It follows, then, that one way we can make other people happy is to share our own occasions for happiness.
I was struck by this yesterday, when I got the following email from a high-school friend. We were close during our childhoods, and although she lives in Switzerland now, and I haven’t seen or emailed with her in a few years, I still consider her a good friend.
I knew she’d been working on a novel, on and off, for years. Yesterday, this note, addressed to 36 people, arrived in my inbox:
Just have to send word out that tonight at 9:11pm, I joyfully typed into my novel the two most wonderful words ever paired up in the English language: The End. It’s 408 pages, (this draft, anyway), and God knows, it needs a lotta revision, and some exhaustive editing, but boy, does it feel great! Nearly five years on this one. Prayers to your God of choice most welcome as I now begin the industry tap dance.
Hope your day is shaping up equally fab.
I was SO HAPPY to see this. I knew she’d been working on a novel for a long time. And now she’d done it. I sat in front of the computer with a big smile on my face, and I had a very happy start to my day.
But I think it was unusual to send out an email like that. I wouldn’t have sent it out. I would have worried that people would think I was self-centered, or boastful.
But that wasn’t the reaction I had to her email at all. I was so happy for her, and I felt honored that she’d allowed me to share in her moment of achievement.
It can be selfless to be selfish. It can also be generous to ask for congratulations.
I wrote to my friend to ask if I could reprint her email here, and also to ask her whether she’d hesitated before sending out that note.
I admit I had a private moment of selfish squirreling of my joy last night and then thought how many times have I said to friends, oh you’ll hear all about it when I finally finish this thing… so before I over-thought myself into inaction, I just typed up that email. People really do want to hear about our (royal we, universal “our”) efforts and struggles and successes along the way. I genuinely believe that. And of course I hope it goes the distance, but regardless, I figure this stage is such fabulous fun, why the heck not.
Also, her email happened to remind me of one of my favorite passages in Virginia Woolf’s diaries, written when she finished The Waves (my favorite Woolf novel):
Anyhow it is done; & I have been sitting these 15 minutes in a state of glory, and calm, & some tears, thinking of Thoby [her brother] & if I could write Julian Thoby Stephen 1881-1906 on the first page. I suppose not.
These peak moments happen rarely, for all of us. It’s generous to share them with others.
I missed this great post on Shifting Careers on managing time more efficiently, but caught up with it today. I especially agree with the point about maximizing your personal rhythms to get the most out of your day. Also, although I can’t swear to it, and I can’t find it right now, I’m pretty sure that studies show that most people are at peak mentally about three hours after they wake up. Maybe I should look for that study again, tomorrow morning around 11:00.
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