Mary, the brilliant webmistress of Letting Go, has a real gem today. Mary is a talented writer- and was a writer and editor. Like me, she is a friend of Bill W. Unlike me, she writes about it beautifully. I noticed the longer my long term sobriety became, the less i wrote about it. Mary inspires me, and I will be dedicating my next year coin later to her this month.
It is raining and I am sitting indoors witha pot of tea and a copy of The Atlantic article on What makes us happy? In looking at what makes for a good life, the writer Joshua Wolf Shenk focuses on the Grant study: for 72 years, researchers at Harvard have been following 268 men who entered college in the late 1930s through war, career, marriage and divorce, parenthood and grandparenthood, and old age. The director George Vailliant paid attention, not to what kinds of troubles these men faced, but how they responded to health crises, divorce, war, failure or success. Do we respond to life with humour, altrusim, hopefulness and resilience or do we shrink back, give up too easily, act out our pain in blaming or violence? What factors prevent the development of mature, flexible defences and responses to life’s challenges?
‘Again and again, Vaillant returned to his major preoccupations. One is alcoholism, which he found is probably the horse, and not the cart, of pathology. “People often say, ‘That poor man. His wife left him and he’s taken to drink,’” Vaillant says. “But when you look closely, you see that he’s begun to drink, and that has helped drive his wife away.” The horrors of drink so preoccupied Vaillant that he devoted a stand-alone study to it: The Natural History of Alcoholism.’
But Vaillant’s key preoccupation was with the importance of relationship in a happy life. His comment on 40 years of studying life histories of the Grant study is revealing although probably not a surprise to many of us.
“The only thing that really matters in life are your relationships to other people.”