Like many of you, I am a huge fan of Gretchen Rubin of The Happiness Project book and blog fame. Any minute now, Gretchen's much-anticipated follow-up book Happier at Home hits shelves. I was lucky enough to read an early copy of the book and absolutely loved it. Like its bestselling predecessor, Happier At Home is stuffed with wonderful questions about, and insights on, the intersection of happiness and home. I am thrilled that I had the opportunity to conduct this interview with Gretchen and learn 10 little-known facts about her.
ADR: Do you think you feel more pressure than most to be "happy" since you've now embarked on multiple happiness projects? Do you think that the pressure to be happy and feel happy is something that ultimately makes happiness more elusive?
GR: No, you'd think that I would, but I really don't feel that way. I have ordinary moments of happiness and unhappiness, and I don't expect not to feel that way.
ADR: Is home a place or state of mind or both? Did your vision of home evolve at all while researching and writing HAPPIER AT HOME?
GR: I think it's both, and that it's important to keep both aspects in mind and not overlook either. It's important that home feel comfortable and inviting, for mind and spirit. One thing that surprises me is how much clutter detracts from happiness. It's a trivial thing, but it really weighs people down. One of my Secrets of Adulthood is: Outer order contributes to inner calm. I work a lot harder on keeping my home reasonably tidy, and it has given me more energy, calm, and even creativity.
ADR: In HAH, you describe a kind of homesickness or anticipatory nostalgia for this "rush hour" period of your life (when you have young kids underfoot, when you and your husband are personally and professionally busy). What can all of us do to become more mindful of the present moment in the face of the busy-ness and push-pull of modern life and parenthood?
GR: I repeat to myself, "The days are long, but the years are short." It's so hard to keep in mind, but so important. Of everything I've ever written, I think this one-minute video I did on that subject is the thing that has resonated most with people: http://www.theyearsareshort.com/.
ADR: What is one thing that very few people know about you?
GR: My imaginary friend's name was Gertrude.
ADR: Given the wild success of THE HAPPINESS PROJECT, are you anxious at all about the release of HAPPIER AT HOME? If you have indeed felt any anxiety, how have you weathered it?
GR: With all my books, I've very much wanted to connect with an audience. I feel this very much every time, and I sure feel that way this time. It helps me, always, to reflect on how much I loved writing the book (I've loved loved loved each of my books). This helps me remember that whether or not the book is a "success," I've had a wonderful experience already. My JFK biography, for instance, didn't...let's say...succeed in the market. But I don't regret that book, because it was such a joy to write.
ADR: I am in the middle of my own Year Without Wine, a literary and existential experiment in health, happiness, and habit change. From reading your books and your blog, I know that you are not much of a drinker. Can you tell us all why? (Note: I am stockpiling reasons to continue living the dry life for the next five months!)
GR: One of my happiness-project resolutions was to "Be Gretchen." As part of this, I realized that I just didn't enjoy drinking. I liked the festivity and ceremony of it, but I didn't like the drinking itself. I didn't like the taste, and I didn't like the calories, and I didn't like the way it made me act. My tolerance was so low that a single glass of wine made me belligerent, indiscreet, and yawn-in-your-face sleepy. I decided that I either needed to drink a lot more, and get my tolerance up, or basically quit drinking - so I basically quit. I just don't like the side of me that it brings out.
Bonus: 10 Fun Facts About Gretchen Rubin!
1. She's a constant hair-twister.
2. She's left-handed.
3. She loves children's and young-adult literature.
4. She hates to drive.
5. In high school, she scored less than zero on the national math exam (yes, this is possible)
6. She wears running shoes practically all the time.
7. One of her favorite things in her home is her desktop with its three monitors
8. She's in four book groups
9. She's never broken a bone.
10. She drinks a lot of caffeine each day. A lot.
Check out Aidan's blog: aidandonnelleyrowley.com