Today is my birthday, and the Big Man wished me “Happy birthday!” the minute we woke up. I think I was more moved by that gesture than by any gift I could have received. The fact that my birthday was on his mind before we even got out of bed really touched me.
Though he wouldn’t describe it as a “happiness project,” I know that the Big Man has been working to change some things about himself. For example, he’s been trying to be less compulsive about going to the gym; as far as I can tell, he goes just as much, but is less stressed out about it.
He’s been working on being better about returning my emails dealing with our never-ending family logistics; he has improved tremendously on that front.
And now I also suspect that he’s been working on “family cheer.” Not only did he remember my birthday this morning, he also organized a family party this evening, and he took photos on our trip to India (in the past, he never took photos), and—this is what really tipped me off—he’s been doing some of the Christmas shopping. Unbelievable.
The Big Man is an outstanding gift-buyer—he’s given me some of my favorite items of clothing, and he has very original ideas. But he likes buying one gift at a time, not the stack of presents that we need to get for Christmas. But this year, he’s done half the work.
When I started the Happiness Project, I have to confess that I worried that if if I did more, he would do less. If I stopped nagging and complaining, would he leave all the work to me?
Well, I don’t know if my happiness project has had anything to do with it, but the Big Man is doing far more now than he used to. Voluntarily.
Now, correlation is not causation, so the ways that he’s changed may have nothing to do with the ways that I’ve changed. Or maybe they are related. But in any event, I’ve discovered that giving up nagging and complaining (well, mostly giving up nagging and complaining) haven’t made things worse. Surprise!
An unrelated thing that has made this day especially pleasant is that I happened to reflect on how often, in the past, I had to take an exam on my birthday. High school, college, law school—how clearly I remember spending my birthday hunting for good pens, flipping through blue books, humming mnemonic devices to myself. What happiness it is NOT to be taking an exam!