How Do You Get to “Happily Ever After” in Real Life?


Less yoga, more day drinking, and friends

by Stephanie Kaloi

woman with blindfold over her eyes

Here’s the thing, guys: Americans are stressed out. Between employers that want us on all the time, children that require our (undivided) attention, spouses that need our feels, and an ever-growing industrial complex surrounding fitness and mindfulness… there’s honestly not a lot of time to breathe. A simple Google search on “Americans and stress” reveals startling article titles and stats. Try “Stress Is Killing You,” for one. Or check out the American Psychological Association’s 2015 report, “Stress Snapshot”:

  • Extreme stress is associated with this slight increase in overall stress. Adults are more likely than last year to report experiencing extreme stress (a rating of 8,9 or 10 on a 10-point scale). Twenty-four percent of adults report these levels, compared to 18 percent in 2014. This represents the highest percentage reporting extreme stress since 2010.
  • More than one-third of adults (34 percent) report that their stress increased over the past year. Only 16 percent report decreased stress in the past year.
  • Along with greater stress, many adults are coping with health and lifestyle challenges. The majority of adults report having at least one chronic illness. In addition, many adults lack exercise and remain sedentary for much of the day. More than 10 percent of adults also report having a mental health-related diagnosis.

How do we try to cope with this stress? By finding ways to make ourselves happy.

This past weekend I opened up Ruth Whippman’s latest offering,  America the Anxious: How Our Pursuit of Happiness Is Creating a Nation of Nervous Wrecks while on a plane. This wonder of a read clocks in at 223 pages of wit coupled with that fantastic brand of sarcastic humor that the Brits pull off so well. It’s truly a marvelous deep dive of journalistic research on anxiety in America, and it was also perfect for the trip, because it turns out the exact number of pages I can read while juggling two flights and a sleepy child is 223. As I read Ruth’s sharp critiques on whether or not religion, meditation, our careers, and (oh boy!) parenthood are really doing much to make us happy, I also couldn’t stop asking myself a crucial question: if these things aren’t making us happy, what will?

(Hint: The answer has to do with spending time with actual humans. Your partner, sure—but not just your partner.)

publicity photo from mad men

why can’t we just get day drunk instead?

I was a goner for America the Anxious immediately, because the first part of the book is about our nation’s current obsession with yoga, meditation, and mindfulness, and how we try to use the three to make ourselves happy. Before you hate me (and Ruth), just know that I practice yoga regularly and I love it. I don’t go to classes (I prefer to get my yoga on at home with Adriene, btw), and I don’t necessarily do yoga for the chill, blissful benefits—I am just really flexible and want to stay that way. Everyone in our house is a fan of using meditation as a way to calm ourselves down, and we have encouraged our son to find a quiet spot of his choosing and meditate when he’s feeling rage-y, to great success. And being fully present in the moment? I’m all over it, at least in theory.

I actually really like mindfulness—you know, the kind that’s taught for free at meditation centers, not sold in the form of Zen clocks or for retreats that will set you back $3K (or, you know, ad services that automatically link the word “meditation” to a website that presumably sells you a happy, peaceful life). And I definitely don’t think commercial mindfulness as it’s sold in the US has anything to do with lightening one’s load or making anyone happy. I like my neighborhood YMCA as much as the next person, but when I’m there I don’t get hit with the overwhelming scent of happiness and glee—it’s more like anxiety and sweat.

I mean, this:

It occurs to me that all these happiness pursuits often don’t seem to be making people particularly happy. When a new American friend persuades me to try out a yoga class, you can almost smell the tension and misery in the room. Although it’s a little hard to determine the cause and effect, as anyone who was already feeling happy would be unlikely to waste the sensation in a fetid room at the YMCA, contorting their body into uncomfortable positions. The happy person would be more likely to be off doing something fun, like sitting in the park, drinking.

Are you there, Ruth? It’s me, Stephanie, your new BFF.

woman typing on a computer

if your boss talks about work-life integration, get a new boss

Of course, the book isn’t all about anxiety and the degree of mindfulness we have in our lives—it’s also about our work lives, and how they’re essentially wrecking us and turning Americans into a tired, hungry, anxiety-ridden mass. A lot of them are also ever-increasingly doing this by implementing a new practice that legitimately sends shivers down my spine: work-life integration.

What is work-life integration, you wonder? (Or maybe you don’t. Maybe you already know because you live it.) The premise behind the notion is that if an employer makes work a super great, fun place to be, his or her employees will totally want to be there all the time. If you work in a startup culture, this idea is probably more than familiar to you already. If you don’t, think about the corporate offices of Facebook, Google, and the like. You’ve probably seen or read numerous articles about how the offices look so fun (!!!!) and amazing, and how you should totally hate your workplace because you don’t have foosball tables and candy stations there, right? Let’s dial that back.

Here’s the deal about workplaces that offer cupcakes with the Instagram logo on them, Lego playstations, and on-site doctors and dry cleaners: All that stuff is there because they never want their employees to leave. Work-life integration is on the other end of the spectrum of work-life balance (aka, you go to work and do work and then you leave and do the rest of your life while work stays at work, where it belongs), and it is designed to make you feel like it’s totally normal that you’re working a 9-to-5, coming home for dinner say hi to your spouse for a second, and then signing back on to finish more work from 8 to 11. Or that you’re at work from 8:30 in the morning until 10:30 at night because you took an hour off to build a Lego tower with that guy down the hall who you don’t actually like, but are forced to build Lego towers with because some CEO at the top of the chain thinks it’ll make your life so radically amazing and you’ll want to be at work forever.

Also, it turns out the place where I buy my kid’s shoes (they have extra-wide choices! So great for his AFOs!) is quite possibly the worst of them all:

Happiness is serious business here at Zappos. The company is probably the nation’s leader in a trend that has been dubbed “corporate fungineering,” in which management attempts to turn office life into a dizzying parade of fun (or as many companies now refer to it, FUN!). Although Zappos is at the more extreme end of the spectrum, it is certainly no longer anomalous in the ranks of corporate America, and is often seen as a model for business leaders keen to build a similar funorama culture in their own workplaces. Zappos even offers consultancy services on how best to go about this.

I get that my work experience is outside the norm: I have always worked for myself and/or as an independent contractor for others. But guys, the idea of my boss trying to normalize me giving ten-plus hours to the company in the name of fun makes me want to crawl into a hole… or maybe take up fly fishing to see if I can make a living doing that.

When you think about all of this, it’s no wonder that nearly 16 percent of American workers had a major depressive episode in 2014.

photo of god is love in palm springs

but surely religion is different… right?

I’ll go ahead and lay it out there for you guys: I am completely an atheist. There isn’t a part of me that believes in any kind of religious power at all, and as such, I was especially intrigued by page 127 of Ruth Whippman’s book—aka when a chapter entitled “God’s Plan of Happiness” begins. Even though I don’t believe in any semblance of a god (or God), I have previously attempted to join two religious groups. We first attended services at a Unitarian Universalist church, and then spent two years seriously studying Judaism and contemplating conversion, for personal reasons—one of which centers on the sense of community that seems so well established in religious groups.

But it can be argued that no religion is all about portraying a happy, God-fearing life quite like the Church of Latter-Day Saints, and Ruth agrees:

On almost every measure, Mormons appear to be outpacing the rest of America. Around 90 percent of Mormons rate their communities as excellent or good, compared with just 70 percent of Americans generally. Mormons have some of the lowest rates of unemployment in the country, and according to Gallup polls, Provo, Utah, where close to 90 percent of the population identifies as religious Mormon, is officially the happiest town in America.

To find out just how happy Utah’s Mormons are, Ruth went to the heart of the movement: Salt Lake City. She spent a weekend with a family of six.

Stephen lives in Salt Lake City and has four children, which, as he tells Neil, is a small family by Mormon standards. His wife, Laura, is a stay-at-home mom and since marriage, has never worked outside the home. Married at twenty-one, they are anti-sex before or outside of marriage, anti-gay marriage and anti-abortion, all of which are virtually unheard-of positions among our social circle.

The results? They’re fascinating. Utah’s Mormon population has community on lock, for one thing. In the first few hours of Ruth’s visit, several different neighbors stop by Laura and Stephen’s home. One woman is returning a borrowed pie dish (with freshly baked cookies inside), and a group comes by to sing “Happy Birthday” to one of the couple’s children. A dad stops in to ask if Laura will babysit his kids (of course she says yes), and another neighbor brings a birthday gift of chocolate. As someone who can’t tell you the last time someone stopped by my house unexpectedly (besides the kids selling magazine subscriptions for their school), I find this rate of visitors simultaneously really cool and really… exhausting. But maybe I shouldn’t.

In an individualistic culture, in which we are primed to see happiness as the result of a private internal journey, people often see the magic ingredient in the link between religion and happiness as the personal sense of meaning that a religious faith brings. But when researchers have drilled down into the reasons why religious people are happier, it turns out the opposite is true. It isn’t the inner journey of private religious belief that is making religious people so happy, but the community and social connectedness that comes with a religious lifestyle.

In other words, all of those fellow church-going neighbors and friends? They might be the key to happiness. Or, rather, maybe they are if your prescribed religion works for you—but what about when it doesn’t? Ruth also met several women who quite plainly told her that the lack of equality within the faith is more than a burden—it’s painful to live with. As one woman put it:

“I know that many Mormon women feel very valued for what they contribute at home,” she replies carefully, “but equality is not a feeling. It’s something that you can actually quantify. You might feel valued, but you are not equal. When my kids were baptized, my husband blessed them, I did nothing but make the programs and play the piano.” Emily pauses for a moment, then slumps back into the sofa. “It fills me with anguish.”

With all of its good—and when you consider their incredibly effective welfare program, there’s a whole lot of it—the Mormon church still seriously struggles when it comes to gender equality and rights for all.  This serious lack of equality for all Mormons also comes into play when you consider another surprise that Whippman uncovered: Mormon Utah has the highest rate of antidepressant use in the United States.

It’s unclear what conclusions we can draw from that—since appropriate anti-depressant use can be part of self and mental health care (and often stigmatized). Are Mormons depressed because of the immense pressure to seem happy? Is community allowing them to overcome the stigma of anti-depressants, and take them as needed? Who knows. But it’s clear that the tight knit community in Utah is what sets it apart from the rest of the US, for good and for ill.

friends eating lunch together

why is happiness defined as something you do alone?

At the core of the book is this question, this pondering, that led Whippman to start writing the book in the first place. Why is happiness such a singular journey in this country? Why are we constantly told we are responsible for our own happiness? That no one can bring us down if we let them? That if we only buy the next product or put our kid in the “right” school or eat the cupcakes or don’t eat the cupcakes or go to the gym or pay $3K for the mindfulness cruise, we’ll suddenly “get it”? Why do we keep segmenting ourselves off, further and further away from one another? Why aren’t we turning to others instead? Why aren’t we turning to our… friends?

The idea that we are significantly happier moment to moment when we are around others than when we are on our own has since been backed up several times by other studies. And surprisingly this effect is not just true for people who consider themselves extroverts but also equally strong for introverts—other research has shown that when introverts are told to behave like extroverts, even when they think that they will hate every second of it, they actually end up feeling happier as a result.

I have lived this truth, and quite recently. We moved to a new city just over a year ago, and for the better part of that year, almost all of my socialization has come via phone calls with long-distance friends, hanging out with my husband at night, catching up on social media, and the APW Slack channel. Seriously. This summer, I finally decided enough was enough and invited a few families over for a movie night (which was amazing). Since then I’ve asked other moms I’ve met through my kid to go out for drinks (equally so much fun), and am making it a point to hang out with someone I don’t live with at least twice a month (which still sounds like way too little time, but also… it’s something?). My husband, who generally uses meditation and mindfulness to bring himself a sense of happiness, recently went out for drinks with classmates and had so much fun that he talked about it for three days after—and guys, there wasn’t even that much to talk about. He just hadn’t actually sat down with a group in a social situation in ages, and he realized he loved it.

The moral of the story, the heart of the book—you’ve already bought it, right?—the big takeaway you need? If you want happiness, convince your friend that you guys should ditch your yoga class and go have coffee or tea together instead. Call your mom and gossip about celebrities that you both like.

Hell. Maybe you should even day drink.

Stephanie Kaloi

Stephanie is a photographer, writer, and Ravenclaw living in California with her family. She is super into reading, road trips, and adopting animals on a whim. Forewarning: all correspondence will probably include a lot of punctuation and emoji (!!! ? ? ?).

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  • Cellistec

    Super interesting and timely topic, Stephanie! Thank you for diving into it.

    I think it was a APW post recently discussing the relationship between happiness and parenthood, and a commenter referenced a different post (this sounds like the “friend of a friend” of urban legend fame, but I swear it’s legit) that a meaningful life is more important than a happy one. I agree 100%. And many of the things that give our lives meaning–maintaining relationships, doing well by other people, allowing ourselves to be vulnerable to others–are the same ones that cause anxiety. So I wonder whether reframing our quest for happiness as a quest for meaning can help assuage some of the anxiety that’s sucking us down like quicksand. For example, I’m stressed over the prospect of caring for my in-laws in the near future, but if I think of it as helping them live their final years in dignity, it feels more meaningful, like a contribution that ties me to the rest of humanity…though that doesn’t mean I should expect to enjoy it.

    • Ashlah

      That’s a really fascinating point of view, and something that’s really got me thinking. My main takeaway from this piece was that I need to vastly improve my social skills, which does make me quite anxious. But when I frame it as pursuing a meaningful life by seeking out and maintaining relationships and opening myself up to others…well, it still makes me anxious, but it makes it seem more worth the effort and discomfort than the promise of happiness alone, since I’d consider myself generally content already (most of the time).

      • stephanie

        My husband is totally someone who gets anxious about the prospect of being more social, which made his experience that I talked about at the end all the more amazing for him. He was really anxious about hanging out with his classmates and he ended up having the best, best time. He’s planning to do it more frequently, even.

        I also consider myself a pretty happy person, but have noticed that when I’m with other people in a group, social situation.. I’m not thinking “Oh, I’m so happy right now!” I’m just BEING HAPPY, which is the difference for me, personally. I have many instances where I’ll be alone and think “I am so happy right now” or my kid says something I love and it makes me happy and so on, but I’m almost always actively aware of that feeling. When I’m out with others, I don’t think about it—I just am happy.

        • Ellie Rockhill

          My boyfriend and his best friend of many years had a falling out a few years ago, and because he moved towns a few times after graduation, he really doesn’t have a community of friends now. He’s still holding onto hurts from that friend-breakup and others that went sour, and because of it he’s really hesitant to try to make new friends. I don’t blame him, either.

          He met a cool guy at his job in March. We finally all got plans together for JULY. The next time we were able to set something up to hang out was OCTOBER. How are you supposed to be able to build off of seeing someone like once a season? I can understand that for something long distance or already established, but it’s my experience when you’re working on something new it takes watering and tending to. Which, for whatever reason, seems like people aren’t really working hard at.

      • Cellistec

        Yes, I think the distinction between being happy and being content is crucial and underrated. My husband is an existentially happy person and is constantly asking me if I’m happy. I always overthink it in the moment–“what’s my rubric of happiness? am I fulfilling it right now?”–but a better question would be whether I’m content, because the answer is almost always yes, deeply so. I guess I’d better just pretend he’s asking the latter and answer accordingly, because I think that’s what he’s going for anyway.

        • anon-o-tron

          Same same. I don’t really have a “bursting with joy” setting but I have a lot of peaceful contentment in my life and I feel like that’s good enough.

    • Yeah, my goal is to have a meaningful life. I prioritize things that are good for my health (like seeing friends, exercise, etc) but I don’t prioritize happiness. Prioritizing happiness was something that didn’t work. Prioritizing ways to contribute to my community and ways to improve myself does result in being a less stressed person, in general, that focusing on happiness (because then I get stressed about not being happy enough and the path to just BE HAPPY is a lot less clear to me than the path to work on contributing the the community or working on my health).

      I also read an interesting article a couple of years ago, which try as I might, I can’t find again, that basically said that until relatively recently, happiness was not one of the main goals that parents had for their children. I think it used to be that they lead a fulfilling or meaningful life (I’m not exactly sure of the word they used but something along those lines). It was a really thought-provoking essay and I can’t find it again, but it did change a lot about how I try and prioritize things in my life.

  • Amy March

    I’m never quite sure what happy means to me. In the short term, happiness means fun! It means going out with friends in a cute new dress, it means baking a pie, it means chatting to my mom, it means savoring a cup of tea in bed on a fall Saturday. In the long term though, happiness looks a lot like having my health, having financial resources to make money not a source of worry, feeling like my life has purpose and meaning. So short term, day drinking clearly wins. But long term? Doing some yoga to preserve my strength and flexibility is probably not a terrible plan.

    The part about religion and happiness is particularly interesting to me. I attend church with reasonable frequency, and it is a deeply important part of my life. But I don’t know that it makes me happy, and I think that’s not really what I’m looking for from church anyway. For me it’s more of a challenge- living my life in the way I feel my faith calls me to is hard work that I’ll probably never perfect. Church is thought provoking and worship is fulfilling, but it’s not really fun. But my view on that is probably colored by the fact that I don’t have a faith community. I find that urban mainline Protestant churches are not great at community building for young(ish) single adults, so at this moment in time faith is largely a solitary practice for me.

    • Danielle

      This is an interesting point. It makes me think about the difference between “happiness” and “meaningful”.

      Like, I really want to write more. But it’s HARD. It’s NOT FUN. I have to drag my ass up to do it. But it feels meaningful, I know it’s what my soul wants to do. So it’s one of my main goals for this year.

      Maybe everyone needs to find a balance (btn short-term in-the-moment fun, and long-term meaningful activities) for themselves. Ultimately, investing enough time in both of those things can help most people’s mental health (the larger point of this article).

      • LadyMe

        Back when that “Power of Introverts” book by Susan Cain was new there were some interesting think pieces about how our definition of what feelings/behaviors constitute “happiness” are extrovert-biased, and that introverts were more likely to identify with being “contented” or “fulfilled”. I didn’t necessarily agree with all of it (starting with introversion/extroversion is more of a spectrum than a binary), but it’s interesting to think about.

        Also studies about how gratitude really affects happiness. If you appreciate those short term fun moments for being fun, rather than seeing them as part of some vast checklist towards becoming some idealized form of Happy Personified, it seems like that might contribute towards actually *feeling* happy.

        /my idle thoughts fwiw

        • Danielle

          I really liked that book!

          And I like your point about gratitude too… I have definitely used that as a tool when I was really stressed or anxious: try to remember everything (or even just 3 things) I’m grateful for. It goes a long way towards reducing anxiety, for me at least. It’s amazing how many things go right, even when some things are really messed up.

          • E.

            I do that with my students! I mean in my head haha. When I start feeling ohmygodeveryoneisactingupnooneislearninganything I try to stop and look around at all the other students who are actually engaged and on task.

    • Yeah, my goal is to have a meaningful life. I prioritize things that are good for my health (like seeing friends, exercise, etc) but I don’t prioritize happiness. Prioritizing happiness was something that didn’t work. Prioritizing ways to contribute to my community and ways to improve myself does made me a happier person.

      I also read an interesting article a couple of years ago, which try as I might, I can’t find again, that basically said that until relatively recently, happiness was not one of the main goals that parents had for their children. I think it used to be that they lead a fulfilling or meaningful life (I’m not exactly sure of the word they used but something along those lines). It was a really thought-provoking essay and I can’t find it again, but it did change a lot about how I try and prioritize things in my life.

    • GotMarried!

      “urban mainline Protestant churches are not great at community building for young(ish) single adults”

      This has been my experience for all of my 20’s. My “Peers” all seem to be married and well into parenthood, and while that shouldn’t prohibit us being friends …. apparently it does. My experiences in Law School were not this way at all. I had a relatively diverse friend group who were loyal to each other despite being in different seasons of our lives. After graduation, however, it seemed that “single late 20’s female” meant …. social pariah in the Church.

    • anon-o-tron

      I’ve found that a lot of the things that make me happy are more …satisfying than fun? Gardening makes me super happy, I love nurturing things and seeing them grow and creating something beautiful. But sometimes while I am doing it, I feel like it is a giant NOT FUN pain in the ass. Same thing with completing odd jobs around the house or doing the dishes.

      Something about putting in work and effort and then seeing tangible results is really satisfying to me so when I think about happiness, I guess I’m thinking more about satisfaction and contentment.

  • Sarah E

    One of the things that holds me up is that I find it so difficult to share things I love with other people- even close friends. I don’t participate in casual Harry Potter discussion (even with my BFF who is Harry’s #1 fan), because the magic of that book is so precious to me, and tarnishing it seems like a huge risk. I went to see Idina Menzel this past weekend (So. Good.), and my husband happily agreed to go when I bought tix over the summer, but I never even considered asking another friend to go with me. My husband is generally down for whatever, and my built-in default date. But to share with someone else how much I love Idina’s voice or that I know all the words (or nearly) to Rent and Wicked would make me feel so vulnerable.

    I don’t know that there’s a great answer for it. I generally fall on the extroverted end of the spectrum, but texting someone to grab coffee or go for a walk or just hang out seems like a big deal in my head.

    • Amy March

      I think that’s the trade off. If you want other people to be meaningful parts of your life, you probably need to be vulnerable with them a bit. And getting coffee doesn’t need to touch on the big important things- there’s nothing wrong with talking about how beautiful the weather is, and the new restaurant down the street, and which nearby town has the best parks to run in! (Also, don’t we all love Idina? That’s such an awesome thing to share with a new friend!)

    • stephanie

      Who did you share these things with before you met your husband? Real question. I’m also a huge Harry person, and I can’t imagine not basking in the joy of sharing that book—and many other books—with others because my experience is not the only one worth knowing, and my love for the series is not the only one worth thinking about, and so on.

    • Ashlah

      Just here to say I get you. I struggle with the same thing. I know I need to open up and make myself vulnerable (because it does feel vulnerable to share excitement about something!) to reach any level of closeness with someone, but I have a really hard time with it.

    • NolaJael

      I get this. My husband is a pretty private person and has trouble making deep connections for similar reasons. One of the things he’s expressed to me that he’s learned as he’s gotten older/wiser (ha!) is that social connections aren’t just spontaneous love-at-first-sight kind of things. They can take work. It can mean accepting a happy hour invite when you’re not feeling it or opening up about something when you’re not sure about the response. Trust is a process and it’s not all puppies and rainbows all the time. But you are guaranteed that there will never be puppies and rainbows if you never start. (Obviously, YMMV. If you have oversharing issues in the past or trouble with boundaries, this advice is not for you.)

    • Meg Keene

      This sounds like it might be social anxiety, which I have to some extent (I have generalized anxiety disorder), and might be worth talking to someone about!

  • A.

    Sort of apropos of nothing, but to be fair to Zappos, part of what is left out here is that they actively try to create a culture that they describe as “polarizing.” Their goal is that you either would absolutely LOVE to work there…or you’d fucking hate it. It’s part of the self-selection of their incredibly competitive hiring process.

    I’m someone who falls in the “omg whaaaaat NEVER EVER HOLY SHIT NO” category the more I hear about it from business school friends who work there (and have gone through their three day hiring bootcamp in which you’re kicked out if you arrive at 7:01 even one time and so most people who pass show up at 4:30am to ensure they pass the test, yiiiiikes), but they’re successful enough right now to try something radically different.

    • stephanie

      OH absolutely—that’s touched on as well (in the book). It just sounds totally awful to me.

    • Meg Keene

      They also had a string of suicides in their happiness focused city. It’s an interesting deep dive of a chapter.

  • Sarah E

    Also, Sarah Von Bargen at Yes and Yes blogs quite a bit on happiness in a smart, concrete way: http://www.yesandyes.org/2016/09/resist-happiness.html

    • Cellistec

      I loooooove Yes and Yes. Sarah’s ebooks are a revelation as well.

  • Amanda Kauer

    I’m in a secular sunday gathering group http://www.kcoasis.org/ which is super awesome for community building. We recently had the host of Mormon Podcasts at our gathering, and we got a surge of ex-mormons into our group. They do community like woah! We now do a lot of those Mormon things – dinners, trading childcare, etc. It’s really nice to have the community group without all the spiritual bullshit.

    Oasis is slowly turning into a nationwide thing. I know that there are communities in Utah, Washington, Houston, and Boston. http://www.peoplearemoreimportant.org/

    • NolaJael

      Growing up out West in Mormon country I was always really impressed with their sense of community – they support each other’s families (babysitting), small businesses, you name it…but the flip side is that it is horribly difficult on those who are ousted from that community. My godfather is a self-proclaimed “recovering Mormon” and he spent years alienated from his family and questioning his place in society when he was more or less disowned as an unbeliever.

      • NolaJael

        So I should add – kudos for helping build a supportive place for ex-Mormons!

    • Larkin

      !!!

      I was just thinking recently that I wanted something like this. I grew up in a religious family and we went to church, then grew up and am no longer remotely religious. But sometimes I’m jealous of the community that my parents and other religious people I know have. It’s been especially poignant lately, since we moved to a new city nine months ago and have very few friends here so far.

      Interestingly, looks like there are a lot in Utah. None in my city yet, but the idea is definitely intriguing.

  • sofar

    The Mormon example shows how community is KEY. In particular, “UNSCHEDULED community.” Remember how happy we all were as kids during the summer, just hanging out/bumping into random neighborhood kids and exploring all day?

    I visited my friend in a small European city recently, and what struck me is how unscheduled their social lives are. Everyone pretty much goes to the square in the evenings. No need to schedule anything — you’ll bump into 15 people you know, sip drinks in a cafe, smoke by the river, drift into a karaoke bar, have random adventures all night as people come and go. Feel like staying home? Stay in. No need to cancel on anyone. Just show back up in the square tomorrow.

    My life, meanwhile, is trying to find time and a place to meet with people I want to see. You need to schedule, pick a place that’s amenable to both of you at rush hour, make reservations, text each other a million times that your’e “running late,” only to often have the other person flake. Forget meeting up with 15 people.

    For a while, a big group of us had a “standing” night at a certain bar in town (our version of “Cheers”), so people could just hang out/drift in if they wanted to, unscheduled. But that fell apart when the bar closed. American cities need more centralized squares!

    • Cleo

      What European city is this?

      I’d like to visit a place like that. Having that sort of community sounds awesome.

      • stephanie

        Same!

      • sofar

        Ljubljana!

    • Sarah E

      This is such an important factor.

    • NolaJael

      So true. I’ve been thinking (worrying?) about this a lot lately…wedding planning forces you to think quite a bit about who your family/people/tribe are and how you interact.

      • toomanybooks

        Yeah, like “I was thinking of asking this person to be in the wedding party but then they moved without telling me / haven’t hung out with me in so long that I’m worried they hate me for unknown reasons”

    • Danielle

      I love that point!

      One tip I’ve heard about time management (something I struggle with) is to build in a cushion of time before/after planned activities for unplanned events.

      Having an extra 5-15 minutes before I have to go somewhere can really make the difference between a rushed task, and the ability to explore something, meet someone new, etc.

    • toomanybooks

      Yup. I generally have three types of friends: 1) are also available and theoretically willing to hang out but, like me, never reach out to plan anything, 2) get inches away from nailing down plans, only to never actually make a commitment to hang out at a certain time or place, and 3) schedule their life so heavily that the only time they’re available is so far into the future that it may as well not exist for me.

      • Amy March

        #3 is so true. No, I don’t particularly want to commit Sunday morning 8 weeks from now to you for the purpose of grabbing tea together. That should be a fun and easy plan, not an obligation I have to plan everything else around! I have one friend I’ve honestly stopped calling as much, because every time it isn’t a good time for him to chat, he wants to reschedule and calendar a conversations and dude no! Just call me back when you’re free and if I am too we will talk.

      • sofar

        I have major guilt over being Friend-Type 3. I see a lot of my friends multiple times per week via hobbies and volunteering. But I also have friends who don’t do those activities. And if they want to meet on a Saturday for lunch, I’m like, “Uh… I’m free four Saturdays from now.” Meanwhile, THEY are also overscheduled so they’re like, “Oh, I’m not free that Saturday.” So then we’re talking about making plans more than 2 months in advance!

        • Ellie Rockhill

          I’ve found that being willing to do things like talk on the phone during a commute, skype while making dinner, or run errands together can help create time that can be shared when you’re so busy with work and extracurriculars!

    • JLily

      I sort of had this set-up, in grad school. It was a 2-year program with about 60 people, all who shared similar values, so we mostly all liked each other and got along. And it was so fun and I miss the whole thing like woah.

      But, in normal adult life, I just don’t really like that many people? Like its hard to find a substantial enough crowd of people that I feel like genuinely get me and that I want to spend time/energy on. Maybe a small town issue, or maybe just my issue.

      • NolaJael

        I think a lot of people feel this way post-grad school. After you have that intense new experience with people who share so much in common other “normal” interactions feel somehow lesser. It’ll wear off with time. ;)

      • Ellie Rockhill

        I feel this. I had a friend group in my old city with about 30 people, but 10-12 regulars where we had dinner every Tuesday night at 7PM at our friend’s house. At the gathering we just hung out and chatted and stuff, and then if someone had fun plans or an event that weekend we could all plan to be there, etc.

        Weirdly, the next place I lived had a very similar thing but it was a bit more rigid — the first one was just a set time/place but food and drink was whatevs, people took turns cooking, and we just did whatever every time, whereas the new thing I went to was a dinner gathering they called “Breakfast for Dinner” and also always concluded with “intentional conversation.” I think it was an awesome idea but too much structure/predictability made me feel anxious. Especially if you’d had a long day and just wanted to stop in and say hi, then it seemed like you were avoiding the “intentional conversation” portion. :P

    • NolaJael

      Unscheduled can be part of it, but repeated is also really key. I like the idea of the standing night at a bar or a fixed monthly game night or pot luck. That familiarity breeds closeness. You can catch up on the little things in someone’s life – like how their boss chews with her mouth open – not just births, marriages and deaths.

      • Ashlah

        Yes, this is what I want/need to work on with my friendships! We’ll go months and months without seeing each other, and then I feel pressure to fill them in on every big thing (and only the big things) when we do see each other–but then I can’t remember anything “worth” talking about because it all happened months ago! It’d be so much easier to feel familiar enough to talk about everything, even the “boring” stuff.

      • Did this with a friend of mine while her partner was deployed– a standing weekly dinner date (like cooked dinner or takeout at one of our places) let us get together regularly without having to expend lots of planning effort.

      • Lisa

        This is why it’s so much easier to make friends in college than it is an adult. You’re routinely running into the same people, and if you’re in a small program, you’re spending a lot of time together in class and out of it working on projects. Friendships just naturally develop because you see people all of the time. It’s different working in an office because a lot of the time you’re coming into a place where people have already established friendships or there’s a hierarchy that prevents you from getting close to someone.

      • Greta

        My friends and I have a standing “climbing” night at our local climbing gym. We go every Tuesday around 7pm-ish. We also always send out an email blast on Tuesdays reminding everyone. Sometimes there are 3 people there, sometimes we have 15! But it’s been a great way to connect on a regular basis with friends, doing something super social that everyone can just come as often or infrequently as they like. It’s also convenient because it’s not like a dinner where you have to wait for everyone to show up, or anything like that – you just come when you can, stay for as long as you like. We frequently end up going to get drinks after too. We’ve been doing it since January and it really has been the BEST.

    • Meg Keene

      OMG YES UNSCHEDULED COMMUNITY. Just having to move my lunch date for the zillionth time right now.

      • Ellie Rockhill

        Also I had a pal in the last city where I lived where her schedule was so rigid when we did hang out she only would pencil in 1 hour, 1.5 max. If I asked to extend our hangout, she was usually like, “Oh, I have this other thing now.”

        What I like to do is plan social things that can bleed into one another, and therefore could introduce people. Example, Saturday I went hiking and had brunch with a friend. I told her I was going shopping that night with another friend and invited her along. Then the friends I went shopping with I invited to drinks I had planned for later that night with another new friend. (Saturday was about the most socializing I’ve done with people I don’t live with in months, FYI lol.)

  • LadyMe

    Millennials need to up their casserole game, that’s all I’m saying.
    When my grandparents had a health scare, I’m pretty sure about 100 people from their church came by and dropped off casseroles for them. (Coordinated to be spaced throughout the month!)

    • stephanie

      You know, I do see this behavior within parenting circles that I’m part of, so it exists! These aren’t religious in nature, but they’re generally local FB groups made up of parents who Get It and will help when someone needs it.

      • LadyMe

        Good to know it exists. I guess as I’m currently outside parenting circles and refuse to get a Facebook account that I miss its existence in that form.

    • JC

      Yes yes yes. I’ve been in my new area for two years now, and last December I baked a shit ton of cookies and dropped them off at all of my friends’ houses– a 100% normal thing to do in my home of origin. Everyone was SO confused when I showed up out of the blue with food…until the next day, when they told me with glee how nice it was to get surprise cookies. I’m going to do it again this year, if only to tell myself that it’s important that I connect with these people. Maybe I’ll do a casserole or two as well.

      • Amy March

        Cellphones have really done a number on the culture of dropping by unannounced. I loved how all my mother’s friends would drop by whenever they were nearby and had a little time free. They’d have a cup of tea, a cookie if one was available, and leave a neat and tidy half hour later. Of course, they also didn’t work and had company ready living rooms available :)

        • rg223

          I actually do this quite a lot, but I do the millenial equivalent and call or text to see if they are home (I prefer that to ringing their bell, as we are in NYC and people don’t always answer the door). It nearly always fails, but at least the person knows I was thinking of them!

      • Ellie Rockhill

        Also I feel like nobody is ever home!! I’m going to try doing this for my 4 new friends before the year is over. :) Cute idea!

  • As a person in recovery from substance abuse who has worked really hard to overcome overwhelming culture messaging (not to mention the peculiar twist in my brain) that equates drinking with fun and fun with happiness, and who relies on spirituality and exercise as two of my primary tools for living a full if not always happy sober life, this was difficult to read. There is probably some unpacking to do on my part, but just wanted to out it out there in case anybody else found themselves a bit triggered/ungrounded by this post.

    • stephanie

      Hey Sandy, I’m super sorry if any part of this essay was triggering for you—it’s 100% not my intent. I am definitely not advocating for drinking alcohol or shunning religion as a way to happiness—if anything, the core focus is about community, and reaching out to others. I’m sorry if it read as differently to you. <3

      • Thanks, Stephanie, I appreciate your response. The tagline is what raised my hackles and I went into the piece like that. I know the taglines cannot always be perfectly representative of a piece and are not always written by the author. Totally agree on your takeaways re: connection with other people. That has been another huge piece in my recovery.

    • Lindsay

      Thanks for touching on this, Sandy. While I’m not in recovery, I do bristle at much of the cultural messaging around alcohol as a source of pleasure (especially prevalent where I live – Wisconsin). Reading this piece, I immediately thought of this essay: http://qz.com/762868/giving-up-alcohol-opened-my-eyes-to-the-infuriating-truth-about-why-women-drink/ On a different note, I wonder if the higher rate of antidepressant use in Utah may be related to alcohol and other drugs not being culturally appropriate means for coping with underlying mental health issues in the LDS community.

      • I think your suggestion re: antidepressant use in Utah is spot on. Same story for prescription drug abuse in the state. Though I do think that the pressure to be perfect in Mormonism also plays a role. I don’t know that gender and sex inequality has so much of a direct effect. The vast majority of active members are not consciously bothered by those teachings. Mormon feminists (I consider myself one) are a rare breed.

        The essay you linked to is so great, though I know drinkers bristle at the title (which I think was slapped on by the media outlet for its clickbaity quality).

        • NotMotherTheresa

          As someone who’s not Mormon, but lives in a very Evangelical, bible belt area, I definitely think the pressure to be perfect plays a role. I know that in my case, I’m kind of on the borderline regarding the “need” for anti-depressants and anxiety medication. I could get by fine without them, but I’d definitely have some bad days. The problem is, I don’t really feel like I’m allowed to have “bad days”…and so I take medication to alleviate them. If it was just me, and my “off” days didn’t throw such a wrench into everything else, I’d skip the medication.
          I still don’t have nearly the pressure on me that the Mormon wives have, so I can definitely see that if you have six kids, a husband, and neighbors dropping by five times a day, there wouldn’t be much room for an “off” day of phoning it in and laying around in pajamas once you get home.

      • Laura C

        I thought of that essay, too. It was definitely thought-provoking even though I do like to drink.

        • Amy March

          Ohhhh I hated that article with a fiery passion. Def thought-provoking!

      • Meg Keene

        Huh. I wonder if that’s true. We edited this essay a few times re: the anti depressant issue. As someone who’s been on anti-depressants for years, and needs them very much, I’m really conscious of the fact that a lot of people who need them don’t use them, because of stigma. So I think it’s easy to say “Mormon’s say they’re happy but look at their anti-depressant use!” but I’m not sure that’s accurate. Maybe a close community is encouraging people to take the meds they need behind closed doors. Maybe you’re right and without drinking people have to deal with the underlying issue. Regardless, I’m not sure it’s a bad thing. I know so many people that probably need anti-depressants or anti-anxieties, but won’t take them because of the stigma.

    • 250

      I agree that our societal narrative of drinking = the road to happiness needs to be examined. As a healthcare provider, I spend hours discussing the psychological impact of regular (even minimal) alcohol consumption with many young (and not so young) men and women. Alcohol has a huge effect on mood, sleep, anxiety, and our ability to function, all of which are important components in living a happy and satisfying life.

      The ongoing message (from many places) that alcohol is fun and relaxing is difficult to counter when discussing and managing the ongoing mental (and physical) health challenges that many people face. It is disappointing that an article that raises many excellent points about the importance of community and a fulfilling life would have such a flippant and possibly harmful tagline. I too was challenged by this article, and continue to be challenged by the alcohol/substance narrative and how to help others escape its pervasiveness.

    • Meg

      yeah I like the comments earlier that talk about older ladies dropping into friend’s houses for a cup of tea and a cookie. Not all socializing needs to involve alcohol.

      I had a period in my life where I was making an effort to cut back on drinking after college. A group of friends invited me to their weekly D&D game, and having a set non-drinking related social engagement was so great for me and I miss that. There are definitely ways to get the social thing down without alcohol, but it’s definitely harder in this society.

    • emilyg25

      Thanks for this. I’ve been trying to find other ways of relaxing than drinking (thus becoming literally a teetotaler), so that popped out at me too.

  • E.

    Well, I’m currently at home taking a mental health day from work because I’ve been feeling so overwhelmed and finally took the step this morning to try and find a therapist.

    I’ve known I wanted to be a teacher for the past 7 years and can’t imagine doing anything else, but should I really stay in a job that makes me nauseous and have difficulty breathing? I should say this is my 3rd year teaching, but I started a new grade this year so it feels like my first year all over again.

    • Violet

      Must be the time of year- I took a mental health day last week and called my therapist today to schedule a tune-up. Whenever I realize I’m white-knuckling my life I’m like, “Oh right, time to work on getting that sorted.” Best of luck as you figure things out for yourself!

      • E.

        Thanks! I’ve also been feeling a lot of guilt for staying home today, so that was great validation :)

        • Violet

          Any time! I try to be nice to my brain. I hope to rely on it for a long time, so I figure it’s my job to take care of it. Like my gums and my feet. ; )

        • Shawna

          I’m so thankful for this thread. I’m having a total down day (after another one on Monday). It’s somehow nice to know I’m not the only one.

          • E.

            solidarity! this was a well timed post

      • Larkin

        Maybe so. Just a couple of weeks ago I did the same thing (except I was finding a therapist to START going, which has been on my “I should do that” list for the past year or so).

        It’s weirdly comforting to read this and see all these comments, because sometimes I feel like everyone has it together and knows how to be a successful adult human being except for me. I’m also introspective to a fault (like, “I need to make more friends so
        I have more support… I will add that to my list of things to do”), so
        a lot of things that seem like they should just fall under “normal
        life” feel so crushingly exhausting and stressful.

        While I wish it wasn’t true for so many of us, it’s actually kind of nice to know there are a shit ton of people besides me who feel overwhelmed by work/life stress and anxiety.

        • Violet

          Oh, I hope you find someone you like! I totally get that finding a therapist is a hard thing to do. Hell, the beginning of almost anything is usually the hardest part for me! But it gets easier as you go, and it’s a lot easier to check in every few years (or whatever works for you) once you’ve got someone you click with.
          But yeah, you gotta do you! Quieting those judgmental inner voices is no easy task, that’s for sure.

    • Meghan

      Right there with you, same teacher identity crisis, and I’m starting year five (same grade, different curriculum). I too find myself strongly questioning how much longer I can do this given that I’m sure it’s responsible for 90% of the stress, anxiety, and depression I’ve been experiencing for the past year (or more?) But the question of “okay, what else??” is also stressful to consider, and I can’t exactly quit in the middle (or really the beginning!) of the school year… I am working with a therapist who is mostly trying to help me cope with the stress that comes with the job, but it’s only really this past six months or so that I’ve let myself wonder what it would be like just not to have this particular kind of stress in my life to begin with, you know?

      • E.

        So much yes. I’m trying to remind myself that changing a grade (or curriculum!) is like going back to year one, which was terrible, but I got through it knowing it would get better (and it did last year). Holding on to the hope that it will again!

        • Meghan

          Typically, yes! Somehow I actually *volunteered* to try out this new curriculum on a trial basis, the trade off being a set of laptops for my students to use in class…worth it only kind of!

          • E.

            Oof does that mean you’re also alone in trying to figure out the new curriculum? The other teachers on my team have been key for me so we can muddle through new curriculum together and talk it out.

          • Meghan

            Not technically alone, I have people at my school and at the district level that I could reach out to, but no dedicated meeting/training time to discuss what we’re expected to do with it. When prep time is limited (and unpaid) it’s a choice between “do I try to schedule a meeting with other very busy people that will probably only answer 25% of my questions?” and “whatever, I’ll just muddle through on my own.”

  • Violet

    Interesting. I don’t think of happiness as the opposite of stress. As in, to de-stress, one must find happiness. Nor is happiness my #1 goal in life. (Not like I know what my #1 goal is, but happiness isn’t it. Contentment, probably?) Anyway, I’m all for reducing stress. For me, that usually means getting enough sleep, seeing my loved ones regularly, and leaving work at work (I’m one of those types who doesn’t check email when at home; I’m at the office enough as it is). Even if I do all those things, I am not guaranteed happiness, though. Sometimes I’m happy though stressed (like during really busy but productive and meaningful work periods), sometimes I’m unhappy and unstressed (like when I’m bored and unmotivated), other times I’m not stressed and happy, etc. They’re not really correlated for me. I can see how they might be for other people.

    So if my goal is to be less stressed, that requires certain actions. If my goal is to be happier, I don’t think I’d succeed. Not every day can be a party. And that’s okay by me.

    • Cellistec

      To the extent that stress manifests itself physically–headaches, heartburn, muscle tension, suppressed immune system, whatever one happens to get–then reducing stress is always a good idea. I agree, though, that stress and happiness don’t have to have an inverse correlation.

  • EF

    just want to point out that that ‘community’ of mormons is often a gate or a fence — it’s keeping the right people in, the wrong people out. some of those cheery looking families have siblings or children they do not speak of because that person dared to question the religion and leave. some of those trying to leave find themselves constantly accosted — mormons call it ‘love-bombing’– by strangers giving them cookies or singing because they only want to leave the faith because they don’t feel included, right?

    i don’t think that mormons are a good example here at all. and that’s without mentioning the high suicide rate of their gay youth.

    • Danielle

      That gate or fence is similar to Orthodox Judaism, where people are accepted as long as they follow the rules really well, but ostracized when they question a belief or go against the norm.

      I’m assuming other strict religions are similar as well.

    • I am a former Mormon and this has not been my experience at all. Though I know it is true for some. Never heard of love bombing, either, ha.

      • EF

        so you said in another comment that you’re a ‘mormon feminist’. have you actually left?

        because it’s not so easy. and don’t just take my word for it, go peruse the RFM (recovery from mormonism) forum. my story is there, which i will not link to as i don’t like to cross-contaminate my online presence, but there are thousands and thousands who have been treated terribly by both the organisation and the mormon community. don’t erase it.

        • Not erasing, just offering another experience. I call myself a Mormon feminist because I am very tied into that community, which consists of people all across the spectrum of Mormonism, including many people who have left. I am familiar with the experiences of people who have been treated terribly when they’ve left. That’s a narrative I encounter often. I also encounter the narrative of the happy Mormon often. The narrative of the person who left without massive fallout is, in my experience, not as widely shared, so I like to do so when I can. (Only because you asked, I will say that my leaving the church was a long slow process, but I fully disengaged after the policy change last November.)

        • Oof, I am an asshole for not leading with this: I am so, so sorry that you were treated poorly. I don’t know what happened to you, but I do take you at your word that it was bad and I am sorry. I recognize that I am lucky to have the family that I do and the experience that I’ve had.

          • EF

            no no that’s ok! but i did appreciate your clarifications.

          • Phew:) Even having left, I’m still senstive to harsh criticism of the church (many of my loved ones are still very much members). And there is so much criticism out there that, though warranted to some degree, comes from people who don’t really know the religion or the community that I sometimes forget that it might be coming from somebody who actually lived through it. In the former case, I think more information is helpful. In the latter, I could probably stand to keep my mouth shut, as I come from a place of relative privilege.

    • BSM

      I was also wondering if they were all so happy because they live in a highly (HIGHLY) homogenized community. Not having to confront anything different than you’ve ever known or experienced –> less stress? I wonder if Mormons who live outside those Western strongholds would report the same levels of happiness.

    • Meg Keene

      The book isn’t super idealistic about Mormonism, but the whole chapter is very interesting.

      I have a lot of liberal feminist Mormon friends now (some in the church, some out), and grew up in a very conservative Mormon area, so I personally get that it’s complicated. There are good things, and there are bad things, and I wish big tent mormonism happens for the people who really need it. (Some people don’t, they just want out, but I know plenty of people who really really do.)

  • Laura C

    Community is so important. It’s not where I want to live long-term, but DC was great for me because I had a pretty dense network of friends and friendly acquaintances and everything is so happy hour-oriented there that basically at least once a week there was a happy hour I could just drop in on and know I’d see at least a handful of people I liked. The ultimate example was a time my then-boyfriend was in town for about three days, texted some friends to find out what was going on, and they all said they were at happy hour at this bar, come by. We come by and realize it’s a happy hour another guy we know is holding to celebrate the early success of his business, and there’s an open bar. And it was not at all like crashing a party. He seemed happy to see us too and had us pose for pictures with him as part of the whole “my business and my party are both successful” vibe. We may move back to DC for a couple years after our year in SF is up and for that reason — even though the overall feel is different now that so many people have kids — I would be really happy to be there.

    But now … this week I’ve been thinking about how I’m taking the baby to his new pediatrician, and sometimes they give newish mothers postpartum depression screenings and if they give me one I’m going to have to write somewhere on the form “I DON’T HAVE PPD I HAVE A STRESSFUL LIFE.”

    Actually the last couple days things may be falling into place — baby is at daycare so I have a little time to function on my own, sleep training appears to be starting to maybe possible show signs of working (best night of sleep in literally months last night, then daycare reports he didn’t fight his nap today). But working oddball hours and depending for social interaction largely on people coming in from across the country is rough. A friend was in town a couple weeks ago and she’s just moved to our old neighborhood and is going to my old gym and eating at our old go-to Thai takeout place and it made me so homesick I cried. (Later. Not in front of her.)

    • Danielle

      I’m sorry :( Homesickness sucks.

  • Jessica Potter

    Every time I read something by you I get a nerdy excited “I know her!!” feeling :) (from offbeatempire days) loved this post and feeling totally inspired to maybe talk to a human in real life today

  • Alyssa Andrews

    Okay so I only had time to skim the article (will read completely later, and I’m definitely checking the book out), I just really resonated with the Provo Utah experience, and wanted to throw out there that one of the main reasons my guy and I moved to our little surf shack in California (besides the idea of living seaside) is because we are introverts, and we thought it would be a good challenge to live in a place where a bunch of semi-friends stow their surfboards and come in and out over the course of the week, forcing us to be social and “host”. Over three years the people who come to surf have become our community, coming over on Sundays to surf/ take the kids on a walk, grab sushi afterwards, we host BBQ’s for birthdays and Taco and Tequila parties (when the in-town festivals of the same name are too damn expensive), and these people have just in general become our local support system. I’ve never been so happy or felt so “at home” as I’ve felt in Santa Cruz. Three cheers for building community!

  • La’Marisa-Andrea

    I find the pursuit of happiness to be a futile endeavor. I just try to enjoy the relationships I have with people while I’m here on earth and not take it all so seriously.

  • Jenna

    My way to find happiness:

    Quit the job I hated in finance, move to Taiwan when I was still young enough to get away with being an “English teacher” for a few years without looking like a doofus who doesn’t understand that real teachers need real qualifications, decide I liked Taiwan better than the USA and work hard to end up with a teaching degree and permanent residency. The teaching degree allows me to take real, professional jobs in education and the permanent residency means I am not dependent on an employer for a visa to stay in Taiwan…basically forever, with open work rights.

    Then quit the job I was doing when I received said permanent residency and create my own little freelance ‘business’ where I take classes part-time with some institutions (more reputable ones because now I’m qualified), publish (I have an article on learner autonomy and note management coming out in a respected journal soon), do seminars and have my own base of private students. Thanks to the open work rights I can tell others when *I* am free to work, rather than them telling me when I *have* to work.

    I still work a lot because I want to get a Master’s (just got accepted to Exeter!) and take great vacations, but when I do it’s my choice. Otherwise, I take really, really great vacations. I don’t get paid while taking them, but the upside is I can take as long a trip as I want and it’s fine as long as I plan well enough in advance. If I want to take a month, 10 weeks, whatever…it’s totally doable.

    None of this “well your annual leave is capped at 13 days so I guess you can spend a week and a half abroad – have fun with that” nonsense.

  • PuppyLove

    I found myself reading this article tonight when I was needing a distraction from the work I needed to do tonight to catch up on everything I’m very behind on from being stuck in meetings all week. This resonated so much with me. I’ve joined a church, go to yoga frequently and have friends that I have to schedule time together with weeks in advance. My husband and I both work too long and he spends his evenings in school so it feels like there is never any time for us to find our community though I know this is what we need more of. This wasn’t mentioned but I have found so much more joy since getting a dog last summer. He brings me so much happiness every day even when I’m stressed to get home from work at a reasonable hour so he can go out or can’t go to a work happy hour that I’m not all that excited for anyways. I do realize this is not enough and I also need time with girlfriends but for my husband and I, we’ve seen a huge difference since adding a dog to our family.

    • MC

      My husband and I always talk about how much joy our cat brings us – for me, it’s great to have a living, loving creature that is not attached to any of my human stress.

  • NotMotherTheresa

    The happiest I’ve ever been was when I was in law school, not because I particularly enjoyed it, but because nobody expected me to enjoy it. It was the one reprieve I’d ever gotten from the message of “This is the time of your life, so savor every moment.”
    I found that thinking of it as something I just had to get through enabled me to genuinely enjoy the good moments, while recognizing the temporary nature of the bad moments. I’ve done my best to carry that mentality into my “adult” life, but sometimes it’s easier said than done. I really think one of our biggest killers of joy is our very emphasis on happiness–the reality is, even if you are a happy person leading a really happy, charmed life, there’s still going to be a LOT of drudgery and sadness thrown into the mix. Being expected to treasure every moment is just unhealthy and unrealistic, and leads to a lot of frustration.

    • Mary Jo TC

      Everything you said here applies to parenting, except parents DO get that “enjoy every minute” message all the time, and that might be one of the things that contribute to making it harder.

      • NotMotherTheresa

        It kills me how often parents are given that “enjoy every minute” message! Because seriously, no, do not enjoy every minute. The majority of moments with a toddler kind of suck, and you will not miss them one day.

    • idkmybffjill

      yes! It’s like a broader life message of when a dude tells you to smile on the street.

      I’ve definitely felt that way about wedding planning stuff. Not every minute of planning a wedding is enjoyable! That’s okay.

      • NotMotherTheresa

        Oh goodness, I am so happy to be finished with wedding planning for that very reason! Like, really, I’m supposed to savor the process of making 100 escort cards? I’m supposed to “soak in the experience” of my mom droning on about her divorce while I try on wedding dresses? I’m supposed to treasure the moments of my bridesmaids arguing with one another about bachelorette party dates?
        I had a pretty great wedding in the grand scheme of things, complete with a lot of love and support from my friends and family, but I am soooo happy for it to be over! There were roughly five hours of stress or tedium for every ten minutes of wedding planning “fun”!
        And such a good point about it being the border life message of dudes telling us to smile!

    • Ellie Rockhill

      OH man. This. I hated when I was engaged and planning my wedding all the attention and pressure about “this magical time in my life,” blah blah. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed that season of life just fine. But once we got married I was STUNNED at how the questions stopped coming. Like… abruptly. When I was engaged, I probably got a text/call/email/fb message/in person comment daily congratulating me and asking how I was doing with the planning, asking if I needed help, etc. It was nice and even a little overwhelming.

      Well, I got back from the honeymoon and anticipated calls/texts/etc of our friends and women in my life to ask me, “How’s married life? What’s hard? How are you doing? You hanging in there?” etc etc. It was like.. crickets. I was really shocked. Especially when marriage turned out to be HARD. I knew it would be hard. I didn’t know that everyone would bristle when you needed to talk about it.

      When my brother got married last year, after the wedding I regularly have tried to send texts and ask in person when I see him asking how things are going. Any time I get the chance I try to remind them, “Hey, it’s normal to bicker. It’s normal to get on each other’s nerves. It’s okay if sometimes it’s boring. And it’s totally okay to need to talk to people about that stuff.” I told them some of this the weeks coming up to the marriage, and they kind of looked at me like I was a little nuts. A month into the marriage, they came over looking like ghosts – and I found out my brother’s new wife wanted them to go paleo/raw/vegan or something of that nature and my brother was notttt into it. I stepped in with some tough love and essentially was like, “Chels, you can totally eat whatever makes you feel good. But then he needs to be able to eat whatever makes HIM feel good. It’s not worth this fight.” Marriage is compromise over and over and over. But the loneliness factor of people not checking in killed me. I felt forgotten and like my struggles and heartache didn’t matter now that I was a wife.

      Check in on your peeps, I guess is what I’m saying. <3

  • Samantha

    Argh! I think I’ve been spoiled by how kind and friendly APW is. I was looking through a different wedding website’s forums for venue advice and almost got my head bitten off over the idea of having a cake and punch reception on a weekday afternoon (even after I made sure to mention that this information would be clearly stated on the wedding invitation). Sorry that this is off topic, I just had to talk somewhere.

    • Heck, even the extremists over at TheKnot would be pro-cake-and-punch (it’s even considered the ‘traditional’ route). ‘Not sure what yahoos you’ve found…the super modernists?

      • Samantha

        I have no idea- someone did mention ‘well cake and punch is traditional, but I would be offended if I didn’t get a meal’ …WELP.

        • Eh, if you’re going to be offended by a cake and punch wedding…don’t go to the wedding.
          ‘Sounds like super modernists. The kind that confuse the big expensive shindigs for “traditional” when they just mean “traditionally in movies.” lol ;)

        • scw

          groan. don’t listen to the haters.

    • emilyg25

      As it’s outside meal times, you’re good to go! It might be hard for people to come on a weekday afternoon, but if you stick to your nearest and dearest, you’ll have better luck.

      • Amy March

        Weekday afternoon seems like potentially a bigger issue than cake and punch to me too!

    • Lisa

      You’re being clear about what to expect, which is the most important thing! No one is going to show up thinking they’ll have a full meal and leave disappointed. You’re doing it right.

  • priyanka chopra

    Some cultures have adopted the traditional Western custom of the white wedding, in which a bride wears a white wedding dress and veil. This tradition was popularized through the marriage of Queen Victoria. Some say Victoria’s choice of a white gown may have simply been a sign of extravagance, but may have also been influenced by the values she held which emphasized sexual purity.[1] Within the modern ‘white wedding’ tradition, a white dress and veil are unusual choices for a woman’s second or subsequent wedding.
    The use of a wedding ring has long been part of religious weddings in Europe and America, but the origin of the tradition is unclear. One possibility is the Roman belief in the Vena Amoris, which was believed to be a blood vessel that ran from the fourth finger (ring finger) directly to the heart, Thus when a couple wore rings on this finger, their hearts were connected. Historian Vicki Howard points out that the belief in the “ancient” quality of the practice is most likely a modern invention.[2] “Double ring” ceremonies are also a modern practice, a groom’s wedding band not appearing in the United States until the early 20th century.
    http://www.mobiringtone.com/channel/14/english-hollywood-ringtone/

  • JAS

    A 2002 study showed that Utah has the highest level of depression medication use of the entire US. Follow up studies have continued to confirm this. They have community on lock, I can attest (I’m from there), but something is off if everyone is saying they’re happy to outsiders and they’re depressed to their doctors. I’m not saying community et al isn’t important, I’m just saying mormons have more complex reasons to insist they are.