Episode Information

CMS: Keep Smilin' Connecticut
Aired:
12/30/2009
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In this episode:

Have Nutmeggers forgotten how to be happy?

 

Episode Audio

49:29 minutes (23.76 MB)
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It seems to me there are two questions we have to deal with today. The first is -- what does it mean to say the residents of a certain state are happy? (Or not happy)?

In Gary Greenberg's soon-to-be released book, "Manufacturing Depression," he writes that "Am I happy enough?" is to a certain degree a uniquely American question, at least in terms of the persistence with which it is asked.

The second question is: What did it mean when the state of Connecticut finished second to last in a recent study of state-by-state happiness.

Stephen Wu, one of the co-authors of the study, is with us today. And certified happy person, Elizabeth Keifer, English professor at Tunxis Community College, talks about the Connecticut temperament. Maybe we're just not all that comfortable about giving ourselves high marks for life satisfaction.

What about you? Are you happy in Connecticut? Or is that a stupid question?

Leave your comments below or e-mail colin@wnpr.org


 
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Happy?

I've lived in CT for all my life. I've gotten to travel around a bit, places throughout eastern europe and up and down the atlantic, the mid-west and US south,  and I have yet to find a place that I would rather live. In fact, I find myself visiting places and saying to myself, "I could NEVER live here, I've got it made in CT". I'm only a short drive to fantastic snowboarding up north in the winter, and only a short drive to great beaches in the summer. I can hike, fish, swim, take awesome backroad drives, essentially all in my backyard. If there's one thing I notice about this area, however, is that everybody WANTS. There's an awfull lot of demand for just about everything. There's a very diverse mixture of high living, successful working class, struggling working class, and the poor. It is very easy to get caught up in 'the grass is always greener' mentality of trying to keep up with the Jones'. I think that if everybody were to step back and actually recognize how great we have it here, CT's rating would be near the top of the charts.

Listener E-mail from Lynnea

I grew up in CT, went to college in Boston, then to medical school and did residency here, in central CT. Since that time, I lived for 12 years in NYC and now 3 years in NC.

I have been back in CT for the last 6 months or so dealing w/ family medical emergencies.

During this time, i've had many interactions with many people, businesses and professionals, and I have some anthropologic/behavioral observations that help explain (to me) why I feel very unhappy when I'm here.  The recurring theme relates to the nature of interpersonal interactions, and how it can impact happiness, or at least that which I (don't) experience when here.

I have multiple examples of the same scenario recurring, related to these interpersonal interactions.  I believe that I have noticed a common reaction to requests made of others (appropriate ones, like related to one's job):  "please don't make me do work" or "please do not burden me".

I recall some of this behavior in myself as a resident, and I started to modify it the first time I saw a fellow resident not shirk or delegate even the smallest task related to patient care.  I'm certain I have a long way to go to not convey my feelings of overwork to others.  But here, there seems to be no filter between one's emotional reaction of "leave me in peace" and the verbal response "I can help you".

WIthin the last 6 months, I can recall being in an office supply store, waiting to purchase a GPS system, and having 3 different employees complain to me, the customer, about how over worked and busy they all were that day.  This was unsolicited - I hadn't been complaining about a wait  - I was just standing there, waiting for assistance.  The same complaining about overwork or busy days occurred in banks, with attorneys, physicians, and social workers in hospitals, etc.

These responses were noted for polite and routine requests for whatever the day's business was - not to demands.

Also noted, appropriate requests related to what I needed or just needed to know were consistently met with an immediate "no".  After a couple of sentences to explain why I needed their knowledge/service/product, I'd get a reluctant - "well, perhaps" w/ a clear intimation that my request was some how a burden.

I've had a great number of business dealings here in the past 6 months (running a dental practice and settling my parents' affairs), and have told the stories of the lack of grace found in so many with whom I've come into contact during this time.  For example, Webster bank refused to accept cash I brought in for deposit b/c it wouldn't fit in their counters, and they couldn't "waste" staff time hand counting it; they told me it needed to be ironed (which is illegal and untrue, banks are federally required to accept currency that is visible as such).  As I recount this story to bank tellers in NC, I receive shocked looks re: breech of protocal and the simple lack of desire to be of assistance with a matter clearly within the bank's purview.

I recount to my NYC accountant how I have to reach out with 3-4 phone calls to get certain CT lawyers and accountants either on the phone or to respond to email.  He responds that lack of responsiveness would never do in NYC, b/c you'd loose your clients to competition.

In NYC, as a physician, as a vendor, you name it, there is a great deal of competition for clients/business.  As a result, there is a focus on conscientiousness  in the service industry, or least the on ability to sublimate the internal feeling of "oh no, not another burden".
Also, these service workers tend to recognize that they are being paid to be in or of service.

In NC, the same holds true.  There was recently as similar type of anthropological/social survey demonstrating that conscientiousness was a value held in great regard in the region, and that employees, in general, take pride in executing their tasks well.  Having had employees in all three states herein mentioned, I can attest that there is concept of being "in service" or "of service" in NC that I have not noted in CT.  WHile my CT employees often seemed to be looking for ways to divert responsibility, and frequent follow up on tasks was required, my NC ones find the following up questioning irritating, as assigned tasks are readily completed

Just 3 days ago, I went into Max Bibo's for a quick bite about 15 minutes before closing.  I had my sandwich etc by 10 min to closing.  The cashier asked how many bags I wanted, and I stated that I'd like to eat the sandwich here, if that's alright.  A sigh, a shrug, and clear message that I was creating a burden and a problem to the staff was conveyed.  I can recount dozens of similar interactions over the past 4 months. 

Listener E-mail from Marcia

It is, as has been said a matter of mindset.  My husband and I have lived in five different states through the last 30 + years.  I'm from the midwest and where ever we have lived we become involved in the community, whether Michigan, Missouri, New York City,Indiana, Maryland and now CT.  We've enjoyed life in all the states where we've lived and always discover places in that state that even natives of the state don't visit.  We live in Middletown CT and love the city - best library in the state!

Listener E-mail from Kathleen

Love your show.  But, at the risk of appearing to be a whiny Nutmegger, the discussion about the happiest states is rubbing me the wrong.  In my mind, satisfied and happy are not synonyms. Even the discussion of ambition, which came close to my view, seemed to equate it with unhappiness.  I live in CT and, if asked "are you happy?" my answer would be "Very!"  But if asked "are you satisfied with your life?" my answer would most definitely be 'no."  To be satisfied is to give up.  I want to spend more time with friends, do more volunteer work, travel more, learn another language, be better at everything I do.  To be satisfied would be boring.  I don't want to spend the rest of my life as a couch potato, being curious and wanting more out of life is what makes me happy!  

 
Thank you for an ever-stimulating show!!