I think I figured out what my problem is.
This morning, as I walked through the parking lot, thinking of all the meetings I have today, all the work I need to get done, all the videos I need to make—not to mention everything we have going on at home—having a baby, trying to buy a house, trying to get a handle on the laundry and the bills—I saw a car parked near the building. It was probably a Volvo, maybe a Saab.
It had a little plastic decorative border around the license plate that said:
Happiness is being Swedish.
That’s it, I thought. That’s my problem. I’m not Swedish. Of northern European decent, sure, but definitely not Swedish. But perhaps, if I could find a way to be Swedish, all my problems would be solved, all my prayers would be answered, and I would find happiness.
But the sudden realization that I could never be Swedish—barring actually giving up my citizenship and moving to Sweden (which I’d never do)—made me sad. Not only did I have a lot of work to do at home and at work, but now I was excluded from what I thought was some kind of inalienable right: Happiness, or at least the pursuit of it. But if happiness is unattainable due to my not being Swedish, then wouldn’t the pursuit of it just be a pointless exercise? A complete waste of time? Wow, that’s heavy burden, especially for a Monday.
But then I remembered two things:
1. When I was 14 years old, I learned how to screen print, and I started my own t-shirt business in the basement of my parents’ house. I sold shirts to kids at school and also made shirts for myself. You could say I had a custom, small batch print shop. Anyway, one of the shirts I made for myself said: Happiness is not a goal—it’s a by-product.
I’ll say it again: Happiness is not a goal—it’s a by-product.
2. It’s Plastic-Free February at here Rodale, which means I can safely ignore the Swedish Happiness equation—it was just a stupid piece of plastic around a license plate!
And so it goes…