Monday, February 23, 2015

Tom Cahill Recommends Happiness Project

The following is an open letter to Gretchen Rubin, author of "The Happiness Project: Or Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun." (2009).  She is a Yale Law School grad who once clerked for Justice Sandra Day O'Conner.  She lives in NYC with her husband and two daughters.

I'm sending this letter even to friends who consider spirituality and self-help books "whu-whu" for more reasons to think I'm a light weight--like I care.  Hey, enjoy life!



Dear Gretchen,

Two years ago, at the advanced age of 76 and not speaking the language, I moved to France for travel-adventure, spiritual unfoldment, and to get away from very, very disappointing USA politics.  Although I've made a number of stretches in my life, I hadn't made such a big one since age 30 when I walked off a job destroying a budding career in industrial journalism and became a full-time activist and advocacy journalist for peace, justice and the environment.

A month ago, prompted by a friend who took a "vow of happiness," I followed suit and within weeks found your book "The Happiness Project" in a thrift shop in Napa, California, where I was recuperating from a serious operation at the home of my sister and brother-in-law.

The past two years in France have been very difficult for me especially with my health and the bureaucracy.  But your book infected me with resiliency, determination, and faith that I am in the right place, at the right time, for the right reasons.

Two days ago, having flown into Paris from San Francisco, a pickpocket stole from one of my  pockets with a velcro flap an envelope containing about 600 Euros AND my French bankcard with pin code.  I telephoned my French "nanny" who in turn quickly called the bank and was assured my account would be closed immediately and a new card issued.   But today my friend discovered my  account had NOT been terminated and about 3000 Euros more had been stollen.

For hours today, I felt like I had been robbed by the bank as well as the pickpocket.  Dazed as if I had been bludgeoned, I also felt incredibly stupid for having my pin code with the bankcard which, in my defense, I did because I cannot keep track of all the bloody codes in my cyber life.

What a welcome home to France, I thought.

But then my depression lifted enough to grab your book and start reading including notes I wrote on the inside back cover.  I especially liked your quote by William Butler Yeats, "Happiness is neither virtue nor pleasure nor this thing nor that, but simply growth.  We are happy when we are growing."  And as I recall, you added just "striving" for growth helps big time.

Thank you so much for your psycho/spiritual first aid.  Once again I feel like I'm growing.  And as someone once said, "Nothing bad ever happens to a writer.  Everything is material."  Who knows, I might make a novel out my misadventures in old  age.

Tom Cahill
Granville, France
19 Feb. 2015

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