Posts Tagged NPR

The Pursuit of Happiness

The Declaration of Independence has instilled in the American culture a belief that we have the right to the pursuit of happiness. But actually pursuing happiness can be a struggle for some. Defining happiness and the process to get there isn’t so clear-cut.

Happiness is a topic of immense interest to humans in our own personal searches. There are blogs and books like The Happiness Project that try to define strategies for happiness. There are TED Talks about happiness. There are quotes about happiness. And there are endless studies about happiness.

Professional Happiness Study

Time

The perception of time

I heard about one such study at the University of Maryland on the radio. The study measured how people perceive their time — how rushed they feel and how often they have time on their hands. It’s pretty common to think that if we had more time, we’d be happier. But the study showed just the opposite. The people who reported being the happiness almost never feel rushed and don’t have time on their hands that they don’t know what to do with.

Most people don’t like feeling rushed; that seems pretty self-evident. It’s nice to be in control of our own schedules. But the more surprising part is that people don’t enjoy having excess time on their hands. The interesting thing about this is that excess time is self-defined. So if you schedule time to watch TV, exercise, and hang out with friends, that’s not considered time that you don’t know what to do with. The key seems to be making time for the things you want to do, even if other people would consider that idle time. So being busy (but not rushed) seems to make people happier.

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Ms. HalfEmpty is a 30-something introverted realist, perhaps a pessimist. But she’s trying to see the world half full on halfempty4now.com, which she started in February 2011. Her worldview may not be all bad, as it probably helps keep her husband, Mr. HalfFull, grounded and out of trouble!

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Loss of Stories

Everyone has a story. Do you ever look at a person and wonder about his personal history? What experiences shaped this individual?

I am endlessly fascinated with personal stories, those based in reality. I’ve never been interested in fantasy or science-fiction genres. I’m quite narrow in my genre selection and prefer things that are true to life. Perhaps that’s an effect of my unimaginative ruler tendencies.

It may also be why I love StoryCorps on NPR. The audio broadcasts of just a few minutes tell stories of ordinary people interviewing each other. The tales always seem to evoke an emotional response in me from tears to awe. I realize that the broadcasts are edited versions of longer conversations, but it’s some amazing storytelling!

Ms. HalfEmpty with relative

Ms. HalfEmpty at her wedding reception in 2009 with Ms. WhiteHouse (1918-2013)

Lately, we’ve had a few deaths in the family. One was a local relative who had some hilarious stories about her professional life in the White House. I’ve heard a few at family gatherings over the years, but I wanted to learn more. My plan was to interview Ms. WhiteHouse and write an article, but she preferred to remain private and declined.

Now Ms. WhiteHouse is gone along with her stories. The loss of stories is sad, but it’s also important to respect people’s wishes for their lives and stories.

Mr. HalfFull is a great storyteller and gregarious human who puts others at ease to tell their stories. Before his mom died, they discussed her life over wine. In vino veritas! (Perhaps I’ll have to use that interview technique someday, Mr. HalfFull.) Mr. HalfFull was able to learn about how she met her husband in her own words.

But he knows less about his dad’s perspective from those early years. In fact, he just learned that his dad’s football career at Dartmouth ended due to injury after listening to his sister’s podcast. It’s interesting how different siblings have various pieces of the story.

Perhaps you’ve grown tired of that one relative retelling the same life story each time you meet. But that repetition may help the story live on with you. Not everyone is a great storyteller; sometimes it can be tiresome to sit through the extraneous details and tangents. If only we all had StoryCorps editors to weave it into a concise, moving tale!

As people pass away, stories are lost forever. Perhaps we need to spend some time asking questions and listening while we can.

  • Are you interested in personal stories?
  • What’s your preferred genre for pleasure reading?
  • Do you listen to StoryCorps? Do you have a favorite episode?
  • How much do you know about your parents as young adults?
  • Is there someone you know whose story should be preserved?

Ms. HalfEmpty is a 30-something introverted realist, perhaps a pessimist. But she’s trying to see the world half full on halfempty4now.com, which she started in February 2011. Her worldview may not be all bad, as it probably helps keep her husband, Mr. HalfFull, grounded and out of trouble!

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