my diagnosis has changed my reality is a good thing – it’s not that I don’t hope and pray daily for some sort of miracle, but I also know that it may not happen and to go forward entirely refusing to acknowledge that fact is to probably set myself up for a severe crisis down the road.

You’d have thought I had grown horns. I got a sort of flurry of “but that’s not very positive/happy” and how I needed to think more positively and not be so negative because “you don’t know what might happen.” That’s true. I don’t. And of course, like anyone, I cherish some secret little hopes that I’ll be one of those success stories who got exactly what I wanted. But this cultural refusal to acknowledge any emotion other than “happy” or outcome other than “positive” gets exhausting.

And the what-to-eat idea jar and the writing idea jar? Now those I could totally use.

27 Valery Valentina { 01.28.13 at 2:42 pm }

Mhm, living in a cave here. After seeing so many people here being hurt by Facebook I decided not to find out or participate. Pinterest now seems to be the next thing…
I’ll stick to your non-slick blogs and cry and laugh with you.

28 Persnickety { 01.28.13 at 4:17 pm }

A hthe happiness cult. One of the books I read on the modern search for happiness made the point that the more you search for it, the harder it is to achieve. Happiness by itself should not be the destination, but what is experienced a long the way.
I don’t have a jar, but I do havea project 365 blog( now in its 4th round). That helps capture life as it goes, al though I do notice that the happy days often do not have a picture that really represents the day, because I have forgotten to take one

29 Ann Z { 01.28.13 at 5:08 pm }

Well now I really want a “I don’t know what to eat” jar!

I keep hearing friends talk about this happiness jar idea, and it never quite sat right with me, though I never really gave it much thought. I think you really hit on what was bugging me about it.

30 Mali { 01.29.13 at 9:52 pm }

I’m not part of Pinterest, so not really aware of the whole “happiness movement” that you refer to. I don’t like the sound of a competition over happiness. But I am all for people recognising happy moments, little joys, things we should be grateful for, living in the moment. And if a happiness jar helps us do that, then what’s wrong with that? I for one found that appreciating the little moments of happiness – whether it was as simple as the warmth of the sun, or a silly joke on a sitcom – were what helped me through my darkest days. Recognising and acknowledging them made me know that I would be okay – even if it took months or years to get through the really tough stuff (and it did).

You see, I don’t think it’s a case of Either/Or. I think we can recognise and celebrate happiness without rejecting/denying/hiding from the sadness, anger, jealousy, envy, shame and all the other emotions we feel. And I agree with you that recognising and facing negative emotions is healthy and important. It’s what helps us grow. I for one am much less afraid of my emotions now – in all their rawness and ugliness and despair – having been through the days when I couldn’t see a future. And I think a little happiness – however fleeting it was at the time – helped me bear the bad stuff.

I see people around me who have an awful lot to be grateful for. But they’re focused on their negative emotions and what they don’t have, rather than what they have. I don’t expect them to blithely brush off their sadness – but I think something like a happiness jar (or similar idea or attitude) might help them cope with life a lot more easily than they do.

Like you, I use my blogs to express the things I find that are tough or that I’m trying to figure out, but also to celebrate the good in my life. I will not make apologies for celebrating the good moments in my life. I don’t gloat (or I try not to) … well, except maybe today when we’re basking in uncharacteristically fine summer weather!

31 Mina { 01.30.13 at 7:38 am }

I love you, Mel! I have an honest girl- crush on you that gets a bit weird at times such as these, because I would so love to be inside your head now and see all these wonderful, creative, honest, justified, revolted, pissed off thoughts forming and swirling and battling for words to get out of your head and ito the world to make it right if not better.
When reading Justine’s post I was thinking how I could never use such a jar. For example, last night George hurt his elbow trying to climb up something and he stopped and told me ‘Mama, ouch, ouch! Aoooo.’ kissed his own elbow, patted it, and came to me to kiss the elbow too. Then he smiled at me and said ‘Bedder’. How can I put THIS in a jar?!
I really need to get writing a post about it, I have so much more to say about this.

32 loribeth { 01.30.13 at 1:24 pm }

Great post, and I’m loving all the comments. Some great points above!

It’s been said that the differences between the U.S. & Canada can be summarized in two key phrases from the Declation of Independence and the British North America Act (Canada’s original constitution from 1867) — Americans value “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” and Canadians value “peace, order and good government.” 😉 Of course, as one of my teachers or profs once pointed out, the American Declaration only holds out the promise of “the PURSUIT of happiness” — happiness itself is not a given. It’s about the journey not the destination.

I can also vouch for Barbara Ehrenreich’s “Bright-Sided.” Brilliant book.

33 sharah { 02.01.13 at 3:40 pm }

Before I got to the end of the post, I was thinking “Why have a jar when I have a blog?”. Totally with you on that (and on keeping more crap I don’t use off my desk).

34 Aerotropolitan Comitissa { 02.06.13 at 11:14 am }

I agree about the focus on happiness. We should all take the time to be happy, of course, but it does seem as if there’s a great pressure to be happy to the exclusion of all else sometimes. The happiness jar is alright in its proper place, but at present these sorts of ideas are really everywhere – and that’s not the proper place.

I guess your reaction might depend if you’ve been on “happiness overload” recently or not. I have a bit.

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