I’ve read several articles lately about designing happiness in life. I’m not a believer in the abject pursuit of happiness, feeling rather that happiness is a byproduct of a life lived well and right and within the definition of one’s own integrity. So it was all just a lot of fluff until last weekend when I attended the wedding of my two very close friends E and D, the god fathers of my children. D is an art director, so design is at the core of his work life. And like every designer I know, including myself, design does define him. He lives and breathes design, which is not to say he lives and breathes his work. But the way designers approach work is not a whole lot different from how we approach life: deliberately, with creativity and always with an eye to a bigger picture. E, on the other hand, is not a designer and lives his life by and for the relationships he creates. He travels extensively, meeting people everywhere and doing the unimaginable in this day and age…he keeps in touch by talking to them. On the phone. All of them. E has more adopted families than anyone I’ve ever known and a circle of loving friends that is a tribute to his goodness.
D designed the weekend around E’s love of relationship, and we all learned something and I daresay we all left Los Angeles better and happier for the experience. They threw all of the cards up in the air, de-constructed the typical wedding, and re-constructed it to fit who they are. Much like Ayse Birsel advocates in her classes at The School of Visual Arts in New York.
Most of us were not seated with the people we arrived with*. A little uncomfortable at first, but these are exactly the situations that D and E like to put themselves in, creating opportunity for new experiences and new relationships. And by the end of the weekend we were all sitting down, by choice, with people we’d never met. I sat next to E’s high school biology teacher from South Africa. Really. Do you even remember the name of your high school biology teacher? My husband sat next to three of E’s South African friends from university. By design, E makes space for happiness in his life by shaping it with travel and exposing himself to new people and circumstances. D designed the wedding around the people that both he and E have grown to love, at the same time building the weekend in such a way that we got to experience E’s way of living.
So, my suggestion if there is an area of your life or work that doesn’t make you smile, throw those cards up in the air and redesign that piece of your world. If you need another set of eyes on your unhappiness, see what Sylvia ‘Pillow’ Neretti might be able to offer. Her idea of cardboard boxes and dividers as design/psych tools might help you move in the right direction. It’s all about disruption….remember that word?
Keep in touch,
- here’s the text of the note we each found at our table…’You might notice that some of you are not sitting next to the person you arrived with. This is intentional. D and E rarely spend time together when they attend parties. They socialize with others on their own and, on the way home, have a lot to talk about because they’ve had different experiences talking to different people.
‘During dinner, you are seated between two people we think you will find interesting. Strike up a conversation. You may find that you have more in common with them than you think! After dinner, you’re free to move next to your date or move to other tables.’