It being Easter weekend I have tried not to do too much work. The world’s most spoiled twelve-year-old has assisted in this goal insisting she needed to be taken shopping for books, nail polish and things to put in the Easter baskets. Since two of her sisters are in their twenties we need more than just chocolate. This included trouble dolls from South America (you whisper your troubles, put them under your pillow and they are supposed to solve them while you sleep), room freshener from L’occitane for the sister that smokes and bath salts for the sister that doesn’t.

Shortly I will have to begin administering death threats (and you WON’T be resurrected) to get everyone dressed to go to mass. Even though every single person in this family attended years of Catholic schools, most of them are more Catholic in theory than practice. The sun has come out and the two youngest want to go hiking in the mountains to see the waterfalls. Dennis wants to drink a martini and Jenn wants to watch 1940s movies while she writes a paper that’s due tomorrow.

Taking a break from work, I’ve been reading, The Geography of Bliss, by Eric Weiner, who spent a year and tens of thousands of miles trying to find the happiest place on earth.  (Hint: It isn’t Disneyland, no matter what they tell you.)

The best part of the book, I think, was his conclusions at the end about the nature of happiness;

“Money matters, but less than we think and not in the way we think. Family is important. So are friends. Envy is toxic. So is excessive thinking. Beaches are optional. Trust is not. Neither is gratitude.”

There are two other points I would add.

1. We find time for what is important to us. There are certain projects I have been planning to do for months but have not gotten finished, or, to be honest, worked on very much at all. Yet, next week I am spending an entire week at SAS Global Forum in Seattle. I am even flying in early to attend a class on data visualization techniques. Why? Because I am convinced it will be worthwhile. I know I will learn new things, meet fascinating, brilliant people and no one I have ever met has said to me, “I wish I hadn’t learned so much.”

At my age I am too impatient with bureaucracy to get another degree (besides, I already have four). I want to take from the smorgasbord of learn this, not interested in that, this looks useful, this may not be useful but sounds fascinating nonetheless. I am not interested in being force fed a curriculum to get a degree. Not putting that down. It’s necessary at a certain point in one’s life. We didn’t let my two-year-old granddaughter choose whatever she wanted to eat when she stayed with us (well, there was that chocolate birthday cake for breakfast incident) but I am a grown up now and can choose for myself.

2. While some places may be happier than others overall, it is how you FIT in that place that matters for your happiness. I have lived in; Halifax, Nova Scotia, Tokyo, Japan, Minneapolis, Minot, North Dakota, Los Angeles, California and St. Louis, Missouri (this is a partial list). I’ve visited the Bahamas, Baja California, Mexico, Winnipeg, Toronto, Athens, Beijing, Costa Rica, Caracas, Paris, London, Zurich and over 40 of the fifty states (another partial list).  It is true as psychologists say that “going geographic” seldom helps because you take your problems with you. There is one exception, though, and that is when being in that place is what is making you unhappy. I could never be happy in Minneapolis because I hate cold winters with a passion. I don’t mind a few days of snow now and then that has the good manners to melt, but this sticking around for months on end is my definition of hell. In fact, I am considering skipping mass just to hedge my bet on being warm in the hereafter as well.

Happy Easter

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