Tuesday, May 24, 2011

What I Love From The Book "Bonjour, Happiness!"

I loved the book Bonjour, Happiness! Secrets to Finding Your Joie de Vivre by Jamie Cat Callan. In addition to sharing her own experiences, this American woman who idolized her French grandmother interviewed many French women on the topic of what makes them happy and elaborated on their thoughts in this really good book. Once you live in or love another country, your values often shift. After living in Italy, mine certainly did! Much more Mediterranean... Same for the author, who always wanted to be more French. I think American women have a lot to learn from the French and this book, like the following...

Callan basically says that happiness is an experience, a shared moment with others that one appreciates. "It's about being present and alive in the ordinary moment" (9). This is a conscious choice to appreciate life and its simple pleasures (13). In fact, she urges her readers to enjoy everyday tasks. Everything one does is a choice and is capable to contributing to happiness. She recommends connecting with others in the everyday as well. For example, a good farmers' market is particularly perfect for this.

Especially in the ordinary, she also recommends being unique. A woman can wear a signature item for example. Callan does also touch on French style which I love, especially the lesson of making an effort to dress. In addition, the author admires older French women who fill their home with fresh flowers and original art (27). ...which I'm doing right now! Make an effort, she implores, even if it's the little touches like buying yourself fresh flowers (111). When one truly appreciates the little things, you don't either need to value size it or buy multiples. Wear or use your nice things, just take care of them too! ...but, then again, buying stuff rarely leads to happiness. A fleeting experience is so much more satisfying than a material possession you purchase and have for awhile.

Take care of yourself too. The author recommends walking and taking the stairs for exercise. To take the stairs in heels, you have to concentrate and be present or else you'll fall down the flight! I love that she goes on with:

And of course, these stairs are mighty theatrical. Just imagine your husband or lover waiting for you at the bottom of these winding, curving, ornate stairs. And there you are--descending the steps seen from below in glimpses, flashes of leg and heels as you walk down and around, mysteriously coming in and out of view, disappearing, then reappearing, until you finally emerge. By the time you reach that bottom step, I would think this man would be in a state of enchantment (48).

The author is all about making an entrance. Be conscious that you're building anticipation. The click of high heels (or my loud low-heeled ballet flats!) announce your arrival. Dress in a way that creates confidence, even down to the lingerie ...just for you. People respond to confidence; it is the key.

I'm a fairly private person, surrounded by very public American women. I like that the author recognizes this self-containment as not only a means to intrigue others with mystery, but also to remain confident in knowing that their negative business isn't all over town (51). What a good point! It's a control thing. She also explains how one should seek balance in their life. Work, but take time to rest and do the things that make you happy.

Since the French love food, she explains why it, rightfully, is a source of happiness. If happiness is an experience, then food is one of the ultimate experiences! Food completely engages you. You taste, touch, smell, see, and even hear food (87). Baking a birthday cake for someone is an experience that connects you with the ones you love. There you go, a shared experience, happiness. One can even take it to the next level when it becomes a lovely tradition.

The French live in moderation, even down to their judgments on things the author has noticed. Things do not have to be so black and white. They also eat moderately. Their bodies tell them if their weight has fluctuated, not the bathroom scale. Even if they have gained, they respect their bodies and actually work on it. It's not the end of the world, nor the end of the discussion. Their daily diet requires daily decisions to do what's right for themselves in the long run. If they strayed a bit too far, they're not too far from getting back on track. Apparently curvy Frenchwomen don't give up on their look like so many obese American women seem to. They would never! They appreciate beauty too much ...and maybe know that others do too.

So, go out and buy or borrow this book! Even though it's new, I found it at my local library this time last week. ...and then truly experience life!

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