The Happiness Project Revisited: Are We Happy Yet?

 Yes, I’m still plugging away at the Happiness Project.


Day 52: Austerity fails to reign over us


I’m now more than half way toward the end goal of 100 days of consciously making note of happy moments. I missed one or two days along the way, unable to find anything overtly happy to document. I refused to allow meh to be accepted as an alternative to yay. This meant that for some days, I really had nothing to show for my efforts except for what seemed to me to be a gaping hole in my Instagram photo board. That whole honesty thing is a tricky one.

One thing that is rapidly becoming clear now that the Vietnam Plan is solidifying in the anticipatory sector of my brain is that I can more easily find thrills and excitement just thinking about going somewhere new than I can in the place where I actually am. I already have a mental list of all the blog posts and series I could write about and it’s still months away. Familiarity and ease actually make it much trickier to pinpoint notable moments of happiness and specific things worth writing about.

I remember this about Shanghai after a few years, when everything felt pretty much under control and understood and familiar. Without the constant contrast of things that baffled or surprised me, I had a tendency to just let days and weeks and months slip by in a fug of okayness. I often only felt really energized and buoyant when flung into brand new places, whether they be regular quick jaunts up to Jinan or Zhengzhou or Liuzhou for work, or longer journeys to Myanmar or Morocco for a month or so, twice a year during university breaks.

One of the reasons why I started the Mop Blog in the middle of my Shanghai half-decade was so I was forced to keep actively observing and finding interesting, curious, exciting new scenarios in what could too easily have become just a blurry, familiar backdrop.


colourful mops

Are they escaping?


This inability (or rather, perhaps, unwillingness) to equate familiarity and routine with happiness means, if I ever want to stop compulsively uprooting myself (and by extension, husband and child), I need to rewire my brain a bit.

And this is where this 100 day Happiness Project comes in. Days can’t just slip by when you have to actively focus on identifying exceptional moments.

I’m currently on Day 69 or so, but I’ll keep this round-up a bit more compact and slightly less long-winded.

Let’s backtrack a few weeks…



Day 53: Trad Sichuan hotpot in Leicester!



Day 54: After the second round of vaccinations and eagerly slurped rotavirus, Thwack was a big ball of howling, flailing fussiness. Then he wore himself out and it was great.



Day 55: I successfully rode my brand new second-hand bike out to my belly dancing class (over 3 miles each way, uphill in both directions), achieving a degree of mobility I had lacked since moving to Leicester.



Day 56: While we ran around all day in a borrowed car, trying to sort out a major family barbecue, Thwack was all chilled out and patient and actually let us get stuff done.



Day 57: The massive family barbecue. Passing Thwack around various cousins and aunts and whatnot and having two free hands to eat cake with.



Day 58: Apparently, some time around 3 or 4 months, babies just get a whole lot more entertaining.



Day 59: That said, being given the afternoon off to read and have a quiet beer in the garden while husband cooks dinner and wrangles the urchin is unexpectedly sublime and reviving.



Day 60: Remember what I said about babies suddenly getting a lot more interesting around the 3 month mark? Here we are playing ‘Name that film’ with Thwack of Arabia.



Day 61: In Keyham, the tight-knit, chocolate box pretty village where the in-laws live, they had not only a real-ale festival at the tiny pub, but also an open gardens day that was taken very seriously by all. Sometimes tradition can feel remarkably cosy.



Day 62: I made muffins for the first time since my parents left in April and we embarked on that month of detoxing. Baking is really cathartic.



Day 63: Lunch in the garden with a remarkably cooperative baby. I never fully appreciated my solitude and downtime until I had a physically and emotionally demanding urchin who refused to be put down for the first dozen weeks or so.



Day 64: Fiona (of Nanchang Lu fame, fab friend from my Shanghai days) visited with her lovely family, en route from France to Scotland. We went to a local Indian restaurant and they volunteered to Thwack-sit so we could eat comfortably. Wonderful.



Day 65: Remember what I said about babies getting a lot more interesting? Here’s Thwack having a long discussion with his father about their day. His sentences sound remarkably like high pitched whale song.


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About MaryAnne

I live in Hanoi. I used to live in Shanghai (hence this blog's title) but I left in 2013. I tend to travel. I cook stuff. I read a lot. I try to scare myself silly with regularity. I write about it all. A lot.