8. Happiness in the New Millennium

Good morning. I am writing my check-in this morning instead of my morning pages so that my thoughts will be clear and fresh.



Welcome to 2000! As with every year, I am excited for the opportunity a new year represents to think about life and how I want to change or refine it. This year, I rang in the New Year by spending six days in bed with the flu. My brother, who was sick at the same time, defined it best when he said: “There have been times I thought I was going to die, but never until now have I wanted to die.” When the fever finally broke, and with it the migraines, it felt as though I had survived some kind of rebirth—at least that’s how I decided to frame it.


So what is my rebirth all about? It’s about pursuing happiness. I am reading the Dalai Lama’s book, The Pursuit of Happiness, but even before I began it, I had decided that my primary New Year’s resolution was to go an entire year with no greater career ambition than to do my job well. I mentioned this to my neighbor and she said something that floored me: “Yea, it seems to be part of the American psyche, the desire to stand out and be special.” I have barely admitted that desire to myself, let alone spoken it out loud, then to hear her so casually nail it as a cultural phenomenon. So my goal is to let go of the desire to be special and all the anxiety, frustration and depression that goes along with that. My feeling is that if I succeed at relinquishing ambition for an entire year, at the end of the year I will have either learned a new, better way to live, or will have recharged my batteries and feel ready to refocus and begin again.



That is my main goal. The offshoot goals involve redirecting my freed up energy toward my life and whatever forms of enrichment make me happy. My house, garden, husband, body, mind—these are the areas I would like to focus on this year.



Adopting this attitude has already changed how I feel about my work. Instead of panicking that my work is boring and questioning how I will ever get through a full year, (the minimum I need to work to pay off our debt), I feel excited to be here. I have decided that as part of doing my job well I am going to learn everything I can about wine. I signed up for a U.C. Extension course on wines and have been ordering books to read. I like the people I work with; I like the money. I even like the time I get to think or make phone calls while I’m commuting. This is a good place to be and my job will always be as exciting or dull as I make it. The week after I was sick, I worked all week from home and a lot of the old feelings of sleepiness and depression returned, making me realize how good it is for me to get out of the house. That realization alone is huge! I like the structure a job provides my life and I am accomplishing  more than I did when I had more time.