104 // Overstuffed and Dull

It’s the day after my birthday and like Sylvia Plath after Christmas, I am overstuffed and dull. Not just physically, but emotionally and socially as well. I’ve had too much food, been given too many things, and shown too much attention in one day to process. It may be weeks before I recover myself fully.

Unlike Plath and many Christmases I’ve suffered through, I am far from disappointed. For me, birthdays are nearly always brimming with pure pleasure. I manage to cram so many of my favorite people and things into one day that my senses and soul become overwhelmed in the best possible ways.

I’ve been loved enough for another year and I’ll spend the next analyzing, agonizing, dreading, and then wishing again to be, for just 24 short hours, the center of my circle’s little universe.

I’m grateful for them all: my coworkers, my friends, my family. The celebrations aren’t yet over but the day is and no matter what other wishes or gifts I’m given the excitement of real and tangible growth is gone. A threshold has been crossed and the past year is fully in the past now, unreachable. I’m starting around the sun anew and I’m as young as I’ll ever be again.

I suppose every day is a birthday in that way. Perhaps spending a whole year celebrating the self every day isn’t such an unreasonable notion at all.


I finished my first week of Science of Well-Being today and I have to say I’m really glad I enrolled. In fact I wish I had started with this course when I first set out on this self-guided learning journey.

The videos were a great introduction, but most eye-opening part was the tests set up to measure your levels of happiness and your character strengths. My happiness level was lower than I expected, only 2.6 out of 5, and my number one character strength is…judgment?

I never even thought of judgment as a character strength let alone considering it to be one of mine but in reading the description I think it actually does apply to me.

“Thinking things through and examining them from all sides; not jumping to conclusions; being able to change one’s mind in light of evidence; weighing all evidence fairly.”

Some of my other top strengths were perspective, love of learning, prudence, and appreciation of beauty and excellence. All true, but still quite surprising. There were others much lower on the list—not weaknesses per se but traits that just “come less naturally to me”—that I wished were nearer the top but all in all I’m thrilled to have found the words to describe a part of myself I’ve never quite been able to put into words.

I also started week one of Memoir and Personal Essay: Managing Your Relationship with the Reader but after the first couple of videos I felt I’d spent enough time on learning for the day and committed to picking it up again tomorrow. I have to pace myself and avoid burnout, boredom, and becoming too consumed and neglecting my other goals and interests.

Not much writing got done, but I felt cruddy and distracted this morning. It wasn’t until after lunch that I was able to wrangle my mind and focus enough to form thoughts or retain information. I think tomorrow will be better.

Update: Had my wife take the character strength survey too. Her greatest strength is fairness, and that is exactly right. Fairness came up surprisingly low for me and in taking it over with her I realize there is more than one way to think of fairness. She treats everyone the same, both for good and bad, I treat everyone as I believe they deserve in accord with their actions. Comparing the rest of our results was really interesting too. In some ways we are really similar and in some ways we are very, very different but in a good way.