Anna Quindlen – A Short Guide to a Happy Life

I am normally not reading any kind of guides on being happy, or how to lead my life, or all that. But a blog post on one of my favorite sites, Brain Pickings, somehow steered my interest. Planned as commencement address at Villanova University in 2000 by Pulitzer Prize winner Anna Quindlen (Author page, Wiki), it developed into a short essay. The commencement address was never held, due to conservative students rejecting liberal thoughts being uttered at the ceremony.

Anna Quindlen - A Short Guide to a Happy Life

Easy and quick reading, I went through it three times on different days, just to make sure I don’t miss something.

Don’t ever confuse the two, your life and your work.

Basic line of it is – live your life and don’t work yourself to dead. How can I agree more living in a country where the number of death due to overwork is increasing instead of decreasing. Where working ours regularly extend into the late hours – of course on voluntary basis. So also the following quote hits the point:

It is so easy to exist instead of live. Unless you know there is a clock ticking. So many of us changed our lives when we heard a biological clock and decided to have kids. But that sound is a murmur compared to the tolling of mortality.

But I couldn’t get rid of the feeling that the author considers everything all too easy. Of course, having the option to live instead of exist is a good thing, but the freedom to do so in the presence of family and responsibility, with an ever deteriorating climate of work and social nets with holes ever growing, is something that not everyone can afford.

Sure enough, it was planned as commencement address for young students, full of power and life in front of them. But how far can her advise be realized? Things like this quote:

I learned to love the journey, not the destination. I learned that this is not a dress rehearsal, and that today is the only guarantee you get.

sound extremely nice, like balsam for the soul. But proper advice, guidance, as promised in the title, that is not what one can get from it. And of course, we shouldn’t expect it.

Despite this overly easy approach, I found something deep, moving. My favorite quote is a triplet she called her Resumé:

I am a good mother to three good children. I have tried never to let my profession stand in the way of being a good parent. I no longer consider myself the center of the universe. I show up. I listen. I try to laugh.

I am a good friend to my husband. I have tried to make my marriage vows mean what they say. I show up. I listen. I try to laugh.

I am a good friend to my friends, and they to me. Without them I would have nothing of interest to say to anyone, because I would be a cardboard cutout. But I call them on the phone, and I meet them for lunch. I show up. I listen. I try to laugh.

For me these three statements condense the best advice she gives, and the tiny repetitions at the end of each, I show up. I listen. I try to laugh. are the core of what I read out of this book.

Try to get involved, try to be part, try to have interest. Listen. And laugh. Wouldn’t it for these few small words, I had disposed the book as just another feel-well rubbish. But the simple rhythm of them resonates in my heart, and I can only agree.

I show up. I listen. I try to laugh.

2 Responses

  1. Anna Quindlen is the author I come across with for the second time lately. I remember her words upon a woman`s wardrobe to look as if the woman has a split personality. That is true even though sounds fun. I have read her short guide to a happy life, thank you for sharing.

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