Sunday, February 28, 2010

Day 42: My Happiness Project

The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More FunAfter hearing Gretchen Rubin speak on Wednesday, I had to check out her Happiness Project blog.   It would appear that I have my own Happiness Project, as at its core this playwriting project is an attempt to answer the question "does playwriting make me happy?"  But in reality, my happiness project started about 3 years ago.

I snapped one day in April of 2007, when I got that one audition rejection letter that, for a myriad of reasons, made me say "I can't do this anymore".  "This" came to mean not only doggedly pursuing my opera career, but also trying ever harder to make a marriage work with a man who clearly didn't want to be with me; living for that day when I would finally have the life I had always wanted; and stuffing down feelings I didn't want to acknowledge with food.  Over the course of the next year or so, I ended a 15 year pursuit of an opera singing career, separated from a 17-year relationship/marriage, and lost 30 pounds.  After realizing what I didn't want, I started to ask "so what do you want?", and tried new things like moving into my own apartment for the first time in my life, creating and performing my own cabaret shows, dating new people, and writing. 

"What do you really want?" is a question I now ask myself constantly, as you know if you read my blog regularly.  This is a foreign question to the old Natalie.  From age 19 to 35, I could have told you exactly what I thought I wanted at that moment as well as 5, 10, 15, 20 years into my future, without ever stopping to question it.  The tectonic shift asking this question has had upon my psyche is most clearly expressed in the fact that my life-long anxiety disorder has completely disappeared.  Going through a major career/identity crisis and a divorce all at the same time forced me to start living in the present, as I could barely figure out where I was going to be in the next 5 minutes, let alone 5 years.  This freed me from the tyranny of always projecting into the future, which is what anxiety essentially is.

It is so easy to ask questions like "what should I do" or "what is the right thing to do"?  I'm really good at asking myself questions like that.  I have a much harder time asking "will this make me happy"?  But at least now I'm trying.  I only wish there were clearer answers.


  1. Left to our own devices, I wonder if we would choose to do the things that make us happy. Small children in their self-centred worlds know exactly what makes them happy. We all seem to go through a period of not really knowing what we want but asking ourselves what do others expect of us or what should I be asking for? It's only when we catch ourselves unhappy that we start to openly question what our inner self really aches for. I suspect that left to our own devices we would seek out the happy place, I just hope we have the strength it takes to be that self-centred. My own happiness project encourages me to connect more with my authentic self, your post has given me more questions to help me on my quest, many thanks xxx

  2. Dear Heather,

    You are so welcome. It's interesting to me how much of our self-discovery as adults is about getting back to what we knew instinctively as children before we started getting in our own way. In my voice teaching I find so much of the work I do is un-doing bad habits a singer has developed because they were *trying* to make something happen instead of just *letting* it happen.

    Thank you for your comments, and best of luck on your own happiness project!