interview: Jenny Lawso
n, also known as The Bloggess
Last week, amid a lot of buzz, Jenny Lawson’s new book, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: (A Mostly True Memoir) hit the shelves. I couldn’t wait to read it, because I’m a big fan of her wildly popular blog, and the book made me laugh out loud. (If you’ve read it, I will just say “whimsy” was my favorite scene—you know the part I mean.)
Jenny’s book is very funny, but it’s also very serious, and the theme of happiness runs through it.
Gretchen: What’s a simple activity that consistently makes you happier?
Jenny: Drinking? That’s probably not a good answer though so let’s change it to “watching Anchorman so many times I can say the lines before the actors do.”
What’s something you know now about happiness that you didn’t know when you were 18 years old?
When I was 18 my severe anxiety disorder was still undiagnosed, so I guess what I didn’t know then was that one day I would be happy. I wish I could have gone back and told that me that it would get better.
Is there anything you find yourself doing repeatedly that gets in the way of your happiness?
Drinking? Also, I have a hard time convincing myself I’m worthy of being happy. There’s something about being happy that seems somewhat lazy to me. Like I must be ignoring something terrible if I’m actually happy. It’s something I’m working on. Happiness shouldn’t be associated with guilt.
Is there a happiness mantra or motto that you’ve found very helpful? (e.g., I remind myself, “No calculation.”)
There is one that Neil Gaiman shared with me when I was having a terrible time working on my audio book. I was so afraid of messing up that I couldn’t appreciate something that should be so fun so he told me “Pretend you’re good at it.” I wrote it on my arm and it worked. I used that mantra every damn day.
If you’re feeling blue, how do you give yourself a happiness boost? Or, like a “comfort food,” do you have a comfort activity? (Mine is reading children’s books).
Actually if I need a good happiness boost I watch horror movies. It sounds weird, but there’s something about watching people get murdered at summer camp by hatchets that makes me think, “Well, things could be worse.”
Is there anything that you see people around you doing or saying that adds a lot to their happiness, or detracts a lot from their happiness?
I always encourage people to follow whatever seems silly because that’s going to bring happiness. Jumping in a fountain that wasn’t meant to be jumped in is always fun. Unless it’s a drinking fountain. Then you’re probably going to get arrested.
Have you always felt about the same level of happiness, or have you been through a period when you felt exceptionally happy or unhappy—if so, why? If you were unhappy, how did you become happier?
I have clinical depression so it’s not unusual for me to spend a few weeks a year in bed unable to be happy. I can usually rely on my family to understand and to remind me that depression lies and that it will get better. Also, I have a great therapist who has really helped me to cope with depression in a healthier way. For me it’s all about giving myself time to be sad so that I know I’ll be able to give myself time to be happy again soon.
Is there some aspect of your home that makes you particularly happy?
My daughter’s bedroom. It’s bright and filled with paper butterflies and every time I’m in there we’re always playing or making up new games or plays. My daughter is the brightest spot in my life.
Have you ever been surprised that something you expected would make you very happy, didn’t—or vice versa?
It’s always the silly little things… bringing home a five-foot chicken to ring the doorbell, taking an alligator on a plane, saying the word “lady-garden” on CNN… those things bring me the most happiness. The bigger things like winning awards and such never bring as much joy. I figure though that I’m lucky to know what works for me so that I concentrate on the things that really matter to me.