Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Internal Shudder at The Fulfillment Project

My task for the weekend was simple.  All I had to do was follow Gretchen's first commandment, which is technically Be Gretchen, but for my purposes, it's Be Johanna.

In The Happiness Project, Gretchen talks about giving herself permission not to like certain things she wishes she liked more.  For example, she says she wishes she were the kind of person who likes to play chess, go out to hot new restaurants or talk foreign policy, but she's not.  For Gretchen, being Gretchen means she needs to accept that she is never going to enjoy those activities and focus on what she does enjoy.

This was hard for me, maybe because I was using Gretchen's list.  I kept thinking, it's true I don't like to talk foreign policy but hot new restaurants, I LOVE hot new restaurants.  Fortunately, I remembered that this task was not Be Gretchen, it was Be Johanna and then everything began to fall into place.

What are the things that I do, not because I enjoy them, but because I wish I was the kind of person who enjoyed them.  I realized the best way to test this was to see if the thing in question made me shudder internally.  If it was something that I hated to do but did anyway (with an internal shudder) because I felt like I should, then it went on my list. 

I'm the one checking my phone.
The first thing on the list was professional sporting events.  Last year I attended a Blazers basketball game with my family.  While everyone else watched the game, I checked my watch, played on my phone and was quick to jump up to get snacks if anyone displayed the slightest desire for cotton candy.  Professional sporting events are a classic example of something that triggers my internal shudder. 

That being said, it feels vaguely unpatriotic to not like sporting events.  "You should go to a Timbers game," people tell me and they are so enthusiastic and certain I will love it, that it's hard to disagree.  But the internal shudder tells me that no matter how many sporting events I attend they will never make me happy.  Which is one of Gretchen's Secrets of Adulthood--What's fun for other people may not be fun for you.  Even though I wish I liked sporting events, I need to Be Johanna and accept that I don't.

What else triggers the Internal Shudder?  Foreign films (they feel like the movie equivelent of eating my vegetables), Interpretative Centers (disembodied voices talking about magma and lava flow make me really, really cranky), Anthropological Exhibits (I know, I know, I should care more and I really, truly wish I did) and Arts & Crafts Projects (any time the glitter comes out I get heart palpitations to go along with my internal shudder).

The list could go on, but I won't bore you.  Instead I'll confess that the hardest part about making this list is realizing how much I desperately wish I was the kind of person whose perfect day would be a morning Timber's game, followed by a quick trip to an Interpretative Center, a little Arts & Crafts in the afternoon, capped off by the newest, award-winning movie from Holland. 

I wish I could be that person but instead I'm Johanna. 

Next assignment, forget the Internal Shudder items and focus on the things I like to do. 


Sarah Tokeley said...

This is a really important lesson to learn. A few years ago, I realised I was wasting time doing stuff that other people said I should like. It took time, but now I don't do things unless I have to, or I want to :-)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I think you just learned something really important there! Why pretend to like something you don't really like?

Dianne K. Salerni said...

Johanna, I feel exactly the same way you do about sporting events! I really don't get why everybody else likes them so much, and most of the time I can't tell you who's playing in the Super Bowl or the World Series.

Another thing that I don't like much is making small talk with strangers. It is just so hard. It feels like static in my brain to talk about the weather and the holidays and (of course) professional sports just so the other person doesn't have to listen to silence.

If the initial ice is broken and we find a common topic of interest, then okay -- I can warm up quickly. But I have to admit, the first thought I have when a stranger sits next to me on an airplane or in a doctor's office is: "Please, please, please don't talk to me!"

Shelly I said...

I'm not sure I ever would have learned to cull out the things I "should" like if I hadn't run on fumes for a few years. Having very little energy makes it quite clear which activities (and thoughts and emotions) give you back energy, and which drain you. The "shoulds" steal energy as well as time.

It hurts to acknowledge who we are NOT and never will be--but it's such a relief and joy to embrace who we really are!

All good reasons to make the effort to become happier and more fulfilled. It's like supercharging yourself and your life--which benefits you AND everyone around you. It is an excellent way to build your capacity for sustained giving.

I love the questions you're asking and the challenge you're undertaking, Johanna. Thanks for sharing!

Linda said...

This can be taken one step further. Sometimes you have to let go of things you used to like but no longer do. I used to sew constantly; now I keep the machines for sentimental value. I want to want to sew, but I have at last accepted I can't force myself. Sometimes these activities are simply outgrown over time, or are less attractive due to circumstances. Regardless, accepting the loss and moving on is both liberating and painful, sometimes not just for me, but for those around me.