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Note to Self: Don't Let a Happiness Project Work Against My Happiness.

Posted Aug 08 2011 5:09pm

Ah! What exquisite relief! For the last several months, I’ve been haunted by a literary allusion that drifted on the very edge of my memory. What was it? I kept asking myself.

It related to my own experience with my happiness project. I always remind myself to guard against the danger that my happiness project, itself, might work against my happiness. Yes, I want to Take time for projects , but I didn’t want that resolution to become a source of conflict with my husband. Yes, I want to Go shelf by shelf , to clear clutter, but that didn’t give me license to toss my daughters’ dusty stuffed animals without their permission. Yes, I want to Keep a one-sentence journal and Exercise , but I didn’t want to do that at the expense of spending time with my family and friends. A tension.

Now…what was that allusion? Who is the character in literature so busy working for the benefit of a distant goal that he or she utterly neglected the family around her?


Bliss! I finally remembered. Do you know? Mrs. Jellby, from Charles Dickens’s novel, Bleak House . The “telescopic philanthropist” Mrs. Jellaby is so busy promoting her misguided foreign charity that she dreadfully neglects her own children.

Here's the irony: at the very time when I was writing this post, and in direct contrast to the point I was making, I spoke curtly to my older daughter, because she was distracting me while I was trying to write! Sheesh.

Now I must go re-read Bleak House . And to apologize to my daughter.

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