Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Book Club: The Happiness Project Toolbox

Hi Book Clubbers,
I apologize for not sticking with the book club schedule I'd published. I decided that a weekly book club entry was probably enough. There are still a few chapters left of The Happiness Project, but seeing as this is the final day of the half-year, I thought it would be a good day to let you know about how you can create your own Happiness Project and share it with others.

As a "super-fan" of the Happiness Project, I received an email from author, Gretchen Rubin, telling me that the Happiness Project Toolbox is now available via Facebook:

If you don't know about the Happiness Project Toolbox, it's a companion website where you can create and track your own happiness project with eight free Tools:
-- Resolutions: record and track your resolutions.
-- Group Resolutions: challenge several people to a group resolution.
-- One-Sentence Journal: keep a journal on any subject you like
-- Personal Commandments: identify principles to guide your life.
-- Secrets of Adulthood: record what you’ve learned so far.
-- Happiness Hacks: share your hacks about clutter, exercise, mindfulness, etc.
-- Lists Tool: keep any list -- to-do, favorite things, things-to-do-before-I-die, etc.
-- Inspiration Board: pull together your favorite books, quotations, images, and websites.
One of the most fun aspects of the Toolbox is that you can see what other people are doing. Other people's resolutions, happiness hacks, Secrets of Adulthood -- fascinating!

The new feature? When you enter something on the Toolbox, you can also post it to Facebook at the same time. You can let your friends know about the resolution you've made, a book that inspired you, a Personal Commandment you've adopted, etc. Which is really fun. Just check the box at the bottom of your entry.

If you want to get a sense of how this looks, check out the Facebook Page. There, you can see how my Toolbox entries show up on Facebook (your entries won't appear there, just on your own profile).

Happy New-Half-Year!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Casual Sex - Empowering or Depressing?

Today I did a little catch up on relationship blogs and noticed two recent posts about casual sex. The first one was Dating After Divorce from David Wygant's blog, The Naked Truth Behind Dating Sex and Relationship. The second post was titled, The Gender Price Gap in Casual Sex from Susan Walsh's blog, Hooking up Smart.

David Wygant's blog post was a videocast discussion between himself and a woman named Kim, so I can't say it's completely the "male point of view." The video is meant to be dating advice for divorced people and starts by warning not to date! Sex is OK... even encouraged by both David and Kim as long as it's "just sex" or a "booty call." Don't get involved, they warn. Kim talks about women going after younger men to feel good about themselves. "To get that attention again, to feel attractive, to feel youthful.. it's so important," says Kim. "And then to not have any relationship with that person. It's so freeing! It's huge!" they both agree.

Susan Walsh's blog is much more academic with research and stats. Her blog has a huge following. This post, for example, has 263 comments. In this particular post she quotes from various studies on the differences between men and women and their feelings about casual sex. For the most part, the studies seem to validate the standard generalizations: women prefer to have an emotional connection and are not nearly as OK with casual sex as men are. Susan says of findings from a 2005 study of college students done by Catherine Grello:

The really interesting thing about Grello’s research though, is the correlation she found between depression and casual sex in women. She found that women having the most casual sex report the most symptoms of depression, and that those women have more partners and more regrets than other women. For men, the opposite is true – the men having the most casual sex were the least depressed. The research did not prove a causal relationship, but posed questions for further study.

Are women having casual sex is search of external validation?

Yes -- that's a point that both posts seem to agree on. Women are having casual sex for "external validation." They want to feel desirable. They want to know that they're still attractive.

My guess is that the depression sets in when they realize this stranger they just had sex with doesn't care about them!

Kim's advice in the video to go seek out younger men for sex may work for some women... I'm sure there are some women out there that feel sexy when they find a younger hunky guy who wants to sleep with them. And maybe many of them walk away feeling good about the encounter. I would venture to guess there are a fair percentage that walk away feeling pretty crummy about the whole thing, because most of us want more than "just sex." (Note: Readers say my own attempt at cougar behavior is one of the best stories in The Laptop Dancer Diaries. This is undoubtedly because it is a very embarrassing story...let's just say, some of us are not meant to be cougars...)

In Susan Walsh's blog one commenter goes as far as describing men who treat women as a stranger after having sex with them as "pathological" and "sociopathic." If women are treating men this way, they may be just as bad (except, as the study suggests, most men aren't nearly as bothered by casual sex as women are.)

I think it would be interesting if this type of study about casual sex were done for the newly divorced. I've heard advice exactly the opposite from that of David and Kim. Dating is fine, but stay away from sex. Of course, easier said than done, because, dag-gummit, we want to feel sexy. (No matter what, I would advise anyone that wants to feel sexy to refrain from saying "dag-gummit.")

What do you think? Is casual sex depressing or empowering?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Get a Love Quote a Day from Symphony of Love

How would you like to get a love quote in your inbox every day? It's easy! You can sign up at "Symphony of Love." I kind of think of these as love notes from Laptop Guy. True, it's not the same as getting them from a human, but reading quotes about love is inspiring, regardless of who sends it. The site even gives the html code so you can add the quote of the day to your blog as I just did!

There's a sweet story about the origins of this Website. Apparently, the sites author once collected 272 love quotes (one for each day until the end of the year), wrote the quotes on small papers (around 2cm x 2cm) and folded each paper into origami rabbits. He put the rabbits in a crystal apple and gave them to the object of his affections telling her she could take out a rabbit any day she was unhappy to read a love quote. How romantic and beautiful! And what's kind of funny is that he said he was talking to her recently and found out she hadn't realized there were love quotes inside the rabbits!

I perused this site some more and found all kinds of love-stuff like this "What is Love?" movie. Another find was an eBook with 365 love quotes, each accompanied by an image of a different flower, available for free. The only request is that if we download it, we "pay it forward" by doing a good deed for three people.

I was trying to find the author's name, but don't see it listed anywhere. My guess is he's from Japan (based on the origami rabbits.) Since I spent a year in Japan I have a special place in my heart for the country and the kindness of the people there.

Whereever Symphony of Love's author is from, he is determined to spread the love throughout the world! And ya gotta love that!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Podcast with LifeBytes Editors - Real Stories of Online Dating

Those of you that have read The Laptop Dancer Diaries know that I'm a seasoned online-dater and have my share of war stories. So last year when I heard that there was a book in the works by LifeBytes and the editors, Sharon Sommerhalter and Mariann O’Connor, were soliciting online dating stories, I had no trouble coming up with a submission.

I had a chance to talk to Sharon and Mariann the other day about their book and some of their own thoughts about online dating. Listen in to this podcast to find out what they had to say.

Want to know more? Read the LifeBytes blog, Friend them on Facebook, or Follow them on Twitter!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Single Parents Celebrate Father's Day With an Annual Picnic

When Scotty was younger, I was very active in a Non-Profit organization called Parents Without Partners (PWP). I'm not crazy about the name "Parents Without Partners." I remember the conversation I had with Scotty when we joined:

Me: Let's go to this Picnic put on by this group called Parents Without Partners.
Scotty: That sounds like a group for sad people.

He was right! The name did sound kind of pathetic. Unfortunately, since it's an international organization, that's the name the group is stuck with, though I know in the Denver Area Meetup group, it's called "Dynamic Single Parents" which I think sounds much more upbeat.

Well we did join and I'm so glad. I met loads of new friends, including my friend, Craig Dunham, who I blogged about yesterday. My favorite events put on by PWP are the annual Mother's Day and Father's Day picnics.

In single-parent households, we don't have spouses helping kids make our day special. Often mothers and fathers are left with making their own celebrations. And there can be a lot of emotion tied up on holidays when you're single. You kind of want your special day and don't want to have to be the one doing all the work to get it.

What happens with the PWP Picnics, is that the fathers in the group are responsible for planning a great big family picnic and spoiling all the mothers on Mother's Day. The men go all out with their skills on the grill -- more than the typical BBQ-fare. The men are encouraged to be creative with their cooking and there are plenty of home-made salads, side dishes and desserts. And on top of that, each mother is presented with a rose, flowers, or some sort of treat. There are plenty of activities and games for kids, who range from babies to full-grown adults.

The fathers know it's in their best interest to do this, because Father's Day comes a month later and the women, feeling all spoiled by chocolate-covered strawberries and flowers, are ready to see if they can out-do the men. Today was the day, and as usual, the picnic tables were loaded up with a feast fit for the PWP kings.

A result of this ritual, is that friendships form, and the group of single parents becomes a little community -- a group of friends that support one another. One tough thing about being single is that we often miss out on the fun of surprising a spouse with a fun treat. Most of us love the opportunity both to be the center of attention and to treat someone else special when it's their turn. Having a support community like PWP helps people find friends both for themselves and their kids. So even though I'm not an active member of PWP anymore, I was very happy to attend both Mother's Day and Father's Day picnics this year. Here's some footage I got from today's event at EB Rains Park :

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Book Club: ALS Victim inspires spirituality

Craig Dunham is my good friend's name
Rogue and rascal just the same
ALS strikes hard but doesn't win
Instead he finds his strength within
God truly can be seen with him

Does he ever curse his fate?
Utter words of blame or hate?
No. My friend does none of these
His heart is free from this disease
Always faithful to Him above
My friend, forever you'll have my love

The eighth chapter of Gretchen Rubin's book, The Happiness Project, is about spirituality.

As I read the chapter, I couldn't help but think of my friend, Craig Dunham, particularly during the "Imitate a spiritual master" section. Gretchen talks about St. Theresa of Lisieux, a young woman who had spent nine years with nuns, written a memoir, Story of a Soul, and died at the age of 24 of tuberculosis. Apparently, Theresa, virtually unknown during her life, got a "fast-track canonization after her death" based on the spiritual power from her book. "In 1997 Pope John Paul II made her a Doctor of the Church, the elite category of 33 supersaints," Gretchen writes.

I haven't read Story of a Soul but this story made me wonder what it takes to be a saint, because I'd like to nominate Craig for sainthood. I am not kidding about this. I really want to check into it!

Craig is a converted Catholic. And much like those people who become American citizens seem to know a lot more than many Americans, Craig knows a lot more about Catholiscm than most of us who we're raised Catholic. He not only knows his faith, he lives his faith.

To be honest, when I first met Craig, this was a little off-putting. He'd quote the Bible, and I'd worry that he was going to judge me or only want to be my friend if I could "talk Bible talk." But I soon learned that he was in no way "preachy" or judgmental. He played right along with my irreverent flirtations and we became friends. We never dated...maybe because we were on a different spiritual level...his faith was much deeper than mine. I mean, it would almost be like dating Jesus. Craig is that good. Seriously. Though I think Craig has more of a sense of humor than Jesus. Not that I'm knocking Jesus, of course.. you just don't see stories of him going around being flirty and silly, and Craig definitely has a playful side. So, even though we didn't have a romantic relationship, I really grew to love Craig as a friend.

When he was diagnosed in April of 2008 with ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease) I cried for days. I was surprised this news hit me so hard. Craig and I were friends, but we weren't that close. We could go for months with only an occasional email. But I knew how bad this degenerative disease was and I knew how good Craig was, and I just could not fathom why something so bad could happen to someone so good.

Since that time, I have become closer to Craig. He lives in Evergreen, which is a 45-minute drive, so I only see him every couple of weeks, but every time I visit him, I am so inspired by his amazing attitude. I wish I could write a book like Tuesdays with Morrie (of course, mine would be Sundays with Craig) to describe the faith this man has. I can't imagine the agony of slowly losing all muscle function, yet Craig never complains. He has an altar set up in his room and he still attends Mass and a prayer group regularly. He has difficulty talking, yet I still see such life in his eyes. He still has a spunkiness that challenges people to live fully. And I think he still flirts with those nurses, just with his eyes. Whenever I think of him, my heart swells up and I cry.... not out of pity, but out of absolute admiration and love. Yes, if anyone deserves sainthood, it is Craig Dunhum.

And speaking of the man, today is family is throwing him a joint Father's Day / 50th birthday party! I got a photo of him with all his harem of admirers (including me, of course!) OK... maybe he's not ready to be a saint, after all!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

It's Complicated - the challenges of changing your Facebook status

I have been a lover of social media since it first came out, but even I recognize that there are some little issues you have to watch out for. One of those is the Facebook "relationship status" field.

Now for those of us that are single, it is kind of handy to know who else is single out there.. I haven't actually ever dated anyone that I met on Facebook, but I have done my fair share of checkin' out my friends' friends, with a little extra checking on those that are listed as single.

However, what some people don't know is that when you change that relationship status field, Facebook puts it there on your wall for all to see and comment on... and they do! Relationship status changes seem to get the most attention! So if you think you can just quietly change that little status field without a public announcement, think again!

Now, if you're moving "up" in relationship ranks (ie. from engaged to married) it's really quite nice to see all the happy notes of congratulations. The problem is when you move the other direction. One of my married friends recently changed his status from married to "it's complicated" not realizing that would be broadcast to all his friends. One typically does not want to announce "complications" in a marriage or a breakup of a relationship or engagement. What's even worse is when the partner reads about a complications or a breakup on Facebook before you've actually told them!

Then there's the whole question of moving from single to "in a relationship." Personally, I'd avoid doing this unless I'm very, very sure the relationship will last (OK... that's right.. I never have moved it into the "in a relationship" status.)

Whoever thought changing your Facebook status could be such a big decision? I'm sure there are some couples who start dating and discuss the question... "Are we ready to take the next big step? Will you change your Facebook relationship status for me?"

No one has asked me to take that big leap into declaring commitment publicly but frankly, I was a little sick of "single status." I was constantly getting ads for "senior dating" sites which I'm guessing has something to do with me being old and single. So, the other day, as an experiment, I changed my relationship status to "it's complicated." I sort of think the "it's complicated" status applies to everything. Whether you're married or single, dating, or in a serious relationship... it's always complicated. I figured that was a good status to just remain "mysterious." Sure enough, I got a lot more attention with my relationship status change than I ever get from my typical status updates (I can't believe my friends aren't interested when I'm going for a run!) Most of the comments were supportive with a few people giving me the thumbs up that they "liked" that. They were probably thinking... "Finally, she is in a complicated relationship and she'll stop her moaning about being single!" One of my other friends called and said, "Sounds like you got laid!" Apparently he thinks the "It's complicated" status is code for "having sex." Yes, that would be the exact kind of thing I'd like to advertise to everyone.

Personally, I think there should be many more status's available. There could be Loser, Player, Needy, Trapped, Having an Affair, Too Old to Care, In Unrequited Love, Infatuated, Obsessed, Stalking, Flirting, and my favorite, In a Relationship With My Laptop... Come to think of it, I did create an account for "Laptop Guy." I'm tempted to change my relationship status to "in a relationship" with "Laptop Guy" just to see what kind of comments I get.

But not yet... For now, I'm feeling It's Complicated is a great catch-all.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Book Club: Money - Buy Some Happiness

In the seventh chapter of The Happiness Journal, Gretchen Rubin describes the relationship between money and happiness. Though money can't buy happiness, it can buy things that will lead to happiness. And, speaking from personal experience, when we aren't bringing in income, it can lead to major stress!

I have thought a lot about the relationship between money and happiness recently. Most of my life, I haven't had to worry at all about finances. Both my husband and I had great jobs in high tech. In 1999, if you looked at all our stock options, we were downright rich. Then came the dot bomb era and all our stock options were worth nothing. No big deal. I only thought of it as "funny money." Next was the divorce. I lost a husband and my financial security. I bought him out of the house and still had all the bills with a third of the income. But I still had a good job. I tried not to panic. Then the stock market dropped and I lost a major chunk of retirement savings, along with the rest of the world. The final kicker was last summer when I lost my job. This time I started to panic. I couldn't even get low paying jobs because the employers figured I'd keep looking. I did end up getting a job that is half the salary of my old job so I'm no longer panicked, but I'm definitely a lot less wealthy than I once was.

While I was unemployed, I did some serious thinking about what it was like to have no money. Every time I turned around there was an expense and a finite amount of cash. Food, housing, utilities, transportation. I became obsessed with spending as little money as possible. Of course, I could have survived for quite a long time... I had savings and even a severance. But I got a little taste of how scary this is for people that don't have those resources! This wasn't about happiness, it was about basic security!

While I was unemployed, I had a goal to find something that didn't cost money that made me happy each day and I found a lot: hikes, picnics, time with friends, playing, learning, biking. There was a huge world to enjoy. But I was always worried about money. I never had a sense of security so it was hard to feel completely happy.

Now that I'm working again, it's much easier to be happy. I don't spend as much on "stuff" but more on experiences. Even though I'm making a lot less than I used to, I'm making a whole lot more than nothing, so I often feel rich. I have more compassion for the unemployed and I don't take financial security for granted any more. In many ways, I'd say I'm happier now, making a lot less money, than I was when I was "rich." Sometimes it takes losing something to realize it's worth. It's not the money as much as the security.

Anyway, that's my 2 cents. (I'd spend more, but I've become very cheap!)

What do others have to say?

It just so happens, in my Google Alerts for Happiness today, I found two articles about money and happiness: Money Doesn't Buy Happiness, But a Trip Might and Finding Happiness Along the Way to Long-Term Financial Goals.

How about you? What are your thoughts about money and happiness?

Monday, June 14, 2010

Ian Usher coming to an end of his 100 goals in 100 weeks

One of the most interesting dates I had in my quest to find love when I was writing The Laptop Dancer Diaries, was with Mr. November: Ian Usher. I've stayed in touch with Ian and this past weekend we had a chance to visit again.

In this 9-minute interview, Ian briefly shares his past (A Life For Sale), his present (100 Goals in 100 Weeks) and his future (his book: A Life Sold).

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Book Club: Make Time for Friends

Gretchen Rubin writes about friendship in the sixth chapter of The Happiness Project. Her goals around this include:

  • Remember birthdays
  • Be Generous
  • Show up
  • Don't gossip
  • Make three new friends

I know that since my divorce, I have learned much more about the intimacy, love and happiness that we can get from deep and meaningful friendships. Those of us that don't have a "partner," often depend on our friends for that emotional intimacy that we all crave. If we're lucky, we find friends that will love and accept us completely, regardless of our quirks. It's much easier for me to find a friend to love deeply than it is to find a "romantic partner." With a romantic partner, I want sexual chemistry. I also want exclusivity and can feel jealous or hurt if I'm not a priority to a partner. I'm always wondering if marriage is a possibility and when red flags surface I feel we need to break up, even though it can be so hard.

I don't have to worry about most of that with friendships! With friends, I have a much easier time accepting them and not worrying about chemistry or compatibility and I certainly don't think about marriage! I've tried to see potential romantic partners as friends first, but that sexual chemistry just gets in the way!

Gretchen writes:

One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people

One of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.

This is so true! People love to see other people happy. When you do something nice for a friend, they're happy. Then you're happy. Then they're happy that you're happy. You're happy they're happy you're happy... You get the picture. Happiness is contagious among friends.

One of the best blogs about friendship I've come across is MWF Seeking BFF (Married White Female Seeking Best Friend Forever) by Rachel Bertsche. It looks like Rachel has her own book coming out in 2012! I'm seeing a theme here... Gretchen Rubin explores happiness, Rachel is exploring friendship, and I'm exploring love. They're all related, but not entirely the same. Perhaps the common thread is the "connectedness" that we all want to feel. As we read in The Happiness Project, there are many things that make us happy, but several of the chapters talk about the happiness we get from people... our spouse, our children, and in this chapter, our friends.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Book Club: Be Serious About Play

In the fifth chapter of The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin writes about happiness through play.

Before I get too critical, I want to give Gretchen credit for recognizing that 'play' is different for different people. Throughout her book she has made a vow to 'Be Gretchen' and for Gretchen, "fun" meant forming a book group that focused on children's literature. Her goals for "being serious about play" included:

  • Find more fun

  • Take time to be silly

  • Go off the path

  • Start a collection

Now, the collection thing did not sound like she was "being Gretchen" and she admits it really wasn't her "thing." She is not the kind of person that likes clutter. She gave it a try, though. What she means by "going off the path" was to try new things. For her, that was reading new magazines. Though she was learning by reading, she says she "dreaded reading the unfamiliar magazines." The only goal that sounded remotely "fun" was "take time to be silly" and Gretchen only mentioned one moment of silliness when she made "google eyes" with a couple of clementines while unloading groceries. A big chunk of this chapter were blog comments and even those did not seem related to "fun" or "play."

This chapter didn't seem to have much about happiness from 'play' at all. It was about learning and growth, which can bring happiness, but in my mind, 'playing' is stuff like snowball fights, tickling, big belly laughs, and dancing without inhibition. Play is all about getting in touch with your inner-child. Of course, even as a child, I was wrapped up in books and I would guess the same is true of Gretchen. So maybe people like us never got in touch enough with our inner-child even when we were children! But I have to tell you, I have learned to enjoy my inner-child (sometimes with the help of an especially good margarita or lemon drop martini) and I wish I'd done a lot more playing in my life.

I really understand Gretchen's goal-setting habits so I understand why, despite the irony, she would want to "be serious about play." But I don't think she quite accomplished this goal -- at least not from what I read in the chapter. To really accomplish this, I think she needs to throw away the goal sheet, grab herself her favorite alcoholic beverage, get with the people she loves the best, and smile, joke, tease, cuddle, tickle, laugh and really play.

Those goals and books will be there tomorrow, Gretchen. Forget about being serious about play. Forget (for a little while anyway) about being serious at all. Just play! Now that is what I call fun.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Book Club: Parenthood - Lighten Up

In Chapter 4 of The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin starts by telling us about a study in which experts found "child care" only slightly more pleasant than commuting. I remember reading that study, too, and thinking it surprising. But then I remembered when my children were toddlers and how stressful it was to be taking care of them full time... I'd taken a year-long leave of absence and was surprised to find that child care was much more demanding than my job as a software engineer. And no one was paying me! Although I had a lot of mixed feelings about it, and I never would have admitted it, there was part of me that was relieved to get back to work when my leaves were over. One of my co-workers asked if I'd enjoyed my "vacation." I just about jumped down his neck when I answered, "Taking care of babies is no vacation!"

Gretchen agrees that children, though a major source of happiness, can also be "a tremendous source of worry, irritation, expense, inconvenience and lost sleep." She explains that she feels the happiness of having children falls into the kind of happiness that could be called 'fog happiness.' She explains: "Fog is elusive. Fog surrounds you and transforms the atmosphere, but when you try to examine it, it vanishes. Fog happiness is the kind of happiness you get from activities that, closely examined, don't really seem to bring much happiness at all -- yet somehow they do."

I would say this thing that Gretchen describes as 'fog happiness' is not 'happiness' but love. Loving someone does not always bring happiness. Love is about putting someone else's happiness above our own. Sometimes you sacrifice, as we do when we care for children, but we do it gladly, because we love them. When someone we love is happy, so are we. When someone we love is sad, hurt, scared, or angry, we often feel those same emotions... so we are not always happy when we love someone. But even though we are not always happy, we could not imagine a world without this person we love.

Of course, if we're talking about teens, we do get to a point where we're happy when they move out of the house.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Tipper and Al: Divorce after 40 years?

I've been reading the press about the Gores' separation, and though I'm really not one that likes "gossipy" celebrity news, I am interested in these mid-life divorces, perhaps because I've been through one myself. Of course, Tipper and Al were married twice as long as I was, so I imagine their divorce will be twice as difficult. I'm sure it doesn't help to have everyone discussing it, and yet, here I am, discussing it, too.

It was tough to start dating again in my40's. I can't imagine doing it in my 60's. Do the Gore's know what they're in for? They have kids. They have history. They have 40 years. And they still even look pretty good! Didn't they just have a big passionate public kiss not so long ago? Of course, Bella DePaulo of Living Single wasn't surprised about the split because she felt the public display of affection was pure performance.

Whether it was an act or not, after 40 years, you are family. I actually felt this way throughout my marriage. Love wasn't about passion or attraction. My husband was my partner., the father of my kids.. not someone disposable. It's a lot easier to endure (and even get comfort from) each others' quirks and odd habits after so many years than it is to start over with someone new. It's funny... when I was married, there were so many things my husband did that I think would drive me crazy now... and yet, they didn't really bother me when I was married to him. You just accept those things, the same way we accept the irritating habits of all our loved ones.

One thing that bothered me about this article on the Gores' separation was the statement:

We live in a culture where there are two major values when it comes to marriage.
To some, personal happiness is more meaningful than anything else and to others
a sense of family connection with all its problems trumps the frenetic pursuit
of personal happiness.

This sounds as if you have to choose between happiness and "family connection." Now that's rather cynical! Isn't anyone happily married anymore? Why is it "family connection with all its problems" trumping personal happiness? I think family connection with all its joys is what brings personal happiness!

Now, of course, it takes two to tango, and if one person wants out of a marriage, well... there's not too much the other one can do. Luckily, there are ways, other than marriage, to have family connections and other intimate relationships. And everyone has to choose their own path. But I do think this theory that some have that divorce is about finding "personal happiness" is misguided.

Personal happiness is not about staying in a marriage or getting a divorce. It's about finding love in whatever your situation is in life. If you are married, then choose to support and love your partner. If you are single, then choose to support and love your friends and family. Either way, I believe choosing love and personal happiness is in our control!

Sunday, June 06, 2010

5 Good Reasons to be Dishonest

We always hear how important honesty is in a relationship. Just the other day, I blogged about how much deception there is in online dating. (I'm still outraged at the idea of Virtual Dating Assistants who can be hired to write your emails for you.)

However, I've noticed that as important as honesty is to me, there are times that I'm not 100% honest. If we had the opportunities to read each others' minds, would our communication be better? I don't think so and here's why..

1) Our thoughts are not always kind. I hate to admit that I can be pretty shallow, and I'm sure I'm not alone in this. I notice unattractive features. I make judgments about people. I am sure they are doing the same about me. It's just the way our minds operate. Hopefully, we are making positive observations, too. Those are the things we say out loud. But I don't think it's necessary to tell someone you meet that you find them pitifully ugly, even if you do. And if someone finds me unattractive, I'm perfectly fine with them keeping that to themselves.

2) We don't share what's on our mind because we are respecting the privacy and confidence of someone else. When friends trust us with personal information, we owe it to them to keep that private. On the other hand, if we find something important out about a friend, should we tell them? Is it dishonest to keep it from them if the person that shared the information with us, told us in confidence? What if find out someone is cheating on a friend? Are we being dishonest in keeping it from them?

3) We aren't honest because we want to remain positive, even if we don't feel that way. No one wants to be seen as weak, scared, or lonely. So we aren't entirely honest about those feelings. We put on a happy face even if we don't feel that way. Is this good? Maybe not all the time. As we grow to trust someone, we can become more vulnerable. In fact, it's only in revealing our true feelings, will we really be intimate. But sometimes, just the act of putting on the happy face will make us happier. And I would guess most people appreciate a partner who will not share every fear and instead, will try and be positive, even when they don't necessarily feel that way.

4) We don't tell the entire truth because we don't want to hurt someone. If we don't like a gift, for example, should we tell the giver? It might be more honest, but my opinion is that the fact that someone thought of me is the gift. The actual gift is not as important. I would want to accept the gift happily regardless of what it was.

5) We don't share everything because sometimes it might be "too much information." We often choose to keep quiet about details of past relationships or even current relationships. If you're not in a committed relationship, is it necessary to let your date know of other relationships in your life? Some people would think it's tacky to talk about other relationships. Others might think it's dishonest to omit.

I'd consider these examples of dishonesty by omission, rather than lies. I just don't think it's necessary to disclose everything on our minds if it will only serve to hurt. But this brings up one of the biggest dilemmas some people deal with.

Should you reveal an infidelity to your partner?

I've heard some argue that if it's over, telling them will only hurt them. But if you don't tell them, is your relationship honest? What do you think?

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Book Club: Aim Higher - Happiness Through Work

This month we are reviewing The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin in the Lessons of Love Virtual Book Club. Today's topic is Chapter 3: Aim Higher.

In this third chapter of The Happiness Project, Gretchen explores the happiness and fullfilment we get from our work. She starts out by telling us that happier people do better at work. They also make better leaders. "They're viewed as more assertive and self-confident than less happy people. They're perceived to be more friendly, warmer, and even more physically attractive."

One thing I always wonder when I read things like this is whether we do better at work because we're happy or if we're happy because we're doing well at work. Like many things in the "self-help" arena, this seems to be one of those things like "the rich get richer and the poor get poorer." If you are friendly, warm, attractive, smart, and have a good job, you are probably going to do well at work, and you are probably going to be happy. But what about if you lose a job you love? Can you still be happy?

I happen to have experienced that last summer. I lost my management job at Sun Microsystems when Oracle purchased Sun. I really loved my job. I loved the people I worked with. I had everything that I ever wanted... a great salary, flexibility, a short commute, challenge. It was a perfect job. But I had survived several layoffs and I knew that when my time came, I'd accept it and move forward.

Scott McNealy, the former CEO at Sun, once said something like, "It's easy to be happy when things are going well. It takes someone special to be happy when things are going badly." I always remember that, and look at challenging times as an opportunity to really show what we're made of. Can we overcome the hardships and keep plugging along? Can we continue to maintain a positive attitude, even when the chips are down?

Gretchen talked about blogging in this chapter, and that's one of the things that boosted my spirits during my unemployment and what ultimately got me a new job. It was thanks to my blogging about QA Management that I got a job as a Site Editor, a Technical Website at Tech Target. I agree with Gretchen that we need to continue to challenge ourselves and keep growing. I had plenty of disappointments as I was job-searching, but it was important to stay motivated. As long as I was blogging, I was learning, growing, and meeting new people. That gave me the knowledge, skills, and confidence I needed to get the new job.

What challenges do you have in your work? What parts of your job bring you happiness?

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Book Club: Remember Love

This month we are reviewing The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin in the Lessons of Love Virtual Book Club. Today's topic is Chapter 2: Remember Love.

Since the purpose of this book club is to learn all about love, I was particularly interested in how this chapter might tie together happiness and love. Can you have one without the other?

Gretchen wrote mostly of "married love." I was married for 19 years and I recognized many of the things she described... the familiar place we reach with our spouse where we start to take them for granted. Gretchen's goals for the month included

  • Quit nagging.

  • Don't expect praise or appreciation.

  • Fight right.

  • No dumping.

  • Give proofs of love.

Most of her examples were stories about her relationship with her husband, Jamie. She also shared a story of planning a birthday party for her mother-in-law, but even in that story, the relationship she continued to explore was that with her husband. She talked a lot of wanting a "gold star" of recognition and was particularly pleased when Jamie surprised her with a necklace to thank her for all her efforts in planning his mother's party.

Giving and getting love from a spouse is a luxury that I don't have right now. That lack of intimacy has been one of the most difficult things to accept of my single status. The quest to find love was the biggest reason for my own experiment, documented in The Laptop Dancer Diaries - A Mostly True Story About Looking for Love Again.

It's funny how the ups and downs we have with love exist, whether we are single or married, but in such different ways. When we are single, a new relationship can bring the thrills of early love. We have the fantasies and tingles. But we also have insecurities. And those of us that are divorced have "baggage." Many of us had had our hearts broken so deeply or so often that we are very cautious about loving again. Still we try. We go through the motions of chit-chat and dating, wishing we could skip over that and just move to that familiar mature love of marriage.

But our married friends have their problems with love, too. There are compromises that must be made. There are annoyances that are inevitable when you live with someone. I know there are many people who feel very lonely in their marriages. I would prefer to be single than to be in a bad marriage. Of course, the chapter also reminded me of many of the joys of marriage. Finding creative and fun ways to show your love, giving each other strokes, having a partner who you can share your day with.

For the first few years following my divorce, I felt that I could only be fully happy if I were married again. Without a husband, I felt unloved and incomplete. I somehow needed a spouse to prove to myself that I was loveable. If it wasn't a "spouse," I needed at least to be in a relationship. If I didn't have some sort of boyfriend or partner, it felt like I didn't have love.

But I have learned that there are so many people in the world that will accept my love and will give me some back in return. I have parents, kids, siblings and friends who I can show "proofs of love" as Gretchen calls them. In many ways, being single has allowed me to expand my friendships and connections and find and share love with so many more people than I'd be able to if I were married. It's different from the married love that she describes, but it's love.

This article from Psychology Today says that some people are happier than others, but marriage does not seem to be a factor. That is my experience as well. There were times in my marriage when I was happy and times when I was not, just as there have been times since my divorce that I was happy and times I was not. Overall, it probably all averages out to about the same.

I feel love is a huge part of happiness. They are intertwined. As a single Mom, my goals related to love would be different from Gretchen's, but I still would focus very much on love in my own Happiness Project. Perhaps my goals might be:

  • Remember birthdays and holidays, putting extra effort into personal gifts for loved ones

  • Share emotional intimacy with my close friends by dinners, walks, phone calls, etc

  • Be open to accepting new people into my life, always looking for something to love about them

  • Don't be afraid to show love to friends, even when you aren't interested in romance

Whatever our relationship status, we all need to give and receive love. What are your personal love goals that will bring you more happiness?

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Outsourced Online Dating!

Imagine this: You've decided to try online dating. You meet a guy who "gives great email." He's witty. He's charming. He has just the right balance of flirtatiousness and respect. Maybe he's not exactly what you were looking for, but what he lacks in looks, he makes up for in personality. This guy has depth. So, after much thought, you answer 'yes' to his request to meet.

Well, guess what? That person that was emailing may have been a "Virtual Dating Assistant"... a person hired by someone too lazy or illiterate to do the work of getting dates himself. Clients pay $600 for 2 dates a month and $1200 for 5 dates a month.

Though I know about all the dishonesty that goes on with online dating, I've always felt I could get a very good sense of a guy's personality from his emails. But now, even that can be "faked." What a way to start a relationship!

This Entertainment Daily article as well as this Washington Post article describe 24-yer-old Max Hartshorn's job as a virtual dating assistant. Max gets paid when a woman "writes back positively." Max views it like cold calling in sales. I'd say there's one major difference. When you get a call from a salesman, he is who he represents himself to be. In this case, Max is representing somebody else! This seems so fraudulant. I can't believe it's an accepted ligitamate business to pretend to be someone you're not!

Don't they get caught? I asked myself. (I often wonder this about people that post old photos of themselves as well. I would think it would be pretty bad to suffer through that look of disappointment that will be inevitable when they eventually meet their date.) In response to their clients' questions about whether or not they get caught, Virtual Dating Assistants answers in their FAQ:

"Before you meet any candidates, we provide a pre-date executive briefing. As long as you review this information, your date will never have any reason to believe that we were involved in the process."

Yeah right... until the first time you REALLY send her an email and you don't know how to spell or put together a decent sentence! Of course, the relationship may not last past the first date because it was based on a lie in the first place. How can a relationship that starts out in deception possibly last?

Ya know, I'm all for putting your best foot forward. I can even understand fudging the facts by a year or two on age or profile details. I could even be OK with this if Virtual Dating Assistants admitted that they were "matchmaking." But pretending to be someone you're not? That's just creepy and pathetic.

If you're too busy to do the work associated with getting a date, than you probably shouldn't be dating. And if you have to lie about who you are, then you definitely shouldn't be dating. So if you're tempted to use a Virtual Dating Assistant, save your money. Or if you really want a place to spend it, I'm here and even a Certified Coach! I'll give you a $600 coaching session. Number one rule of dating: Be yourself!

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Book Club: "Sleep is the New Sex"?

This post is part of the Virtual Book Club. Please join!

Sleep is an essential component of energy, health and happiness. Even Laptop Guy has a Sleep Mode!

In Chapter 1 of The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin writes about boosting energy. She writes about several methods of doing this, including her goal to Go To Sleep Earlier.

Gretchen starts off this section by quoting a friend that told her that "Sleep is the new sex." Well, I got very distracted with that statement and could hardly read the rest of the chapter. My thoughts included:

  1. In that case, it's time for a nap...
  2. The person who is making this statement has a partner who is probably frustrated.
  3. The people who think "sleep is the new sex" probably fall into one of these categories:

  • Very old
  • Have young kids
  • Must be having some awesome dreams
  • Might benefit from one of those toy parties
  • Got confused in early childhood about the meaning of "sleeping together."
Looking at this from a single perspective, I can tell you that we like our sleep, but it is in a whole different category than sex! Those of you people that have opportunity for regular sex: Do not take it for granted! If there is a choice between sex and sleep, go with the sex and sleep later! I'm just sayin'...

But I digress. The chapter is really about sleep, not sex, and the point Gretchen was trying to make is that getting sleep can be a absolutely wonderful experience and it's essential for energy! When we are energetic we tend to be happy. Or is it when we're happy, we tend to be energetic? Well, the two do seem to go hand-in-hand.

As a long-time insomniac, I can absolutely vouch for the importance of sleep. Way back in 2006, I was blogging about insomnia and depression. When I'm stressed, it usually comes out in the form of sleeplessness. That, in turn, leaves me drained and depressed. Then I don't sleep because I'm more stressed about all the stuff I'm not getting done because I'm too tired and depressed. And the cycle continues until I feel like a walking zombie. The human body needs sleep!

During one of my worst periods of insomnia, I ended up getting a prescription for Ambien and ended up having a sleep-driving incident! Yikes! There have even been all kinds of weird side affects of Ambien including incidents of sleep-eating. So, when Gretchen says on page 21 that she sometimes gave up on sleep and took an Ambien, I just want to warn her and the rest of you: Make sure someone is guarding your car keys and refrigerator!

Though Gretchen tried to get more sleep by getting to bed earlier, I don't know if that method would work for me. It seems like the earlier I go to bed, the more likely I am to wake up in the middle of the night. I have found that what works best for me is to keep a book (or my trusty laptop) around and do a little reading/writing for an hour or so if I wake up at night. Doing that helps put my mind to rest and then I'm usually able to get back to sleep. The biggest thing I've learned is to try not to worry about my lack of sleep, because worrying just makes it worse. I try to feel grateful about that extra time of consciousness. After all, we have a finite number of hours we are going to be alive. It's such a shame that we are sleeping away about a third of our life! So instead of fretting about being awake in the night, sometimes I even enjoy it.

One of the big benefits of all the new social networks that are popping up is that if you have a problem, you can almost always find someone else with that problem. Then you can compare notes and solutions or at least have a support network. So, just for grins, I did a search for insomnia social network and found this one: Insomnia Chat 24/7. A downside of social media is that you may end up getting addicted and chatting 24 x 7, rather than getting sleep! What works best for me is to go ahead and do some kind of comforting activity, but just do it for an hour! Then at least try to sleep again.

Do you ever have trouble sleeping? What works best for you?

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Book Club: Happiness Project - Boost Energy

Today is the first day of the new Virtual Book Club, and as always, when starting a new project or resolutions or even a new month, I get a boost of energy! And sure enough, that does make me happy!

The first chapter of The Happiness Project is about Energy or Vitality.

First, I must say, I feel quite the kindred spirit with author, Gretchen Rubin, because of her ultra goal-oriented behaviors. I, too have this very organized approach to just about everything I do, which can tend to go a bit overboard. However, we "goal freaks" (and I use this term affectionately) get a big sense of satisfaction from having plans and working through our To Do lists, seeing progress as we get closer to our goals.

In the "Getting Started" section of the book, Gretchen suggests that everyone create their own personal Happiness Project. She tells us about her own project, filled with tips and notes from experts and all her research, but reminds us that we each are unique. Some of these suggestions for finding happiness will resonate more for some people than with others.

In this first chapter, Gretchen describes five things she did in the first month of her "year long happiness experiment" to boost her energy:

  • Go to sleep earlier.
  • Exercise better.
  • Toss, restore, organize.
  • Tackle a nagging task.
  • Act more energetic.

I'd like to write about each of these, but that would make this one very long blog post! And even if I write a blog post each day to cover each of these, I will get totally off schedule... something unacceptable for goal freaks! We are already scheduled to be discussing Chapter 2 on Tuesday!

I blogged in a different post about sleep, but, book club participants, you are going to have to help me out in order to get full coverage of Chapter 1. Even if you haven't read the book, you'll be able to do this assignment. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to do one or more of the following:

  1. Blog or add a comment about any of the above topics or energy and happiness in general.
  2. If you blog somewhere, add a link to the comments. I'd be happy to add a link to your blog in my blog roll under book club participants.
  3. What ways do you boost your energy?
  4. Of the ways to boost energy that Gretchen mentions in the first chapter, what works well for you? What doesn't?

Do you know others that blog or might be interested in participating in this Virtual Book Club? Spread the word by sending the following to your network:

Join Lessons of Love Virtual Book Club: