The Happiness Project

A Lovely Family Tradition Suggested by the Author of Fight Club

Two of my happiness-project resolutions are Take time for projects and Enjoy the seasons and this time of life . These are family-directed resolutions, meant to make sure that I put the time and effort into holidays, family projects, and fun outings.

I came up with these resolutions because the year before my happiness project, Halloween came and went without us carving a pumpkin, and I was utterly appalled at myself. To my mind, that’s Mommy malpractice, even though my daughters didn’t seem to mind much. (Lesson learned: We bought and carved a pumpkin yesterday.)

Because of these resolutions, I’m always looking for fun and also manageable ways to do family projects or celebrate family traditions. For example, I love holiday breakfasts —an idea I lifted from a friend.

I just got a new idea from an unexpected source. I’m a raving Chuck Palahniuk fan, but I don’t turn to his novels for inspiration on lovely ways to celebrate traditions with my children. No, there’s a lot you can get from Fight Club and Choke and Survivor , but sweet family traditions aren’t there.

On the suggestion of a thoughtful reader, however, I picked up a copy of Palahniuk’s nonfiction essays, Stranger Than Fiction , and I was captivated by an idea I read about in “The People Can.” Palahniuk describes the lives of the crew of the Naval submarine the Louisiana , and he explains the tradition of Halfway Night .

“Before departure, the family of each man on board gives Chief of Boat Ken Biller a shoe-box-sized package, and on the night that marks the halfway point in the patrol, called Halfway Night, Biller distributes the boxes. Smith’s wife sends photos and beef jerky and a toy motorcycle to remind him of his own bike on shore. Greg Stone gets a pillowcase printed with a photograph of his wife, Kelley.”

I’m enchanted by the idea of “Halfway Night.” It seems like a great idea to adapt to any arduous situation, to something truly awful like chemotherapy or just extremely tiresome, like studying for the bar exam.

I can’t think of something in my life right now that would lend itself to a Halfway Night, but I’m squirreling the idea away for the proper occasion.

Have you hit upon a tradition to ease a difficult situation? Have you tried something like Halfway Night?

* I spent a lot of time cruising around Parents Connect —”We’re not perfect, we’re parents.”

* If you’re interested in launching a group for people who meet to do their happiness projects together, sign up for the starter kit . More than 3,000 people have requested it. You might also like to check out the Facebook conversation for group leaders —that’s a good resource if you’re trying to get started.