The royal blue spiral-bound book stares at me with its gold-embossed quote on the cover.
Focus on what makes you happy.
Some people have an uncanny intuition for buying me exactly—not always what I want but—what I need.
The spiral-bound book, however, happens to be both.
It also happens to be a gift I received on my birthday preceding this one.
Over a year later and I still haven’t managed to get past page 12.
The 52-Week Journal is for those who don’t want to write or journal every day, but still, want to set weekly goals and reflect on a weekly basis.
It is designed to help you welcome more positivity, joy, and happiness into your life by applying the practices of positive thinking, mindfulness, gratitude, and self-development. The focus is on making each day a positive experience, building introspection into your routine and increasing self-awareness.
What makes you happy?
It seems like such a simple question.
But only a few pages in and I was already stuck on the first question.
I’ve spent a long misguided time focusing on other people’s happiness, often neglecting my own and then suffering the consequences of that. A noble but inevitably doomed goal as I’ve often failed to make other people happy. And I’ve failed to make myself happy.
So here I was, sat in front of this spiral-bound book as its gaze tries to pierce my soul and extract what happiness is to me.
“I don’t know, stupid book, leave me alone,” I think in frustration, “Having a quiet shit, that’s happiness, isn’t it?”
It’s so hard to forget pain, but it’s even harder to remember sweetness. We have no scar to show for happiness. We learn so little from peace. Chuck Palahniuk, Diary
The book advertises itself as a way to, “Set goals that will maximize your happiness level.”
I stare up at Maslow’s staircase of needs. Self-actualization, the final step, seems no less intimidating than all the steps preceding it.
“Maximize,” just makes it sound like a chore doesn’t it? It makes me feel as if I’m not qualified to maximize anything, nevermind set any goals.
Do I need to take a course first?
Maybe get a certificate?
I kind of wish that I had to—because the excuse of not being qualified means I could procrastinate this longer.
“Oh, I’m sorry. I really do want to work on my happiness,” I would reply, “but you see, I’m not qualified. Yeah, haven’t gotten the right diplomas. Oh well.”
It’s right there. In the very first word of the gold-embossing.
“Ugh, fine. I’ll focus.”
So I write that I know.
The little I know.
I then send a photo to a close friend, showing my progress because she’s exactly the kind of person who would encourage me to continue whilst applauding what I’ve already done—a good friend.
Forgetting completely that she’s also the kind of person who would feel really rejected for not being included in the list of people who make me happy.
“You do,” I explain, “I hadn’t finished the fucking list.”
Frustrated I think that the Art of Happiness isn’t really a spectator sport, is it?
“Come all, behold as I shit everywhere in an effort to stop shitting everywhere!”
No, the Art of Not-smearing-shit-on-the-wall is a practice best left to the solitude of self.
She eventually says she forgives me but truth be told, I don’t think she has.
Some shit stains are harder to get out of the wall than others.
I finally continue to the next page.
“What makes you unhappy?” its heading taunts me.
After another couple of weeks, I get through it.
I continue to the next one.
And the next.
Until finally I’m done. In the loosest sense of the word, as I’m now greeted by the first of 52 pages.
One for each week of my upcoming life.
Before you get started, please rate how you feel.
“Before I get? But what did I just do if it wasn’t, ‘getting started’?”
Stupid fucking book.
“Maybe happiness can wait another week?” I think as I close the journal and pack it in a box marked, “Miscellaneous,” and get it and everything else ready to move to another house.
This is the third time I’m moving in less than a year.
Quickly taking out the journal again I flip to the page titled, “What makes you unhappy?” and I write in ballpoint ink, “Moving.”