The 2021 Happiness Project

4 Jan
2021 ice sculpture

It doesn’t take much to make me happy. 

Eating a slice of good chocolate cake or a warm chocolate chip cookie. Hearing a catchy pop tune. Receiving a phone call from a friend. Enjoying warm weather in the middle of the winter. Experiencing good customer service. All of these are simple pleasures that make me a smile.

Some people think happiness is something you have to seek out, or that it results from big events. Those people need to stop and appreciate the little things more often.

That’s the gist, essentially, of my annual Happiness Project. Part online diary, part gratitude journal, and part mindfulness exercise, my Happiness Project is where I document something every day that made me happy. And it’s really just that simple: At the end of every day, I write down one thing that made me feel good, whether it was something I did, something I ate, something somebody said, a TV show I watched or movie I saw, a tweet, or something else. It doesn’t have to be something big or important; just something that made me smile. (And yes, the name is a nod to Gretchen Rubin’s “Happiness Project,” which started as an experiment and became a best-selling book, before becoming a broader movement.)

Documenting a “happy thing” every day — and doing it publicly — helps to promote the idea that no day is all bad. It also helps with self-care.

I did my first Happiness Project in 2015, and I’ve repeated the exercise every year since 2017. (For some reason, I took 2016 off.) So, what follows below is my sixth Happiness Project. (Wow!)

I’m hopeful that 2021 will be a good year — or, at the very least, that it will be a better year than 2020 was. Who knows what will actually happen over these 12 months, especially given the pandemic and political discord we’re all living through as I write this intro in January. But if you read through this blog post (from the bottom to the top), you’ll probably walk away with the impression that I’m having a good year, anyway, in spite of any challenges or bad events happening around me. 

That would make me happy, too.

And with that all said … Here’s what made me happy every day this year.

April 13
TBD

April 12
Today I finally — finally! — sent back my PwC laptop. So, I guess that now officially ends my brief freelance gig for them, and one of the most unnecessary laptop loaners ever.

April 11
Drove downtown and walked around Boylston and Newbury Streets today for the first time in a while. That was fun.

April 10
Temperatures were in the 70s, and I wasn’t experiencing any post-vaccine side effects, and my pinkie toes are mostly healed, and I wanted to listen to the final episode of the Barack Obama–Bruce Springsteen podcast, so it was a perfect night to walk down Comm Ave to Johnny’s, and eat dinner outside on a picnic table in Newton Centre. So that’s what I did. And it was worth it.

April 9
Received my second vaccine shot today. Yay! It was another beautiful, blue-sky day. Perfect metaphor. And I felt good all day; no apparent side effects — other than being happy, excited, and grateful, of course. Woo hoo!

April 8
I know I said I wouldn’t make any specific plans until after my second vaccine shot, but it felt really good to call different restaurants this afternoon while I went for a walk, and ask them about outdoor seating options. Very much looking forward to my steak dinner with Judy in a couple weeks.

April 7
I like the days like today when I’m not in any rush to finish something before a meeting, so I can take the time to do it right. Or at least, do it better. Makes me feel good about what I’ve worked on.

April 6
After waffling a little bit because a meeting was postponed, I’m glad I ultimately decided to go to the cleaners this morning while Creuza was here, because it was a reason to leave the house and get some fresh air for a little while.

April 5
No regrets about ordering deep-dish pizza for dinner tonight, and having it delivered, in honor of National Deep Dish Pizza Day.

April 4
When Easter and the last day of Passover coincide, as they did today, it means nearly all Italian restaurants are closed. So I was thankful that Cheesecake Factory was open, and that they have the Classic Italian Trio on their menu now. It wasn’t the best food I’ve had, but after eight days of no carbs, it was just what I needed.

April 3
Stopped by Old Navy on the way home this afternoon and made out pretty well — picked up a bunch of shirts and some other random stuff, and between clearance and sale prices, and a $10 reward, it only cost me $30. Not bad!

April 2
It was nice to work out of the house today, at another video shoot.

April 1
Really enjoyed the first episode of The Challenge: All-Stars tonight. It was like watching “recess at the old-folks’ home.” Ha ha ha ha …

March 31
I was disappointed by the movie itself, but I enjoyed that Ian really wanted me to watch Godzilla vs Kong, and do so ASAP, so he could discuss it with me.

March 30
Today I was happy I no longer have an 8:45 meeting every morning, because I didn’t sleep well last night and needed to hit snooze an extra time before getting up.

March 29
The new issue of Boston magazine arrived today. I look forward to reading the cover package, called What Happens Next. It’s nice to see forward-looking content, and to feel like there’s a post-pandemic future that’s not so far away.

March 28
Today I was actually happy the weather was bad and that we didn’t do a second-night seder, because I had a bit of work to do and it took me longer than I expected. So I needed the time without the interruption.

March 27
It was very nice to be a part of Farrah and Barry’s seder tonight — outdoors, on the deck (even if it was a bit chilly). Glad to be celebrating the first night of the holiday with other people this year.

March 26
I really liked today’s episode of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. It was very funny, but also really thought provoking. Great writing. And a fantastic drumline version of “Star Spangled Man,” too.

March 25
I’m glad I finally wrote up my submission for our 25-year reunion class yearbook. I put it off until tonight, the night before the deadline, but I still think it came out pretty well.

March 24
Went out for a nice, nearly 90-minute walk with Andreina today. Always fun. Glad I had the time to do it.

March 23
Today I was happy that Farrah asked me to pick up some stuff for her at the Butcherie because it gave me a reason to leave the house and get some fresh air during the time when Creuza was here.

March 22
It kinda derailed the end of my day, but I was much happier to catch up with Rebecca for an hour at 6pm than I would have been to keep working. So I’m glad she called.

March 21
It’s exciting to see more and more friends getting vaccinated. Like Mo, who got her first shot today. And Judy, who got her second. And in related news, I really enjoyed this.

March 20
It was a nice Spring-like day so I’m glad Ken tweeted out a heads up that he’d be playing the keys in Newton Centre this afternoon. Always good to hang out and listen to him jam.

March 19
It feels so good to make plans. With other people. Late April can’t get here soon enough.

March 18
Didn’t have a 5:00 meeting today for the first time all week, so that was good. I was able to work this afternoon without having to cram for anything.

March 17
The food itself was meh, but I’m still happy I decided to order delivery for dinner tonight instead of cooking for myself.

March 16
I got sucked into a bit of a Dua Lipa rabbit hole today. But no regrets. Her music makes me happy.

March 15
This photo of Chicago that Barry Butler shared today is super cool.

March 14
I wasn’t going to watch the Grammy Awards tonight, but I’m actually really glad I did. It was a fantastic show, surprisingly enough.

March 13
For a change, I made all the lights between Johnny’s and home when I was driving back tonight after picking up dinner. That almost never happens, and it meant my hot food wasn’t sitting in the car any longer than it had to.

March 12
On what was basically the one-year anniversary of my first working from home day, the same day when movies were all postponed and Broadway shuttered and sports seasons were put on hold and schools and colleges went all-virtual and everything was closed or canceled or postponed, and life basically stopped, today I got my first COVID vaccine shot — a miracle in itself. It was another beautiful, Spring-like, blue-sky day, and that served as nice symbolism for the promise and possibility I felt about actually being able to do things again, with people, often without masks, in about a month and a half (after I get my second shot). What a difference a year makes.

March 11
It was a beautiful day today, so I’m glad I made an effort to get outside — even for just a few minutes — and that I worked all afternoon with my windows open.

March 10
Very much enjoyed reading this cover story about Jennifer Garner in The Hollywood Reporter today.

March 9
Felt good about some work I did today, so I’m looking forward to reviewing it with Mike tomorrow.

March 8
Today I was happy I decided to take a break from Pringles and instead revert back to eating Pipsnacks’ Corn Dippers with my lunch. Mmmmm …

March 7
I’m so happy I pre-treated my orange and blue rugby shirt before I put it in the washing machine today, because it appears to have done the trick. The shirt is much cleaner now than it was.

March 6
Today I was happy there are as many Democrats in the Senate as there are, so the COVID relief bill was able to be passed (since it was a vote along party lines).

March 5
The excellent final episode of WandaVision dropped today, and while I’m bummed the series is over, I really was happy with the way the experience of watching it (especially those weeks when I woke up early to do so) and talking about it and simply digesting each episode felt so communal. After a year of isolation and social distancing, and very few pop culture “events,” this was very much appreciated.

March 4
Mayor Fuller sent out her weekly update tonight, and in it, in addition to the news that, for the first time since just before Thanksgiving, there have been fewer than 100 new people who tested positive in Newton during a single week, there was the update that the Boston College community accounted for just 24% of the positive COVID-19 cases in Newton over the past two-week reporting period, a decline from the 40% over the previous two weeks. So, things are getting better in my neck of the woods.

March 3
Today I saw that Deborah was finally able to secure a vaccine appointment for her mother in Chicago, after weeks of trying. So I was happy for her.

March 2
A very good day today: First, I received a dozen cupcakes from Skyword, somewhat randomly. But then, Lisa gave me a tip on how I could schedule a COVID vaccine appointment. So I did, and it was surprisingly easy. Almost too easy. Yay!

March 1
Last night’s episode of Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy (which I watched tonight) was so good. I really love this show.

February 28
Golden Globes night was tonight, so I was happy to continue my annual tradition of having a slide of Tuxedo Cream Cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory.

February 27
I was glad it was rainy today because my car need a “natural car wash” kinda badly.

February 26
It was crazy how things went with our lunch order today, but it meant I was able to take home a garden salad with steak tips and eat it for dinner. Pretty sure it was the first steak I’d eaten in about a year, and even if it wasn’t the best meat, it was still tasty.

February 25
Today, the Lone Bellow released “Dried Up River,” the first new track from the deluxe edition of Half Moon Light. Yay!

February 24
After realizing I drove all the way to Waltham today without my wallet (whoops!), I was glad to know I could pay for parking using an app on my phone. And then I was glad I got all the way home tonight without being stopped by the police. Phew!

February 23
Today was a very productive day. And that’s a good thing, because it needed to be.

February 22
Today, Bruce Springsteen and Barack Obama launched their new podcast on Spotify. Can’t wait to listen! But in the meantime, I was happy Mitzi gave me a heads up about it.

February 21
Today was Dad’s 75th birthday, so I was glad we were finally able to share the Keith Hernandez Cameo video with him, and that he enjoyed it.

February 20
I was very impressed today when AOC announced that her fundraising effort for the people of Texas has raised $4 million so far. I’m proud to be a part of that total.

February 19
It’s been Agatha all along!

February 18
Honestly, after staring at my computer and struggling with my work for much of the day, I was happy tonight when I finally said I had kinda done the best I could, gave up, and called it a day. Sometimes, you just have to do that.

February 17
I was tired when I finally started watching The Challenge at 9:45 tonight, so I’m happy I was able to stay awake long enough to watch the whole episode before going to bed.

February 16
My winter allergies were acting up, so this morning I decided to squirt some Flonase, and it made a noticeable difference.

February 15
Today I was happy that Wegmans has a live webcam showing how many people are waiting in line to go in. When I checked this afternoon, there was no one in line, so I was able to go and do my grocery shopping then — instead of after dinner, like I was planning to do.

February 14
I’m happy the weather was warm-ish today (relatively speaking, of course). It made spending two and a half hours outside, sitting around a fire pit, with Farrah, Barry, and the kids, that much more enjoyable.

February 13
Tonight, when my TV wasn’t working properly, I was glad I decided to simply unplug it. That worked; everything was working again when I plugged it back in. Easy peasy.

February 12
I was happy I woke up an hour earlier than usual today to watch the new episode of WandaVision, before it was spoiled on Twitter.

February 11
Dr. Fauci today said it was going to be “open season” in April, in terms of people being able to get the COVID vaccine, and then Joe Biden said we should be able to have 300 million people vaccinated by the end of July, a month earlier than expected. Good, promising news.

February 10
I was happy Creuza came to clean my place today, instead of yesterday (because of the snow), because I had no meetings this morning, so she could be here and I could do my work, and no one was in anyone’s way. Yesterday, I had a call during the time she was supposed to be here.

February 9
I enjoyed hanging out with some Brandeis friends today, virtually, on our 25-year reunion planning call.

February 8
The Lone Bellow announced on Patreon tonight that (despite it being just a couple days longer than a year since they released their last album, and despite not being able to fully tour to support it, and despite solo projects from two of the members — one of which that hasn’t even been released yet) they were already working on a new album of new music. Yay!

February 7
The game was a blowout, but Tom Brady won his seventh (!!) Super Bowl championship and there were some great commercials (Cheetos, Springsteen, Bud Light, Sam Adams). So, a good night overall.

February 6
I was skeptical, but today I finally bought the Zeiss Fog Defender spray for my glasses, and it actually worked. Game changer, better late than never.

February 5
You know what? The red velvet cookies from Comella’s are quite good. Yum.

February 4
Today I was happy I made tuna fish yesterday for lunch, and had some left over, so that when I finally took a late lunch today, I had something more substantial to eat than PB&J.

February 3
Finished a project today, so rather than keep on doing stuff for work into the evening, as I had been doing in recent weeks, I was able to stop working earlier in the evening and enjoy more downtime tonight.

February 2
Really enjoyed the documentary film Fake Famous on HBO tonight. Nothing too surprising, but it was well made and entertaining.

February 1
Received my Super Bowl program today. Even though I haven’t seen or spoken with Cat in a very long time, it’s nice that she’s kept me on her distribution list all these years later as a way of staying in touch.

January 31
Kinda surprised that I’m enjoying season two of Batwoman as much as I am.

January 30
Needed to touch up one of my window sills, so today I was happy that I could buy a small sample size container of paint and small brush at Home Depot for less than $3, and that the window sill looks much better now.

January 29
I woke up this morning to the clip of Brian Williams sharing “exclusive video” of the former president’s meeting from yesterday. Suffice it to say, I watched it multiple times today. “Someone’s going to be in big trouble.” LOL

January 28
Today felt like one of the more productive days I’ve had recently, so that was a good thing.

January 27
Tonight I think I was happy that I resisted the temptation to take advantage of an offer from Uber Eats, and instead decided to cook dinner for myself. I probably had a healthier dinner because of it.

January 26
Today I was happy that Mom and Dad got their second COVID vaccine shots and that Marc and Ian had what looked like a fun 10th birthday. A good day, for sure.

January 25
I always enjoy going through old photos and blog posts from when Marc and Ian (and Abby) were born, and were younger.

January 24
I’m happy Brian Stelter’s email newsletter arrived in my inbox early enough tonight for me to read before I went to bed, so I didn’t have to read it in the morning and could start my work sooner instead.

January 23
Today I listened to a really fun interview Matt Siegel conducted with Robin Williams 10 or 20 years ago. So funny.

January 22
It was fun to chat with Elizabeth today over Zoom about my job search and what I learned (for her website), mostly because we haven’t seen each other since summer 2019, even though it doesn’t really feel that way.

January 21
My new hanging-out-at-home onesie arrived today, a week ahead of schedule, and it’s just as warm, comfy, and cozy as my other one from this company. Glad I bought another.

January 20
What can I say about today? It was just a great day. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were inaugurated as President and Vice President, it was a beautiful day weather-wise, and everything went smoothly without disruption, and the former Prez and his family left town before I’d even begun my day and they were basically an afterthought, and it all was just so great, so life affirming, so positive, so optimistic, so intoxicating. Let’s hope this high lasts for the next four years.

January 19
Hated to do it to him (again), but I got a big kick today out of giving Marc a hard time about his birthday gift using GIFs via text message, and having him do the same right back to me. It may have been cruel, but it was fun.

January 18
Today I was happy that the webcam I bought over the weekend worked well, so I don’t have to buy a different one.

January 17
Coincidentally, Andreina and I went out to dump our trash at the same time tonight. It was good to catch up and chat, and spend more time outside than planned.

January 16
When I ordered my dinner tonight, I was told it would be ready in 20–25 minutes. So I was happy when I walked in after only 10 minutes and it had just come out, so I could take it home before it just sat on the counter there, getting cold.

January 15
Today I received my last freelance payment and my first new-job paycheck, so it was a good day for my bank account.

January 14
After a couple days of procrastination, which led to later working hours, today I finished my work for the day around 6pm, so I could enjoy more of my evening.

January 13
It was nice to catch up with Jim tonight, even if it took me way too long to call him, and a fatal diagnosis for me to do it. Glad to hear he’s in good spirits, all things considered.

January 12
I was happy I had a dentist appointment this afternoon, if only because it gave me a chance to listen to some of the Matty in the Morning 40th anniversary show from this morning.

January 11
I opened up my package of “Brookie-O” Oreos tonight, and no surprise, they were yummy. Good flavor.

January 10
Today I was thankful I ordered ahead from NY Bagel Factory before I drove out to Natick, because I was able to get what I wanted and it wasn’t a waste of a trip.

January 9
Glad I decided to watch the first episode of Pretend It’s a City on Netflix tonight, because it was great. I’m also glad it’s a series, and not a special, because it means there’s more to watch in the (near) future.

January 8
This morning when I woke up, I’d slept through the night uninterrupted for the first time in three or four weeks. So I was well rested, for a change, and feeling good.

January 7
Four years ago today, I was hanging out with friends and having a good time in Austin, Texas. Memories of that trip made me happy today.

January 6
I was so happy to wake up today and learn that Raphael Warnock had won his election in Georgia, and then to hear in mid-afternoon that the same was true of Jon Ossoff. Woo hoo!!

January 5
Heard some news today about the other company I was interviewing with last month, and that made me even happier with my decision than I already was. Everything definitely worked out for the best.

January 4
My work laptop arrived this morning, on the first day of my new job, which meant I could set it up and didn’t have to put work stuff on my personal laptop.

January 3
I was happy to wake up this morning to the news that mom and dad secured an appointment to receive their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and will be getting it on Tuesday. Phew!

January 2
I kind of did it as a goof, but the flannel onesie I bought to hang out in at home arrived this morning. Tonight I had zero regrets; it’s super warm and comfy. And not as unattractive as I thought it’d be.

January 1
After weeks of waffling, I finally bought myself a new printer today. And thank you to the salesguy at Staples, who suggested I buy a laser printer instead of an inkjet one. That was smart.

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