Sunday, July 18, 2010

The limits of self-imposed happiness

In This Is Not The Story You Think It Is: A Season of Unlikely Happiness, Laura Munson recalls a what could have been a sad, sad summer. Her husband announced he didn't love her anymore. His business was failing and she was writing novels that never got published. The dream life they'd built in Montana was a house of cards in danger of tumbling down.

But it didn't turn out that way. Fueled by therapy and a pile of self-help books, the failed novelist journaled through her summer of discontent, determined that her husband was wrong--he did still love her--and he just needed a little space to figure that out.

And--if her book is to be believed--she was right. Her husband came back and her journal turned into her first published book. Go her!

Now, I think there's something to be said for taking responsibility for your own happiness. Life can serve up a lot of crap (death, job losses, financial difficulties and rocky relationships), and wallowing in our misery and playing the blame game are probably pretty poor choices. But I think Munson's Pollyannaish "serenity now" approach only works for the challenges of a pretty comfortable existence. I also just finished reading Sarah's Key, and it's pretty clear that the French who watched tens of thousands of Jews get deported to Nazi death camps probably should have gotten angry, spoken up and fought back instead of thinking, "Hey, those Germans will do the right thing if we just step back and give them a little space."

I received my copy of the book in exchange for my participation in the From Left to Write blogger book club.