More on All the Small Things

Wouldn't you know, I forgot my keys AGAIN. Luckily, however, I realized this before I walked into the train station in Center City. Sadly however, I needed to turn back around, get back on the subway, trudge back to work, grab the keys, and trudge back to the subway again to meke the next train in a half-hour.

Good news, though (no, I didn't save money by switching to Geico but instead to State Farm), it began pouring outside on my train ride home and my husband lost power at work. He called me, asked if I wanted a ride home and I said, "Sure!" Door-to-door service just doesn't get any better.

My day did end up better but I'm still quite tired and am learning to stack the small, bad stuff against the small, good stuff. I should make a pro/con list for every day and have the pros/cons cancel each other out for neutral days. I had a therapist who once said (in my answer to a question about happiness):

How do you know if you have a happy life?  If one can calculate more times or longer periods of time being happy than not then one has a happy life.  If the periods of being unhappy outweighs the periods of being happy then one does not have a happy life.

So overall, since I've been married, my life has been happy. I can't necessarily say the same for the years before that though. But happiness is a life-long process. So is beating depression. And maybe one day, when I've forgotten my keys for the third time that week and realize it, I will not trudge back to work grudginly, mumbling curse words under my breath, but will cheerfully bound over to my job, thankful that I had a good enough memory to remember I'd even forgotten it.

Sometimes we sweat the small stuff so much that we forget that there are other small (usually unnoticeable, taken for granted) things that are working in our favor.

All the Small Things

During depression the world disappears … because the inner voice is so urgent in its own discourse: How shall I live? How shall I manage the future? Why should I go on?KATE MILLETT, The Loony-Bin Trip

It really is the small things in life that get me.

I can handle major blowaway events like my father’s death (which I can’t seem to get past even though it was almost five years ago) or things like 9/11. I’m good at handling a major crisis — probably because crises don’t occur everyday and if they did, I’d be bad at that too.

My day had been fairly fine for the most part, catching the 7:48 express train to Center City with enough time before its arrival to get a quick breakfast at Starbucks. I sat on the train, reading my Metro then switching to The Devil Wears Prada. As I left the train station, I prayed, hoping that the LUCY Green line bus was still there. It was. I took my time, hoping the driver would see the influx of people and wait one more minute. Cars came at a rapid pace and I waited patiently on the sidewalk. As I crossed the street finally (!), the bus slowly moved to leave. I ran in front of the bus (as I’ve done before) in an attempt to catch it before it drove off without me. With a long honk from the driver (that scared me out of my wits), I hopped on the curb, waiting for the doors to open. No such luck. The driver roared the bus past me and my hopes and prayers of wanting to catch the bus were effectively dashed.

Losing the bus — the long honk, particularly — put me all out of sorts and I trudged to the subway to catch the trolley that involved a longer walk. I contemplated all sorts of things: jumping out in front of a car and killing myself, yelling, screaming and shouting in public, but thankfully took a less dramatic route and simply dumped the last half of my Starbucks sandwich in the garbage – an expression of my digust, more of myself than the bus driver.

On my way to the subway, my face fell from bright and cheery to sullen and dark. I avoided eye contact with passersby and explained to myself, I’m a New Yorker. I’m tougher than this. But then I realized that I was equating my toughness with my "identity" as a New Yorker. I’m not quite sure why I did that, but I’d often considered myself "tough" because I was from New York. For the first time, this equation disturbed me. If my sense of "tough" was really a New Yorker style, like I’d told myself all these years, then I seriously misrepresented my home state.

I put on my iPod to drown out the negative voices in my head and dove into finishing my Devil Wears PradaWhen I read fiction, I have this terrible habit of adapting the "voices in my head" (the talking to yourself kind, not the schizophrenic kind) to sound like I’m listening to an audiobook. I talk to myself in the third person or sound like a first-person character in a book. So I sat on the train thinking, I don’t understand why a stupid honk would get me so upset. Why was catching the bus so important to me? Why has not catching the bus ruined my day? And I carried on a first-person monologue in my head, much like poor Andrea in my novel.

I selected the first song on my iPod, "(I Got That) Boom Boom" with Britney Spears and the ever-annoying Ying-Yang Twins. Thankful that I’d remembered to take out the parentheses from the title on my iTunes last night (s0 the parentheses wouldn’t make that the FIRST song on my playlist), I pressed forward to the next song. I continued going forward until I found an Aimee Mann song, "Goodbye Caroline." That was it! Depressing mood, depressing music! I quickly switched to an all-Aimee Mann song list and replayed "Goodbye Caroline." I got off the bus and realized that maybe Aimee wasn’t the best thing for me at that moment and decided I needed upbeat, pop music. I mused to myself, Too bad I didn’t synch my iPod so I could have that sickeningly annoying Jessica Simpson "Public Affair" on. The melody, reminiscent of Madonna’s "Holiday" had this funny way of cheering me up, despite the stupidity of the lyrics.

But I trudged up the stairs, convinced that the day was already crap and shot to hell, that this had been the first bad week since I’d moved to Pennsylvania and pondered why the idea of Monday coming around would bring a new beginning. I continued to complain in my head, I knew I needed a mental health day, but I don’t have any sick days until August 15 so I have to come to work and I have to move tonight so I’ll leave early, who cares about overtime… and on and on my thoughts went. This week had been absolute crap. My hormones had been on an emotional rollercoaster:

  • I woke up at 4:45 a.m. Monday through Wednesday to set up at 7:00 a.m. for a committee meeting and worked my normal hours;
  • I hadn’t able to sleep early when I got home but tossed around in bed for 5 hours until involuntarily dozing off at my normal time of 11:30 p.m.;
  • I’d forgotten my car keys at work in Philadelphia (an hour’s train ride away) two days in a row and subjected my car to getting towed overnight;
  • and sat in traffic on the Schuylkill Expressway (or as my husband puts it, the Slowway) waiting to go back to Philly after breaking out into hysterics (BOTH days).

By the second day, I was ready to sleep in bed and never get up again.

Professionally, I felt like a first-class doof at work, not knowing what to do, feeling non-self-important and wishing that I hadn’t jumped at the first opportunity of a job that had presented itself my way. For the first time since leaving Kentucky, I missed my job at the newspaper. I missed being around reporters, writers and editors. I missed the news, I missed editing and I’d come to like page designing. I missed the world of publication and hated myself for falling into something semi-unrelated. I was upset at being in Philly nearly four months and not having a single peer as a decent acquaintance. I was upset at my body for keeping to its normal cyclical schedule (after randomly being thrown off wack last month) that would surely ruin my honeymoon next month. I was tired of being bossed around, not having any privacy, not having any work, not doing anything that made me feel I was worth something.

And to top it off, the pants I’d bought on June 16 that had fit my so snugly were now falling off me. Instead of boosting my confidence that I’d been losing weight, I cursed the money I’d lost in just over a month and convinced myself that the cotton was somehow stretching in the wash.

Have you noticed what occured to me over the past week?

  • Lack of sleep
  • Irritability
  • Unhappiness
  • Memory lapses
  • Hormonal imbalances

No surprise that after this week, I’d gotten to a point where I was willing to kill myself over "keys." "It’s just keys," my husband insisted on the second day of my stupidity. "No, it’s not just KEYS," I wanted to shout. It was everything.

  • It was a ruined honeymoon at the end of August,
  • it was being in a job that didn’t allow me to write or edit in any way,
  • it was not sleeping well,
  • it was getting up extremely early,
  • it was feeling sluggish all day,
  • it was the heat,
  • it was the lack of water I drank,
  • it was the cramped space,
  • it was the lack of privacy,
  • it was the lack of social outlets,
  • it was not being in New York,
  • it was not having a church I really, really liked…
  • it was FORGETTING MY KEYS FOR THE SECOND STRAIGHT DAY all the way in Philly when I lived up the Main Line.

I’m still upset. Since walking into work today, all I’ve wanted to do is sit in a corner and cry. All I want to do is go home and sleep my day away. I’m exhausted. Really exhausted. And I can’t help but wonder how much most people can take before they just finally collapse. My tolerance level is low so I play martyr for myself and convince myself that people do more than what I do. Until I can’t take anymore and try to jump out of a car.

So it’s not just the keys that get me depressed. It’s all the small things.

What a revelation (sarcasm)

This has nothing to do with depression or even mental illness for that matter.

Lance BassReichen LehmkuhlLance Bass is gay. OH TEH NOES! What will millions of adoring women do? Ha, ha nothing. They can’t.

Not to say I didn’t see his homosexuality coming from a mile away. I think the more shocking part of it was that he actually admitted it. But his boyfriend, Amazing Race winner Reichen Lehmkuhl is a HUNK.

Loose Screws Mental Health News

HIV patients with a history of depression, beware: Those who receive treatment with the antiretroviral drug efavirenz are more likely to experience mental health problems during the first four weeks of therapy and to discontinue treatment. As with all things that can cause problems, talk to your doctor about alternatives.

Tom PettyIn a string of celebrity depression revelations, Tom Petty admits that he, too, struggled with severe depression after the deaths of bandmate Howie Epstein and friend George Harrison. His saving grace? His wife, Dana. Petty’s depression at one point was so severe that he lived as a hermit in a chicken shack in the woods. Stories like this impress the importance of being a supportive, loving person when approaching a person with depression.

The Florida Bradenton Herald reports that more sick time is used on depression than on any other illness. (I suppose this includes the standard “mental health day”?) Odd quote of the day:

“We’re very excited because depression is such an undertreated problem in the county,” Deborah Kostroun, the chief operating officer of Manatee Glens said.

Morbid obesity can result in depression

India has had a a string of farmer suicides within the past three years. Reasons include debt, business failure, marriage expenses, bad health and other personal problems.

And a suicide attempt by a mayor in a Wilmington, North Carolina suburb, has directed more exposure toward politicians who suffer from depression and other mental illnesses.

That's crazy talk!

Do most people talk to themselves when they're alone?

We asked ourselves this question and our inner voice answered, "Sure they do." We're normal (almost) and if we do, everyone else must too. So what's the conclusion? Apparently some experts believe self-talk can be good, and others think we should all shut up. And yes, most of us do talk to ourselves. [Yahoo Answers]

More on regret

The grand essentials of happiness are: something to do, something to love, and something to hope for. — Allan K. Chalmers

I never answered the second question my husband occasionally poses to me:

"Do you ever feel that I’m holding you back?"

[Hesitation]

"Holding me back from what?" I’m always tempted to ask. But I know the answer. Is he holding me back from my hopes, my dreams? Everything I’ve ever wanted and still so desperately desire?

Is he "holding" me back from a life filled with the sweet pleasures of Manhattan? Is he "holding" me back from an editorial assistant position at a Hearst or Condé Nast magazine? Is he "holding" me back from my friends, my family, Caribbean food, the "melting pot" of the Northeast and my church? Or is it that I intentionally "hold" myself back?

My instinctual answer to this question is "No, you don’t hold me back" mainly to appeal to his feelings, which are generally hurt when this question is asked. But I’m forced to re-evaluate my answer later. Is that really true?

Another part of me wishes to say, "Yes. In some ways you do."

The honest answer is not an easy yes or no.

In our dating relationship, he lived in Kentucky and I’d lived in New York. He had lived in Kentucky for six years, working down there and spending time with his friends. He’d moved to Kentucky in 1999 after attending college in Florida for four years. The affordable cost of living, the slower pace, scattered population and familiar face of friends helped him feel settled and content. On the other hand, I’d lived in New York all my life with a brief stint at a Christian college in Florida for just over a year. And even Florida sucked compared to New York. Why would I want to live anywhere else?

New York had it all for me: glamour, fashion, a fast pace, history, activities, events, shopping, my family, my friends, mass transit, great food and an endless supply of jobs in the editorial field. Reasons that countered the Kentucky argument:

  1. New York isn’t affordable. No one ever said it was! That’s the thrill of living in NY! Making ends meet and being the "conquistador of chaos."
  2. New York has too much of a fast pace. If you can’t stand the heat, get out of Hell’s Kitchen. (a nice pun if you know NY)
  3. New York has a tremendously high population of people living in a small area. That’s the charm of New York. There’s always someone around. I’d feel paranoid if I lived on a hill and my neighbor lived more than a 1-minute run away.
  4. New York is a bad place for cars. That’s what mass transit is for.

My husband and I fought constantly about who would move where. I often suggested New Jersey or Pennsylvania (where he is from and where his family still lives) as a compromise. In his mind, it was Kentucky, all-or-nothing. Tired of fighting and willing to play martyr, I reluctantly gave in to the move to Kentucky. In retrospect (because hindsight is always 20/20), I wouldn’t move to Kentucky and I would have stood my ground. It seemed like such a silly thing to fight over but now that I’m married to a man who is attached to the suburbs like siamese twins are attached at the hip, I realize my dreams of living in a city are completely gone. I try not to think about it, but it kills me to think that a dream I held so dear (and still do) since I was a child will never be achieved.

Granted, I learned a lot from my move to Kentucky and I don’t regret the move. I do regret not standing my ground and giving in so easily. My act of selflessness was moving to a place I didn’t really want to move to. But I grew resentful and sometimes, still am. I ruminated thoughts in my head: Why did I have to make the move to Kentucky? Why me? Why did I have to leave everything I’d ever known for a place I didn’t know, for a man I loved but barely knew, for a career-ending move? He was a tech guy; he could get a job anywhere. I was editorial, why couldn’t we stay here? New Jersey wasn’t that bad.

I think the question that hurt even more, that still hasn’t been answered, is why he didn’t love me enough to move to New York? Why didn’t he love me enough to endure the high cost of living? Why didn’t he love me enough to deal with unfamiliar and awkward surroundings? Why didn’t he love me enough to leave his friends when I loved him enough to leave mine?

These are questions I should have asked before marriage and thinking about them still hurts.

But then I realized what I’d chose: love over a career. "Love is patient; love is kind and envies no one. Love is never boastful, nor conceited, nor rude; never selfish, not quick to take offense."

My husband didn’t get off scot-free from my move to Kentucky. It became several of the most troubling months since we’d met due to the stressful nature of a newspaper job that I accepted because there were no other companies located in a 40-mile radius that had the kind of work that I’d graduated from college for. I slid into a depression as I endured 12- to 15-hour workdays, sometimes three days a week and at times, worked six days in a row, never seeing my new husband until he was asleep in bed. The feeling of being enslaved to my job drove me to thoughts of suicide: crashing my car, jumping out of moving cars, anything to escape the hollow feeling I’d once again developed inside. I’d just gotten married and encountered my greatest fear: being extremely lonely even with a husband. My suicide attempts and depression drove him to a point where he finally reassessed the situation and suggested moving to Pennsylvania. After much thought, a month later we took a leap of faith and quit our jobs, packed all our things into a truck then into a 10 x 15 in storage and moved in with his parents. I joked to him last night, "How much easier would it have been to move my stuff from New York to Pennsylvania if we’d done this the first time around?"

I still find difficulty trying to break into the magazine industry, even in Philadelphia. Less magazines to work at in a big city means there are more people who want the jobs that I want. It’s tough competition but I try to be as hopeful as I can and assure myself that a year from now, there will be a position out there for me.

As for my husband holding me back, he hasn’t exactly put a gun to my head and said, "No, you can’t go off to New York and work there." If I chose to, I could divorce him and leave to follow my all-important dreams. So in that sense, the only person holding me back is… me.

But if my husband wasn’t so reluctant to live closer to New York (or in the metro New York City area, for that matter), I’d be able to accomplish all my of New York-related dreams and possibly feel fulfilled or satisfied.  I wanted to have a husband and a flourishing, exciting entry-level editorial career in a big city. I’ve got the husband and I guess Philadelphia’s a big city but I’m missing the "flourishing, exciting" part that I’d desperately hoped for. Is he holding me back? The answer… is still "no." My current priority is to spend more time with my new husband and get to know him. Not a two-hour travel to NY for a job. If I were so "committed" to this dream like I’d previously said, I could commute to NY for four hours every day. He hasn’t held me back from anything. I control my own life and the control I currently exert is over the time I spend with him.

In the end, my husband holds me back from nothing. I take full responsibility for my decisions, make certain things in my life a priority and once again, choose love over a "flourishing, exciting" career. Maybe one day I’ll have that dream career, but for now, I need a "flourishing, exciting" marriage.

Mommy, why is Santa Claus depressed?

Fat people are NOT more jolly! In fact, they tend to suffer more from depression. Studies suggest that doctors should be more aware of depressive-type symptoms in obese or overweight people. I don’t consider my husband, 6’2" and overweight (according to the BMI) by 150 lbs, to be more jolly, than oh say, Santa Claus. In fact, my husband’s penchant for having such a stern face earned him a college moniker: "Mr. Happy Face."

DO NOT, DO NOT, DO NOT take sumatriptans with serotonin medication. The FDA is concerned that the mix of migraine medications with SSRI anti-depressants could cause serotonin syndrome, a life-threatening condition that occurs when too much serotonin is present in the bloodstream. If you take anti-d’s and suffer from migraines, please see your doctor and talk about other medication options.

Loose Screws Mental Health News

ProzacIn a stunning turn of medication use, Australia hopes to prescribe Prozac to pedophiles like its European sister, the UK. Prozac suppresses sexual libido and in turn, will supposedly keep pedos in check.

Suicide prompts fundraising walk – According to Wylie Tene, public relations manager for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, someone in the United States dies by suicide every 18 minutes.

“I couldn’t make myself happy, and I couldn’t understand why,” said Rachel O’Connell, of Benicia. O’Connell, 18, knows that pain [of depression] well, but it was her own close call that drives her to walk and raise funds to help prevent suicide from claiming another life.  “I’m just happy,” O’Connell said. “It’s weird to think how I could feel that. It’s scary to think that I wouldn’t be here. I couldn’t imagine feeling that way again.”

Stephen FryBritish actor Stephen Fry admits he has bipolar disorder:

Fry hopes to raise awareness of manic depression and break some of the taboos surrounding the condition.

“I went into my garage, sealed the door with a duvet I brought, and got into my car … Sat there for at least, I think, two hours in the car, my hands on the ignition key. It was a … suicide attempt, not a cry for help.”

In a Lansing, Michigan paper, a family is using their experience with suicide to get anti-suicide plans into action. The end of the article cites some important, but frequently overlooked tips about how to tell whether someone is suicidal:

According to the Youth Suicide Prevention School-Based Guide created by the University of South Florida:

  • Early warning signs are withdrawal from friends, preoccupation with death, marked personality change and serious mood changes, difficulty concentrating, difficulties in school, change in eating and sleeping habits, loss of interest in pleasurable activities, frequent complaints of headache, stomachache and fatigue, persistent boredom and loss of interest in things one cares about.
  • Late warning signs are actually talking about suicide, impulsiveness such as violence, rebellion or running away, refusing help or feeling “beyond help,” complaining of being a bad person and making statements about hopelessness, helplessness or worthlessness. Other signs are a person who suddenly becomes cheerful after a period of depression or who gives away favorite possessions or who makes a last will and testament and says things such as “I wish I were dead.”

Lindsey LohanSomething I initially heard of on The Trouble with Spikol, I learned that Lindsay Lohan beats depression by slipping into stiletto heels and going shopping! Of course! Who needs anti-depressants when you’ve got shopping therapy?

Suicides in the Indian community in Malaysia are three times higher than the national average. Dr. T. Maniam, a university professor in Malaysia, cited poverty, high school dropout rates, alcoholism and physical abuse as reasons for the staggering number. It is estimated that for every 100,000 people, the national average rate of suicide is 10-12 people. That figure jumps to 30-35 in the Malaysian Indian community.

Philadelphia EaglesThe Philly Eagles’ J.R. Reed battled depression after suffering a leg injury that threatened to end his career.

“When I found out what actually happened I didn’t get out of bed for months. I was depressed. I didn’t even want to live sometimes. I had to go through a lot of stuff to get where I am now.”

And finally, Utah ranks seventh in the nation in prescribed antidepressants. But Utah’s patrons also seem more likely to seek medical attention, not just for mental illness, but for a variety of health reasons.

Active and passive regrets

Yesterday, I posted that one of my favorite blogs is The Happiness Project. I suppose this reason is because it deals with the opposite of what I struggle with (depression). Again, author Gretchen Rubin posts a provoking thought:

Apparently people regret not taking an action more than they regret taking an action. Gilbert speculates that that’s because it’s easier to console ourselves with the lessons learned by some action gone awry than to see the good that came from the failure to act. I find this is completely true. I am always beating myself up over something I never did:

·       "I regret not putting off marriage for a year or two so I could launch my career."

·       "I regret not being able to live in New York a little longer."

·       "I regret leaving NYU."

·       "I regret leaving my mother to fend for herself with her bills."

But like Rubin says, I don’t regret the things that I’ve done:

·       I don’t regret getting married.

·       I don’t regret moving to Kentucky for a short while.

·       I don’t regret moving to Pennsylvania.

·       I don’t regret working at any of the places that I’ve worked.

·       I don’t regret staying out of NYC after 9/11.

·       I don’t regret trying a Christian college in Florida.

·       I don’t regret taking a chance on love and making it work.

There are things that I will always regret; things that I’ll never know how it could have worked if I’d actually pursued it. But some of it isn’t just regret and for the most part, it’s nothing that I can’t ever do again if I really wanted to. Much of it leaves me with hopes for the future.

My husband occasionally asks me, "Do you regret marrying me?" or "Do you ever feel that I’m holding you back?"

Such questions are not answered right away or easily. Immediately, I insist to my husband, "No, I don’t regret marrying you" because hesitation would imply that I do. And hesitation doesn’t always confirm a positive or negative answer. Hesitation confirms that the recipient of the question is deeply in thought, mulling over the question, the answer to the question and the questioner’s possible reaction to the answer.

After having the question asked to me many times over the past 11 months of our marriage, I have had many times to think about it and my answer is…

[Hesitation]

No, I don’t regret marrying my husband. However, if he asked whether I’d do it again when I did it, I’d hesitate once again. I think of the many opportunities that lay before me in the beginning of August 2005. I had just finished working at a prestigious black publication, feeling that the world (NYC mainly) lay before me. I often think that if a wedding hadn’t been looming over my head at the end of August, I would have pursued a number of opportunities to get my foot in the door at a magazine. A year later, who knows where I’d be?

But if I truly reflect and flashback to March 2005, my two-year relationship had become rocky. I’d been on anti-depressants for just over a year and my depression had led me to cut off contact with a number of friends, become anti-social and cut back on activities to such an extreme that I focused on school only. Even with being focused solely on academics, I still went from an "A" student to a "C+." The "+" being for effort, of course, since I’d spoken to my teachers about my struggle with depression.

In March of 2005, I faced a decision: I either had to choose my relationship or choose my career. I obtained the opportunity to take an editing test and jumpstart my editorial career by working at Newsday, the largest daily paper on Long Island. It is not often that college graduates (or seniors, for that matter) get the chance to jump the ground floor and start working in the editorial sector of a major media company (Newsday is owned by the Tribune Company, which also owns the Chicago Tribune).

Here, I am faced with a tinge of regret: I can’t help but wonder what my life would have been like had I been able to launch a career in newspapers, skipping the normal college grad route: being a first-class lackey or assistant.

The day of my editing test, I made my decision. I purposely overslept. If I wanted to, I could have gotten up to take the test. Taking the test didn’t guarantee me a job with the newspaper, but it guaranteed that I would have been in the running for a job.

Despite my depression, I know my skills and I know my worth. I’d taken a preliminary editing test that wowed some of the recruiters from Newsday. I knew that if I went any further, I’d get to a point where I had to either accept a 2-year-position with Newsday (one year would keep me on Long Island, the other year could take me anywhere within the Tribune Co. from the LA Times to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel) or accept a lifetime of love with my boyfriend.

I flooded my head with a plethora of thoughts: "Love conquers all," "love is the only thing that matters," "Love, charity and hope, but the greatest of these is love." Then I tried to think about what could be better than a flourishing, bright career at the spry age of 24? Love.

Friends called me crazy. "Why are you leaving New York for Kentucky? And for a guy??? Why would anyone want to leave New York?" Adults told me I was rushing into things. "You’re only 24. Focus on your career. Do all the things you ever wanted to do before you get married because you won’t get to do them."

Torn between the feeling of love and opportunity, I chose love with the hope that I’d recover opportunity. I’m still hoping against hope for opportunity.

So while I don’t regret marrying my husband (he’s the most wonderful man I could have ever asked for), I somewhat regret my timing. But considering I’m overanalytical, I wonder when my timing could have been any better. When I was finally settled in a job and in NY and never ready to leave? We’d have never gotten married. And I never would have taken a chance at being as happy as I am today. So I always feel a tinge of regret on the action I never took.

And it’s true, I can’t do all the things that I wanted to do now that I’m married. So while I don’t regret marrying, I do regret not being able to do the things that I’ve always wanted to do.

Satisficers vs. Maximizers

A blog that I’m simply addicted to is The Happiness Project. Author Gretchen Rubin probably knows not about my loyal following, but many of her tips and thoughts often inspire me. Her blog isn’t some mindless rambling — akin to mine — she writes her posts with a purpose.

My favorite thought from her, however, is on the subject of satisficers and maximizers.

Satisficers (yes, satisfice is a word, I checked) are those who make a decision or take action once their criteria are met. That doesn’t mean they’ll settle for mediocrity; their criteria can be very high; but as soon as they find the car, the hotel, or the pasta sauce that has the qualities they want, they’re satisfied.

Maximizers want to make the optimal decision. So even if they see a bicycle or a photographer that would seem to meet their requirements, they can’t make a decision until after they’ve examined every option, so they know they’re making the best possible choice.

She goes on to give examples between satisficers and maximizers, but one notable thought resounds:

Barry Schwartz argues that satisficers tend to be happier than maximizers. Maximizers must spend a lot more time and energy to reach a decision, and they’re often anxious about whether they are, in fact, making the best choice.

She says early on that "most people are a mix of both approaches" and I am certainly guilty of this myself. In the days leading up to look for an apartment, I printed dozens of  "for rent" ads, trolled the philadelphia craigslist mercilessly, hunted down apartmentguide.com and snatched up every apartment guide along the Main Line, fearlessly tabbing anything and everything I wanted to go see. Anything that didn’t meet my husband’s criteria (or price range, for that matter), was swiftly untabbed. The mother-in-law works near a business that owns a good bit of real estate along the Main Line and obtained an apartment listing for us. My husband and I checked off additional properties we’d be willing to look at and the MIL set up an appointment for us to look at rental properties. We were scheduled to view three. One of the three was rented out by the time our appointment came around and another the first one we looked caused my husband to have a near-claustrophobic fit. (He’s 6’2" and the ceiling barely grazed his head.) The final one we looked at had a spacious second-floor ceiling (a comfortable foot or two above my husband’s head) with a loft. The loft, of course, had lower ceilings but we determined that for the most part, it would be my space (I’m just under 5’4") and that if he were up there, he’d likely be sitting down. We saw the spaciousness, the convenience (I’m a 2-minute walk to the train station and he’s a 5-10 minute drive to work) and the privacy (we’re the only nighttime tenants in the building) and were immediately hooked. It didn’t take us long to decide that we wanted the apartment, even though it was at the very high end of our price range. Just one day, a look at two properties and we’d both decided in a matter of minutes where we both wanted to live. I’d been a maximizer about searching for an apartment, but when it came to looking, I was a satisficer.

When it comes to jobs though, I am a BIG maximizer. I’m ambitious, always hoping to climb up the career ladder more quickly than I’m meant to so I am constantly doing a job search (even though I don’t plan on going anywhere from my current job for now) and always on the lookout for opportunities to freelance in copy editing and writing.

When it comes to shopping, I’m a satisficer. It can often cost me more in the long run — maximizers are usually the bargain shoppers — but when I plunk down my plastic, I’m quite happy with my purchase at regular price and feel no need to go hunting elsewhere for a similar outfit with a better deal.

Rubin ends her post saying, "It’s one of Life’s True Rules: let someone else do the research." I’ll add to that – "let someone else do the research, if you haven’t done it already." The difference between $29.50 at one store and $21.50 at another is a savings worth a meal at the mall. Being a satisficer isn’t bad, but being a maximizer can sometimes work to your advantage.