La Tela di Carlotta
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A personal note on happiness

Dec 19, 2017

At the time that I’m writing this post, Emily is 11 months, and Oliver almost three (in March)


Happiness has been a recurrent theme in my mind in the past many months of sleep deprivation, it’s very easy to lose focus of what really matters when you don’t sleep. And that’s a step away from not feeling happy at all, from second questioning everything, your life, your job, your relationships, your marriage, your meaning.

A while ago I wrote about teaching happiness to kids, which started a whole bunch of cobweb thinking in my mind.

Often, when Alex asks me how I am, I complain. It’s my natural tendency—I’m a negative, pessimistic person by default. I might not come across that way, because over the years I’ve been making a HUGE effort to change that trait of my personality, but ask my husband and, oh boy, will he tell you!

Lately, I complain A LOT. In my experience, complaining about things out loud not only helps you release the negativity and see things more rationally, but it also makes people more empathetic and prone to help you (except my husband, he hates my complaining ;-). And let’s be honest, empathy (and a few days of UNinterrupted sleep) is the only thing a sleep-deprived mom desperately needs at all time.

The past months of sleep deprivation have been the hardest in my life so far, and have made me reevaluate happiness. I was so exhausted that I often felt unhappy, like my perfect life—with my supportive and caring husband, my two heathy and adorable children, my job that I simply adore, a respectful family, and wonderfully thoughtful friends—like all that was not enough.

So when it became clear that our sleeping patterns were not to change in the short term, I knew I had to make a conscious effort to regain control over my emotions and make myself feel happy again. So I’m trying something new (I’m still really bad at it, but perfection takes time).

Happiness is about thin slices of joy

It all started when I read an article about Chade-Meng Tan, Google’s former happiness guru (yep!), where he says that happiness doesn’t have to be a constant overarching feeling. It can come as sweet, short moments throughout your day.

He calls them “thin slices of joy”, which is a concept I can really relate to lately. In his own words:

“Right now, I’m a little thirsty, so I will drink a bit of water. And when I do that, I experience a thin slice of joy both in space and time. It’s not like 'Yay!', it’s more like, ‘Oh, this is kind of nice'. Usually these events are unremarkable: a bite of food, the sensation of stepping from a hot room to an air-conditioned room, the moment of connection in receiving a text from an old friend. Although they last two or three seconds, the moments add up, and the more you notice joy, the more you will experience joy. Thin slices of joy occur in life everywhere… and once you start noticing it, something happens, you find it’s always there. Joy becomes something you can count on, and that’s because you’re familiarizing the mind with joy".

Reading this was for me one of those lightbulb moments.

So although my husband probably hoped for a no-more-complaning strategy, I made a much smaller and less noticeable change: when something feels good, I say “Oh, this is a thin slice of joy!”, which makes me smile. Also, a few times a day, I stop to consciously think about the good in my days, acknowledging it and remembering it. Sometimes it’s easier and good memories just flow by in front of my eyes, but more often I have to really dig deep to find the good in a bad day.

It’s a habit, and like every habit it has to be built, it takes time, but I like it, because it’s something I can work on privately, much like meditating or mindfulness.

Some while ago, I had a very bad morning. We were late for school; the kids cried to get ready, to have breakfast, to brush teeth (I hate their crying); on the way to school, I could see the traffic to go back home—an endless line of cars—so I had to change all my plans and stay out all morning while waiting for Oliver to come out of school (I hate changing plans); I was dressed way too much and uncomfortably hot; Oliver had cried in the car because of some meaningless trivia (meaningless in my mind, clearly, not in his) and Emily was awake all morning so I didn’t get anything done.

BUT.

That same morning Emily didn’t scream desperately in the car for the first time in a long time; despite my exhaustion, I was able to be patient and supportive with Oliver during his crisis and I could actually turn his mood around; I had a bathroom around when I needed to wee; my coffee was extra good; and by the time I picked Oliver up the traffic had disappeared and we got home quickly. HIN SLICES OF JOY.

This is probably just another exercise in mindfulness: noticing those thin slices of joy and actively thinking about the happiness they brought to me was enough to make me feel better about an otherwise bad, unproductive morning.

After all, I believe that happiness is like a muscle. We all can (and should) train it.

Tell me what you think

Did you like it? Do you agree or disagree? I'd love to hear from you.

The blog

I write mainly about Montessori, parenthood, and multilingualism. Here are some recent posts.

Montessori
One day a few years ago my husband came home and said, "Why don't we put a mattress on the floor in the baby room? It'd be much more natural". "Never" was my reply. That's how our Montessori journey started. Since then we've been living, breathing and applying the philosophy at home day in and day out, starting from ourselves. Because educating children starts from the parents.
Bean and seed mosaic
I'm not perfect. I'm aware
DIY yoga cards for kids
Children at the restaurant: let's recalibrate expectations
Don't ask your children to share their toys
Those "good job" that erode our children's confidence
Our Montessori birthday
Two alternatives to screens that my kids love
Using fear and threats to control children is never right!
"Stop crying!" doesn't work
Living sustainably
Living sustainably for me doesn’t only mean to have a more eco-friendly lifestyle. It means to make decisions that are sustainable for our planet, the people on it, but also for our life, our lifestyle, and our happiness. It means to take any daily chance to evolve and be happier, healthier, kinder, more responsible and more caring human beings—the only sustainable way for a meaningful future.
Face yoga is an act of self love
Why you should wear the same outfit twice on Instagram
The power of creating habits (and why you should do it, even if you then break them!)
Responsible eating is the diet of the future (Would you like to teach it to your kids?)
The power of NOT complaining: can you do it for a whole month?
Clean up your planet, please!
Infographic: 8 steps to switch to cloth nappies (a guide for reluctant parents)
A personal note on happiness
A personal note on social media
A change of life always widens your horizons
New to La Tela?
I’ve prepared collections on various topics that I’ve written over the years. Perhaps you’ll find one that interests you.

Travel

We sold everything to travel the world for two years. We're currently in New Zealand.

Books

In 2020 I wrote 4 books for the Italian collection “Gioca and Impara con il metodo Montessori” curated by Grazia Honegger Fresco. The collection is a project by Il Corriere della Sera and La Gazzetta dello Sport.

We also implemented the workshops of the last 15 volumes of the collection with Oliver and Emily.

Podcast

On my podcast, “Educare con calma”, I talk about various topics, from Montessori to sustainability. Only in Italian!

Oct 16, 2020 • 19m
La nostra routine con i bimbi
Mi chiedete spessissimo quale sia la nostra routine a casa con i bimbi e in questo episodio vi svelo che noi, una routine vera e propria, non ce l'abbiamo. Abbiamo una routine minima e indispensabile, che è un concetto che mi sono totalmente inventata su due piedi mentre parlavo a briglia sciolta in questo episodio, ma che credo funzioni davvero. Almeno per noi. La routine minima e indispensabile, secondo me, risponde anche a un altro "problema": trovo che ci bombardino spesso con l'idea del...
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Oct 9, 2020 • 24m
Sostenibilità: come sensibilizzare i bambini e i giovani adulti | Con Cristiana Cerri Gambarelli
In questa puntata a due voci di Educare con Calma – divisa a metà perché amo gli episodi corti - parliamo di sostenibilità e per farlo ho invitato mia sorella, Cristiana Cerri Gambarelli, project manager della Federazione dei Giovani Verdi Europei e un esempio per chiunque voglia intraprendere un viaggio nella sostenibilità: negli ultimi ha cambiato tutta la sua vita per ridurre la sua impronta di carbonio e per prendere ogni giorno decisioni più sostenibili per il nostro pianeta e in questa ...
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Oct 2, 2020 • 24m
Intraprendere un viaggio nella sostenibilità | Con Cristiana Cerri Gambarelli
In questa puntata a due voci di Educare con Calma – divisa a metà perché amo gli episodi corti - parliamo di sostenibilità e per farlo ho invitato mia sorella, Cristiana Cerri Gambarelli, project manager della Federazione dei Giovani Verdi Europei e un esempio per chiunque voglia intraprendere un viaggio nella sostenibilità: negli ultimi ha cambiato tutta la sua vita per ridurre la sua impronta di carbonio e per prendere ogni giorno decisioni più sostenibili per il nostro pianeta e in questa ...
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Instagram

I update Instagram almost every day to be "close" to my family far away.

Why La Tela di Carlotta?
I dreamed of the name La Tela di Carlotta. One morning I woke up and in my dreams I had created a blog named just like the American novel (Charlotte's Web). Many years and endless ups and downs later, this web of thoughts and stories is my work. It took me a long time to understand what kind of online presence I wanted and today I know: I'm transparent, I show real life, I don't advertise, I only recommend sustainable brands (and not only because they pay me) and I believe in the value of my blog and my courses—because if we don't believe in the value of our work, no one will believe in it for us.
Carlotta
Carlotta dreaming of La Tela
I know! I don't want it to be over yet either.