My latest reading kick has been books about Happiness. I got four at the same time from the library, but the one that really captured my reading attention was bluebird: women and the new psychology of happiness by Ariel Gore.
The book is an interesting look at positive psychology from a feminist perspective, and Gore delves a bit into the history of how psychology has pathologized women, and how popular culture has tried to convince us we are lacking and must simultaneously be constantly cheerful - both areas of discussion that actually throw some doubt onto whether women should buy into this whole Happiness thing at all.
(As a side note, those chapters of the book led to this conversation with my husband.)
Me: "Maybe cleaning my house is anti-feminist. What if I put that same amount of energy into trying to get you to clean the house? That would be more egalitarian."
Him: (after a pause) "I think you would just be really tired, and have a really dirty house."
Then, about half-way through the book (which could be a lot shorter if it had cut out the unnecessary and boring sections of quotes from the author's "group of experts"/women she knows), Gore switches from women's studies and cultural critique to a series of chapters examining different aspects of the happiness struggle for women: how hard it is to achieve "Flow" when you are interruptible and engaged in drudge work, motherhood in general, not placing value on our work/money troubles, and the whole love/hate relationship with domesticity. These chapters had less of the research, and more personal memoir, but they were still interesting.
And her conclusion about happiness resonated for me:
"Happiness, like some central seed, is contained within the pursuit."
Happiness is a kind of openness, we have learned.
So choose the risky road of power and vulnerability.
Be done with dull things.
Take your life back.
Free yourself from habits of anger and compliance - smoking self-destruction.
Eyes wide open to the world-as-it-is, we grieve.
And in the midst of it all, we rejoice.
Happiness is hard work sometimes, but it's good work. It's earthy work. And we are strong and agricultural people. We know how to cultivate a thing or two.