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Jun 2, 2011

Recipe for a Happy Life

Friends, let's not talk about sewing today.

I've been thinking a lot about the Alexander McQueen exhibit I saw on Tuesday, and why certain professions seem to create so much apparent unhappiness -- or attract those with a strong propensity for it.

It does seem that there's something about fame -- and grasping for it -- that creates misery.  The list of celebrity drug addicts, early deaths, and public breakdowns is a long one, and not just in the performing arts.

Wasn't it Nietschze who said that nobody who understands fame would want to be famous?

Certain fields attract those who are prodigiously talented, and their talent becomes the primary way they're valued.  People can't see beyond it (or beneath it).  Yet we all want to be accepted for who we are, not how well we perform or how much money we earn -- or can make for someone else.

Do you think -- based on what you've read or what you've experienced yourself -- that the field of fashion has more than its fair share of miserable people? 

I think any industry where competition is cut-throat and pressure to produce (artistically or financially) is tremendous, is bound to make people unhappy.   Fields that are focused on appearances, moreover, are apt to attract people who share those values.   Since aging is a part of life, professions that focus on chasing youth are not going to be healthy ones to grow old in.

It all comes down to learning how to love oneself, not for our talent, but for our simple existence.  We have to be OK as we are -- which doesn't mean we don't want more for ourselves, but rather that we don't need more to feel worthy. 

I think we love our pets more easily than we love ourselves.  We don't withhold love because our child is short, or fat, or not extraordinary as defined by the outside world.  We love our children unconditionally, at least until they start talking back to us.

Wise readers, how do you make your lives life meaningful and fun?  I know many people struggle with health or relationship problems and all sorts of personal setbacks, and yet still cherish life.

Is celebrity a recipe for misery -- or  are those who seek the spotlight the most emotionally needy to begin with, and therefore likely to be unhappy regardless of what they do?

A balanced life can be difficult to achieve today without consciously creating it.  I know many people whose professional ambitions have swallowed up their personal lives to the point where they have no time to pursue other interests or even cook for themselves.

The people I know, primarily from my past, who were the most achievement oriented have not turned into particularly loving people, alas.

Please share your recipe for a happy life with us today.  Take all the space you need.


  1. I have always been a happy person...and I don't know why. My childhood was less then ideal but I always had self-confidence and was happy in spite of it.

    There was 1 really dark period in my life where I learned that I really had no control over things and it took me a while to pull myself out. This event was the unexpected death of my youngest son so it wasn't something trivial. I find it really hard to relate to people who are miserable for no good reason.

    Anyhow, I fill my life with things I love. I love my family. I love my hobbies. I love running my business which allows me to be creative AND to take care of my family.

  2. I think people have very little control over their happiness or misery. I think we all have an inborn level of happiness and, while it fluctuates according to circumstance, those fluctuations are temporary and we head back to them relatively quickly.

  3. and achieviness (defined as being on the way to achieving) :D

  4. Great post Peter. I completely agree that cut-throat competition and pressure to produce is a recipe for unhappiness.

    I have been very fortunate and try to take anything for granted, which is easier said than done. Balance is key.

  5. ooops, I meant to say that I try NOT to take anything for granted.

  6. Perspective: I think that having worked and travelled in some pretty unfortunate parts of the world means that I have a good perspective on my life. Things we consider day-wreckers in North America are really nothing in the big scheme of things. I always remember that there are probably about 4 billion people in the world who would punch me in the mouth if they heard me complaining about my lot in life. I have won the global lottery by being born where, when and to the family I was.

    ps: I'm teaching my son to sew! 1st project was a ninja costume; next he wants to make a Snow White gown. I'll send you a link when he finishes it. :)

  7. Thanks for the thoughtful post. This topic is never far from my thoughts as a graduate student. I'm in a Ph D program, and like any other grad student, I'm very aware of the pressures to achieve, to be successful, to constantly be pushing myself. While professors don't talk about it often, I think the academic lifestyle puts a great strain on an individual and their relationships. There's a lot of things you have to set aside or postpone to be successful - seeing family and friends, starting your own family, living where you would like to live, vacations, hobbies. While I know there are some super humans might manage to balance all these things together, they must be the minority.

    A lot of graduate students accept these conditions because they want to be successful. They want to make advancements in their field and do work they are proud of. I'm conflicted about it. If you believe in your work you should do your best. It might make a real difference someday. But on the other hand, are you missing out by being so driven? Not only might you miss out on big things (like being able to see your nephews and nieces more often) but you are probably sacrificing small things everyday too (like coffee with your spouse or a morning jog).

    In the end everyone has to prioritize, and one way is not necessarily better than the other. It just depends on what you consider a fulfilling life.

  8. I think a big part of life is how you deal with that existential void, the "Big What" that's at the heart of existence. Happiness comes from not being afraid of that void, but being at peace with it and the fact that we can't ever really understand what it is, or what it means.

    The unhappy people I know can't deal with the void, and seeking validation from others is part of their strategy for avoiding it. I'm speaking directly to a lot of people I know in LA, btw.

    That said I don't know how that applies to a certifiable genius like McQueen.

  9. Thinking back to what you mentioned of having a good balance, folks I have known who have only one thing in life, say their job, tend to be unhappier. Mainly because they let slip their other interests and relationships. If you are totally about your own climb at some level you are totally about yourself and others pick up on that selfishness.

    That said, not every sucessful person lacks balance or good relationships. And I have known others who have all the components of a happy life in place; family, friends, a nice home, interesting work, etc., and they are still unhappy. From what I can see those folks tend to want to hold onto bad emotional habits like anger, bitterness, or self-pity. Their negativity blinds them to their blessings.

    So I guess that if there is more than one way to achieve success and happiness, there is more than one way to be unhappy.

  10. Every day is a balancing act. With all the things that push and pull us, it's sometimes difficult to "do it all" or "get 'er done", but we try. And we fail. And we try again. It's what makes us uniquely human. Acceptance of shortcomings and allowing room for some grace are my keys to happiness.

  11. So many great comments! I do think some people are (chemically?) more inclined to be happy than others, regardless of their outer circumstances. Or to simply be more resilient.

    Perspective is absolutely essential, and yet in our day-to-day, it's easy to forget that others are dealing with hunger, homelessness, and horrible violence. We get caught up in our own drama.

    Claire, in another life, I spent 3 years in graduate school and most of my classmates were stressed out zombies BEFORE they went on the market for academic jobs!

  12. I could really write a book on this subject! Great post topic by the way! The secret to hapiness is a complex one, atleast I think it is. First and most importantly, we have to lighten up. I think unhappiness comes from putting too much weight on unimportant things. This is not easy to do because like myself, I feel that most people over analyze everything. We need to stop trying to find happiness in the way that other people see us. In the words of the all knowing Oprah Winfrey- nobody completes you, you are already complete. You need to be able to pat yourself on the back, even when no one else will. Accept that you are human and therefore, you are not and never will be perfect. Mistakes happen so we can learn from them. Take your moment, learn your lesson, and move the hell on. This applies to your children as well. They are not perfect angels sent from above to live out your dreams. They will make mistakes and you will love them anyways, because it does not change who they are inside. You have to know that you are a good person, that you have good intentions and that has to be enough. Work hard towards your goals but cut yourself some slack along the way. Life is about the journey, not the destination. You are living your life at this moment, life is not what will happen when you finish school, get married or find the perfect job, life is now. Your morning coffee, watching some TV, laughing at a joke your coworker told you when you are on a tight deadline for an important project. You are not your job, you are who you are in the quiet moments, when you are alone with your thoughts and nobody is around to watch you.

  13. My happiness comes from focusing more on what I give in life than what I get. Also, I have found that continually comparing where you are to where you think you should be is a recipe for disaster.

    I can't help but wonder if this is a major player in the unhappiness people in high profile jobs often experience. There's always the pressure to be more. It leaves very little room for appreciating and enjoying where we they are now.

  14. I suspect that people with personalities that leads them to seek external validation will seek that in their careers and will be miserable when they are "off the radar" rather than the careers make the people miserable. Rob Lowe said something to this effect in an NPR interview a few weeks back.

    I don't seek validation (though it is nice to get recognized for doing well) so much as I seek security (Be the turtle! )and need to feel productive, hence the sewing.


  15. Peter, thank you for this post. This is a topic that has been weighing on my mind for awhile.

    For me, fashion is the light at the end of the tunnel, a bright spot in what can otherwise be a very dreary day. As a laywer, I've seen some of the brightest, funniest and yes ambitious individuals I have met turned into practical zombies after too many days working too many hours with no end in sight. While law can certainly have its ups, like obtaining asylum for a derserving widow facing sexual and political persecution in her home country or winning an acquital for an innocent client, those shining moments are few and far between. The highs are tempered by months of never seeing your friends.

    Yes I am one of those who hasn't had time to pursue anything outside of my job or even cook for myself. My typical meal most times is peanut butter on a spoon. But I'm still fighting to not let that life become who I am. Sewing, fashion and blogging has been my life support. I'm slowing trying to get back to who I was before I worked 90 hour weeks chained to my chair. Life is about loving yourself and what you do, and balance is truly the only way to achieve it.

    xo Nicole @

  16. I've learned along the way how to make my life lighter and more happy. I've had some dark days, so can see how a person can get 'locked' into the 'darkness' Sometimes it takes luck, a persistent search for the light and love to overcome the 'darkness'. The stubborn search for the light is well worth it. I'll have to say my love of sewing has helped me so many ways, as well.

  17. Very thought provoking. I agree with you that some people are more inclined to be happy than others, regardless of all the positives in their lives. I tend to be very much a "glass half full" kind of person rather than a "glass half empty". Life has thrown a couple of blinders at me during the past few years, primarily my son being diagnosed as autistic, but that's actually made me appreciate the many, many things in my life that are amazing, rather than focus on the few things that aren't.

    I gave up a very stressful, sometimes glamorous and highly paid job when I had my kids. Yes, I don't have as much money as I used to but what I do have are two beautiful kids, a lovely husband and a sewing machine. I've never been happier and wouldn't trade back for anything. Have a great day Peter. x

  18. Hmmm... I'm still working on my own recipe for happiness. I definitely tend more towards a chemical balance that provides unhappiness, so it's always a challenge. I'm currently trying to be who I want to be in all ways... working towards that instead of wasting time judging myself and worrying. This involves sewing more for myself, but of course, as you said so eloquently, "since aging is a part of life, [things] that focus on chasing youth are not going to be healthy ones to grow old in." Unfortunately, when I sew things for myself I of course want them to be beautiful, so beauty becomes inherently involved in my happiness. Hmmm... life is always a challenge. We need to strive towards embracing our own natural beauty and personal well-being, as well as that of those closest to us. If we do that, shouldn't happiness follow?

    I did LOVE your post, though. Very well said.

  19. Thoughtful post and some great comments too - thanks for this! I firmly believe that there is no one-fits-all recipe for happiness, no matter what your lot in life regarding fame, talent, intelligence, or family life.

    I could write volumes on this as well, the hard part is making it short! I fully agree with those who have said that happiness starts inside - without inner peace and the ability to love yourself for who you are, you will not be fully capable of having happy, loving relationships with others.

    And the drama....ooooh the drama! Perhaps this is where the tortured artist image comes into play. When ones artistry involves the dramatic creations with powerful impact, and the reaction of others is inherent in your definition of success, it can be pretty easy to lose perspective on your own inner peace.

    My mantra for happiness? Don't ever take ANYTHING toooooo seriously :) And fwiw, I definitely DO have my 'too serious' moments - if you see me having one, feel free to remind me to lighten up & let my heart remember to smile again ;-D

  20. Balance. In any sort of artistic field, there's tremendous pressure to produce. But if you spend all your time working, you'll burn out. So I think the key is to find some sort of balance between professional stuff and a personal life. And don't take what the critics say too seriously.

  21. Peter: What a relevant subject. I've struggled with personal/professional balance for a long time. The answer for me has been to prioritize the personal (parenting and living life with some space) but it's hard to watch others surpass me professionally. Sometimes, it's hard to be where I'm at professionally because it's not where I imagine I should be. Mind you, when all is said and done - really, the day after retirement - it's not going to make a damn bit of difference what I did throughout my entire career. No one's going to remember me for that, even those I worked with (likely) 5 minutes after I'm gone. In the end we make our impact in life - raising children, nurturing friends and family, sitting in the back yard with a drink on a sunny afternoon, being artistic.

  22. Funny thing about being 'famous', too--it's a 24/7 job, stressful, dirty, and dangerous, just like ice-road trucking. :)

    A coworker once was giving me grief for not pursuing music as a career, and I was old enough, at 22, to know, man, I don't want to live that way--those guys are in a bus/van 10 months out of the year, eating crappy food in lonely hotel room after hotel room, away from your family (if you manage to have one), socializing only with other guys on the bus. If they're somewhat famous, they can't even sneak into a 7/11 to use the john without somebody seeing them, someone who expects something out of them, expects them to be glamorous, not tired and cranky from getting three hours' sleep between a show and a radio appearance....Sounds like a recipe for burnout to me. We get a glam little glimpse of what it's like to be Oprah or whoever, but they have to live with it every day.

    I imagine people who sign up for that are, as Peter said, either really needy to start with, or just naive to what it means for your day-to-day life.

  23. mmm...
    attention to small things
    lots of laughing
    just a dash of crying
    spontaneous joyful whooping
    community in many forms
    unapologetic creativity
    physical activity
    intentional stillness

    thanks for reminding me!

  24. This quote by George Bernard Shaw sums it up for me:
    Life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.

  25. Important and interesting observations all around. Perhaps happiness is not to be expected, but to enjoy in moments? The Buddha taught that we should expect suffering in life, which makes it easier to think of life as including downs as well as ups. After living a year in devoutly Buddhist Sri Lanka, looking back at US culture and struggling with re-entry, it looks like our work cultures have swallowed us whole. What good is all this work & pressure if we have no families, no relationships, no time for joy? The high fashion industry depends on constant stimulus; maybe a little more calm would help. We don't have to swallow all that our culture pushes, either from health concerns or from chasing the unattainable at any price. For a whole year I had enough sleep, which felt like a miracle in my adult life. I'm back in academia now, wishing I weren't, but observing from a new vantage point. Thank you, Peter, for your insights. I care more about joy than about happiness, & can hardly wait to check out of the well-named rat race. Sewing beautiful fabrics gives me a bridge. Kristina in Ohio

  26. I wrote five pretentious comments and deleted them all. Happiness for me is about this:

    Be nice to yourself
    Develop varied coping skills
    Make (and build) connections with others
    If someone isn't meeting your needs, meet them yourself
    Always take on new challenges
    Make appointments for fun

    Of course, sometimes the problem is negative people in your sphere and you have to decide how much of that to allow. I've allowed too many bad influences over the years and have paid for it in spades.

  27. I am an apparel design student and this is one of the reasons that I am endeavoring to become a seamstress instead of entering the fashion industry; there is so much competition and stress.

    I don't think the other people in my program really grasp what they're signing up for.

  28. Most days I find it easy to be happy and, especially, to find a moment or two for a good laugh/giggle/smile and wink with someone at home or at work. Do something nice for someone else and that's always a happiness booster. Always seek the contrarian positive view when someone's going on a downer streak about the way things are . . . and when it really is that bad -- because sometimes it is going to be -- reach out for love, hugs, and reassurance to those who make you the happiest. Thank you, Peter -- I am always appreciative of the many laughs, giggles, and joy found here on your blog. Ciao bello.

  29. This is such a great subject! Coming from a huge background in music, I've seen some of the most rotten people do the most rotten things. And in the end they too just end up being unhappy and no one wants to associate with them. I think there is something to be said for being on top of your game, but the real test of your character is doing all that you love to do, with friendly competition, and still creating an environment that people can come and be apart of your life in. Its really really hard, because all you want to do is tear down your competition all the time, make their work seem cheap and yours better and name call and such. I think its when you get caught up in the competition that you become unhappy because that's all you ever think about and so you don't actually pursue or do your craft the way you would like, you do it to be better than your competitor. And what's happy about that? Be who you are, do what you love to have the things in life that you want - in that order too - and you'll be happy. xoxo, Sunni

  30. Happiness is a choice. You can dwell on the bad or you can choose the good. And, as you age, you realize the being contented is a happy place to be.

  31. What a great subject! It always hurts me to see great minds suffer so. I don't understand it at all. Most Americans do themselves a disservice by assuming they will be happy. You have to make your own happiness. You can't buy it ( but it's fun to try); you CAN learn a lot about happiness from very small children and dogs, because they generally dont let the other stuff interfere with their happiness. I have learned to compartmentalize a stressful, thankless job, into a small part of my life and the other important stuff: faith, family, lots of sewing, into the major protion of my life. That's the key.

  32. I've always felt that to be a creative profession, you needed some sort of imbalance in order to be able to express yourself via your art.

    When I was a kid, I was quite paranoid, as in thought people were coming to kill me, paranoid. Id escape into my imagination and it was awesome.

    When I was in my mid 20s I was diagnosed with severe depression. I could barely get up and dress let alone function. I slept for 5 days straight and just felt myself withering away. I got medicated and it save my life.

    I think a lot of people with these mental disorders will think someone else will read their mind, someone else will come in and save them because that is truly all they have ever wanted. That's what I wanted, but no one came to save me, so like with everything else in my life I had to do it myself, and that is moving a mountain.

    My doctor was so astonished that I came in by myself saying how sick I was. I realized that there was more that I wanted to create. Its my nature and I cant do that sleeping 20 hours a day and waking up tired. My instinct to make superseded my mental disorder.

    I wish others were so lucky.

  33. Wow, guys, wonderful life lessons.

    Shelley, I really appreciate your honesty; you've given me a lot to think about.

  34. I like to post the following in my classroom:

    Happiness isn't getting what you want; it's wanting what you get.

    I think you have to adjust and go with the flow. I try to remind myself of that when I get stressed (and as a middle school teacher, mom, and grad student I have plenty of stress). I'm glad I sew because that is one place I can create my own happiness.

  35. Different personalities. Some people love attention and will do anything for it. The reason for so many scripted and well acted reality shows. Anyone today can be famous without really trying.

    Some people start off with a passion for doing something, and when they start making money with this passion it is no longer a passion. It is a job with no joy.

    I had a friend many years ago, who made fabulous childrens' clothes for her kids. She got all kinds of comments and requests for making them. Her family encouraged her to start a business, at its peak, she shut up shop. She said that she wanted to just go back to creating and sewing for family and friends.

    I am basically a happy person, however, my problem is, is that I feel too deeply when it comes to the cruelty of animals and of children. Both have no say or any control as to what happens to them. They are at the mercy of people. This can actually make me depressed. I can actually feel their pain, whereas others might think it is very sad, but in the same breath want to go and party.

    Then there are others who are famous and in the limelight, who in all honesty are good at their craft, but can take or leave it, and have other interests. They are usually happy.


  36. recipe for happiness --
    tend your back yard, grow some flowers
    realize your parents loved you and worked hard to provide for you and did their best
    value your mate, appreciate his strengths, forgive his weaknesses, and hope he does the same for you
    count your friends gratefully and make time for them
    hold a baby or toddler whenever you can
    pet your dog the way she loves it
    get a massage now and then
    put yourself under no one’s authority, or, if you have to do that, keep a long perspective on that part of your life
    nurture a sense of the sacred
    make your buttonholes by hand


  37. I recently received this quote, source unknown, from a good friend. I read it slowly and thoughtfully every day.
    "May today there be peace within. May you trust that you are exactly where you are meant to be. May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith in yourself and others. May you use the gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you. May you be content with yourself just the way you are. Let this knowledge settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance,praise and love. It is there for each and every one of us."

  38. 'Thoughts become thIngs. Choose the good ones.' I love that quote!
    I try to do something nice for someone else every day, even if it's just a smile.
    I appreciate what I have and don't envy those who have 'more' because it's all relative. I read things daily that make me happy. Peter, your blog is at the top of my list.

  39. Because I've (i should say, we, my man and I) been living in third world countries, I have learned how life is fragile, how everything can be lost in an instant, a gun shot, a flood, an illness and everything is gone. So I appreciate every single little moments, every little things that makes my heart sings. I have a roof, I have food on the table for my kids, we have health...and we love each other so much...

  40. Hi there, Peter!!
    I had been a way for a little bit and today I had a chance to catch up on your posts. First off, I think the Ginger Rodgers dress will be pretty awesome for Cathy, as she can twirl around and dance with a little drama, even if she has two left feet.

    As for my recipe for a happy life, I always start off the day with a little prayer, thanking the creator for giving me life. No matter where I'm at or what I'm doing, everything else won't be good unless I'm good to myself. No matter what the weather, rain or shine, cold or hot, I put on a smile. Once you see yourself with a smile, you feel the blood flowing and the energy changes. You can take on the world and have fun doing it.

    It is true that many chase success, celebrity, fame , fortune, but if you're do what you do because you love it, because it's your passion, then you never have to work a day in your life and the riches will come, not the monetary riches, or even the celebrity that some crave, but the riches of the knowledge that you've obtained from following your dream and doing what you love. Yes, all of that equals success, celebrity, riches (monetary and knowledge). Also appreciate each moment of it. Live in the moment and enjoy all that comes with it. Yes, there are times when it's trying and you are tested, but like my grandma always says, you can't have sunshine without the rain.

    Also you should enjoy every person you have contact with and share your joy with them, Bring them into your world and watch how infectious your joy becomes.

    Those are the things that I start with and I always shower the joy everywhere.

    I'm not sure if it's a great recipe, but this is what I do to make my living well.

  41. My secret to being happy most of the time is to be grateful for everything I've been given, big or small, even the bad things. Life is such a rich experience, and good and bad, I am really grateful for it.

  42. Lots of interesting answers... I think happiness is multi-factorial. I'm sure there's a chemical/hormonal component to it, there are resources like family and partnership and spirituality which make being happy more likely, and I think people who have known difficulties in life (and are therefore less likely to take things for granted) are generally happier, too. I think it's also important to keep in mind the difference between happiness and cheerfulness. It's possible to life a happy life but still be sad or angry sometimes. :)

    In the end, though, I think happiness can be learned. It's an outlook of life. It's seeing the glass half full and taking pleasure in the small things: friendship, a lovely summer day, good chocolate.

  43. I agree with Alessa. I spent ages 4-19 quite miserable, maybe genetic maybe environment, because I was surrounded by constantly angry or miserable people in my family. After getting away, I had to teach myself how to live, without many good mentors to follow - mainly because I was taught to suspect anyone who was happy was being fake.

    I did learn to follow the examples of people who had a better life and be happy, and I have many blissful days and experiences despite the ongoing trials and tribulations I encounter through work and family and so on. Life experience has taught me the importance of some really simple things: 8-9 hours of sleep a night; a diet with sufficient fruits, vegetables, protein and whole grains (and no shortage of chocolate!); a brisk hour walk in a different neighborhood every couple of days; limiting alcohol to a drink or two every few days. Being in the outdoors is a necessity! I also take risks to try new things and get out of my comfort zone. I'm still very cautious in my relationships but working on it!

  44. Goshdarnit, I can't find it on the Maclean's website, but a couple months ago I read a blurb in the mag about mental illness as a percentage in various professions. Artists had the highest rate at 70-something percent.

    I wasn't surprised. I'm a very creative person who's jaded with society's expectations of my desires and abilities. I don't want to have a crappy job where my employer just sees me as dollar signs or lack there-of, and I have no drive to be that way myself. I've had crappy jobs that I actually enjoyed; it was my bosses that made me rage inside. I really strive to do a good job for other people when they pay me for it, and I've had ONE employer recognize that. All the rest cried MORE! MORE! YOU'RE NOT WORKING HARD ENOUGH!!! And yet they didn't fire the genuinely lazy people... Erm, probably because the lazy ones muttered that they'd do better, while I flashed angry eyes and said "I'm working as hard as I can!!!"

    My idea of happiness is doing things well and enjoying the process without other people railing at me as to how I should be doing it, or how I should be enjoying it, or taking advantage of my enjoyment. Being manic-depressive means I have challenges on a daily basis, and I don't need some greed- or advancement-driven arsewipe adding to my difficulties.

    The moral of my story is, don't let people take advantage of you or drag you down. There's always other options. My boyfriend went to a mental health seminar, and I'm trying to be a proper housewife so he won't make me get another job. So far, he's pleased, I'm pleased, the house is clean, and I really hope I can keep up this level of energy! I feel so frickin' good, though :P

    PS: Peter, THANK YOU for posting about yet another interesting and societally-charged topic. You're such a wonderfully thoughtful man, and I'm sure it's no surprise to your friends that you picked up crafting.

  45. Been thinking about this post off & on since yesterday... & thinking about McQueen too, bec. I've admired his work for ages & was saddened by his suicide.

    I tend to think that happiness is part internal, part external. You have to find satisfaction within yourself, & it helps to connect with others. I know there have been studies done that show people who have connections in their family/community tend to be happier. And I know that I've come out of my deepest depressions when I'm connecting with friends or doing volunteer work or things that give to others outside myself.

    I read that McQueen was hugely distraught after his mother died & that may have contributed to his own death. Being a fantastic artist isn't enough -- having people you care about brings more meaning to life. Giving to others helps draw you out of your head (& can keep the demons at bay if you are prone to sadness).

    Blogs like yours are a great example of this. Peter, you could just as easily be sewing at home & working on fantastic projects for yourself. But here you are, sharing your work & even teaching people what you've learned. You're connecting with others, & we are connecting with each other. You're spreading happiness. Thank you!

  46. I think it is really hard for entertainers or performance-type people, being married to one, as they are gifted to lead and express for us what we are all feeling, to find who they are outside of the limelight. But my husband always says, every entertainer needs a backstage and many get trapped onstage... anyway, good thoughts, Peter. No recipes here, really, but I'm thankful to wake up with a crazy person who invents characters every morning with his uncombed hair shapes, invariably singing Elvis at the top of his lungs, and I give him a place to be backstage.

  47. For me, happiness comes in letting go of fear.

    Being snarky or rude to others... is fear.
    Being consumed by work... is fear.
    Worrying what others think... is fear.
    Not doing what your heart tells you to do... is fear.

    If you can let go of it, a little it at a time, you will be happier. Or at least I am, when i can.

  48. for me, happiness is something i'm continually working towards - especially since leaving graduate school (glad to learn that Peter went too!) which for me was a most unhappy-making experience.

    i can only think of two (related) things that i can almost always count on to give me a happiness boost:

    1) being empathic and kind to others, esp when they seem upset or stressed.
    2) doing things to make people's lives just that little bit easier. these can be small things, like writing the code of my buns on my bag @ the supermarket, and making the cashier's job just that little bit easier. or bigger things, like creating extra learning resources for my students to better help them understand what we're learning.

  49. You have to DECIDE to be happy and then learn the lesson (which can be a tough one to swallow) that you and only you are the architect of your happiness. Once you take total responsibility for your life circumstances, then you can live the life you choose. It took me 40 years to learn this lesson. Better late than never. Now I am happy whatever the circumstances. That does not mean I never have a bad day; it just means that now I know I have a choice.

  50. Well, I think celebrities have to deal with consistent and sustained criticism and praise. I can't imagine that is healthy or easy to deal with. I can imagine it would skew a person, it would certainly skew mine. Thankfully, I'm in a profession where looks are not discussed so even though I love fabric and creation, I don't have to deal with the negative parts on a daily basis - as I imagine fashion designers do.

  51. I've been trying to distill my recipe down to 3 ingredients. I reduced it to 5 with effort-
    1) be kind to others
    2) exercise for an hour most days
    3) eat lots of vegetables
    4) drink the best wine you can afford
    5) make things you can see
    I'm willing to drop the wine off my list because this can backfire if not done with moderation. The others have to stay.

  52. I agree with many of your commenters above, especially Mae and Alessa. I think I am quite a content person now, but I was a wretched perfectionist child, a depressed teenager, and an angry young adult. These days though I no longer aim for perfection, I don't try to live up to the promise others may see in me, I consciously avoid dark, destructive adventures, and I try not to take injustices and slights too personally. I just do the best I can in the time I have, and that's it. When I go home from work I stop working, and stop thinking about it. I'm not getting many promotions but I'm not getting too stressed either :-)!

  53. Sounds like a great recipe, Gabrielle!


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