It’s my birthday. So I get to write about anything. I get to indulge. The first thing is that I want to republish a poem that I published a long time ago, when I thought maybe I could get away with publishing poems on my blog. Now I know that for sure, poetry kills traffic.

But I like this poem so much:


by Beverly Rollwagen

She just wants to be employed

for eight hours a day. She is not

interested in a career; she wants a job

with a paycheck and free parking. She

does not want to carry a briefcase filled with important papers to read

after dinner; she does not want to return phone calls. When she gets home,

she wants to kick off her shoes and waltz around her kitchen singing, “I am

a piece of work.”

I like it maybe because it’s me. Sometimes I get tired of having to earn money. I have so many things I want to do, and it’s so distracting to have to earn money. I could have married someone with a lot of money and then I wouldn’t have to worry about earning money, but I didn’t choose that.

For the record, those dates went terribly.

And I think I am most grounded when I am running my own business. I like the process of figuring out how to make money. I think it makes me happy. I think the hardest part of being an adult is making sense of the contradiction that things that make money make me happy and things that don’t make money make me happy and how much should I do of each?

Some days I do a good job of doing both. Like the day I took my son out of school for a trip to the city (yes, Madison, WI is “the city” for us now). I did a TV segment for Court TV (some guy with Asperger Syndrome was on trial.)

And then we went out to lunch for pizza and played air hockey.

I’m not sure if this is what I want though. I know I keep talking about how I’m lonely on the farm, but I think I might like being alone most of all.

Can I earn money if I want to be alone? I’m not sure. For example, I am an excellent journalist because I have a sense of what is news before it becomes news.

Ori Heffetz, professor of economics at Cornell, sent me some happiness research he was working on. It was not yet published, but I could tell it was going to be big, so I asked him if I could interview him. Then I missed three appointments. I don’t know why. I think because I have huge anxiety of picking up the phone. Having to switch from alone time to time with someone else is very hard for me. I really like alone time.

See this picture. It’s my idea of a great day:

Okay. So the problem is that I love being alone and also, I have a really hard time switching tasks (very common for people with Asperger’s), and it sometimes feels impossible for me to do a phone interview. So, this is typical for many interviews I do.

Ori wrote:

Hi Penelope — not quite sure how to explain your sudden disappearance but either way, I thought you might be interested in this piece in The Economist that mentions our paper and in general seems aligned with your interests.

So I could have scooped the Economist. But I didn’t. So look, just click there. It’s a good paper on jobs and happiness, and Ori is onto something.

I love being alone, but I worry about being alone. I obsess about happiness research because I am trying to figure out where I fit in in that research. I clearly do not need as many social connections as other people because socializing is completely overwhelming to me . But I do need connections.

I had this idea that the farmer would be my one connection in the world. The love of my life. I thought I’d be on the farm and just talk to him, and sort of talk to researchers but mostly miss phone calls and life would be great. But it’s not happening that way. The farmer does not really want that sort of connection. He is not the connecting type.

Don’t tell me you told me so, okay? I’m just trying to figure out what to do. I’m trying to figure out what else can make me happy.

Happiness research has been a big disappointment to me. For a bazillion reasons. But today the disappointment is that it assumes we have no limits. The most high-functioning, optimistic people assume they control their own environment and they do not blame other people for their problems.

Okay. So I am taking control of things. I am going to tell you how I am going to be happy.

First, I’m going to focus on what I can control. I could link to AA here, but I’m going to link to Ben Bernake’s commencement address at the University of South Carolina. People who focus on what they can’t control are not happy. This is hard for me. I want to feel disappointed about the state of my marriage to the farmer. I know it’s not good for me. And it’s my birthday, so I can do it for one more post. But I promise that at the end of today, no more.

Next, I’m going to do what I’m good at. I’m good at creating businesses. I should do that. I’m good at finding great business partners. I should do that. Right now I’m focusing on stuff that’s hard for me — parenting, budgeting, fitting into a new community. This is not stuff that will give me that feeling of flow. Flow is what makes us feel happy. Or content Or whatever we’re aiming to feel. Flow is good. I want flow. So I need to build a business again. Somehow.

Next, I’m going to keep a gratitude journal. The reason this is a good thing to do is because then we don’t take things for granted. Here’s a post on Marginal Revolution that shows why keeping a gratitude journal is the most effective action you can take, by yourself, to shift your happiness level.

I have tried this gratitude journal thing before, and I have stopped after two days, because it’s too fun to be pissy. But now I have a trick. I got myself to meditate by doing it with my kids. Once I told my kids we were going to meditate because it’s important for a good life, I was great at making them do it every day. And now I’m doing it every day, with them. So I know if I have them do the gratitude journal every day then I’ll do it, too.

So I guess this post could be about co-dependence as a path to happiness.

A free ticket to co-dependence is a great birthday present, I think.