The Pursuit of Happiness

This is the month in which we celebrate our country’s independence. I was born in Philadelphia and have lived in the Philadelphia area most of my life. Every day I have the opportunity to drive by Independence Hall and the Liberty.  And yet, every year I like to play tourist around the 4thof July and visit Philadelphia’s sites connected to the America Revolution.


Jefferson found it important enough to include in the Declaration of Independence that the pursuit of happiness was an inalienable right. Pursuing happiness – that really seems counter to the Puritanical mindset that I feel still is prevalent in our society – you know, all work, no play is the measure of success. Unfortunately, most people I know feel that working while on vacation is a badge of honor – the good soldier. Coming into the office on weekend – another badge. I understand that there might be times that working extra hours is needed – but that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m pointing out this insane belief that the true measure of an effective employee is to work all of the time.


Interesting, I read that for the Danes, someone who is seen working after hours or on the weekend is considered ineffective – as if they are not competent enough to get their work finished during normal work hours. Some offices actually schedule interventions to get these after-hours employees back on track to working only during normal business hours.


Some societies, like the Danes, actually encourage the pursuit of happiness in our daily lives. They believe workers are more productive with a shorter work day so that they have time to enjoy their family and friends – and pursue their interests in addition to working. Unlike our country, most countries encourage workers to take vacations, they have more generous vacation policies – people are encouraged to….pursue happiness.


I’ve cultivated a healthy work/life balance. But what I realized is that what I’ve stopped doing is pursuing happiness. Have you ever found yourself doing something that you haven’t done for a while and remembering how much you like doing what you were doing but had pushed it to the side for far too long? Happiness comes in small packages and large ones – sitting outside in the summer and listening to a concert on the lawn, watching fireflies, laying on the grass, sitting with a friend over a cup of coffee, iced tea, or glass of wine, settling in with a good book, binge watching your favorite television show on a rainy day, driving to the ocean, mountains, or lake to spend some time in nature, going to a 60-minute yoga class or a week-long yoga retreat,


It can be as invigorating as swimming in a clear mountain lake or as relaxing as sitting on the banks of the Chesapeake Bay watching the sailboats glide across the water.


I noticed that I have a tendency to side-step the pursuit of happiness to handle the mundane – the laundry, housekeeping, grocery shopping, bill paying, self-imposed obligations that don’t bring me happiness. I noticed – and now I’m making a concerted effort to pursue happiness with a vengeance. I’m doing more of what bring me joy – usually in small steps but I’m mindful of its importance. There’s been one giant step though, and that was me registering for a 2019 retreat in Ireland with one of my favorite authors! Woot!

Get still and think back to those times when you were really truly happy – when you got that fluttering in your stomach, when your soul spoke to you and said thanks.  Although I was raised as a Catholic, I always find happiness when I attend evensong, or evening prayer in Anglican churches. I especially make a point of attending evensong when I visit England. I’ve sat in  cathedrals in places such York, Chester, and Lichfield as the tourists were filing out and I took my place in a wooden pew, the pinkish-orange light of the setting sun filtering through the stained glass as the voices of the choir wash over me. Pure happiness that I pursued by lingering in the town to experience evensong.


The pursuit of happiness is integral to our well-being. It’s nourishing to the soul and the body. And as Jefferson told us, it’s an unalienable right. Pursue happiness today and always.





P.S. I’ll be speaking at the Cinnaminson Library (NJ) on July 18 about memoir writing and reading from my book Serendipity: Chance Pilgrimages. Thanks for the wonderful comments I’ve received on the book. Some of you have asked what you can do to spread word on the book. If you’ve purchased it on Amazon please leave a review. Tell a friend. Invite me to your book club or local library! I appreciate your support of the book. It’s actually going to be profiled in a newspaper in England in the next few weeks since a large part of the book takes place in England!


I’d also love to hear from you on your pursuit of happiness. Tell me on my Facebook page, Anne Greco Writer, or send an email to



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What Emily Rose Taught Me

My daughter, Emily Rose, graduated from college in May with honors (Magna Cum Laude!). I wanted to have a little celebration in her honor but she initially declined the offer. Her reason? It had taken her more than four years after high school to finish her degree and she felt a bit embarrassed because her friends had already graduated and had “real” jobs. She chose a different route but landed at her destination.


After thinking about it she accepted my offer of a celebration as she came to realize that she really had worked hard and deserved to enjoy the rewards. But her initial response brought up more than a few discussions between us – some of which were repeats of those we had when she was walking this path toward her bachelor’s degree.


Emily started out at Rutgers, New Brunswick. It was just too large for her liking. She transferred to a smaller school and received an associate degree. Ultimately found her way back to Rutgers but at the smaller Camden campus from where she graduated in May.


She watched her friends continue on that straight four-year path and questioned why her path twisted through different states, different schools, and different majors. In any of our conversations I never felt as if the twists and turns threatened whether or not she would graduate. The real threat came from her perception of time; she was using someone else’s time to judge herself. She was looking at the time it took a friend to graduate as the successful, only time period (four years) instead of understanding that people do things on different schedules.


I’m sure you’ve behaved like Emily sometimes, haven’t you?  I know I have. Have you looked at a job someone else had and compared it to yours, feeling like they had “arrived” (whatever that means) and that you were leagues behind? Have you made an assumption (dangerous) of what someone’s bank account or retirement fund was and compared it to yours? Have you looked at someone’s car or house and felt that if you were “on target” (whatever that means), that you would have had the same thing by now?


Why do we have that tendency to compare ourselves to others – and in doing so, of course we choose the comparison that’s going to make us feel bad about ourselves.? My advice – STOP! To continue to do so is insanity – and self-defeating.


My steps are my steps. Sometimes I take really tiny ones and other times I stride. Sometimes I take a leap (not too often) and sometimes I take a few steps back.  Sometimes I move fast, sometimes slow. Sometimes I have grace and ease with what I do and other times it’s a clumsy learning curve. It’s called the dance of life. And my dance is different than yours.


Let me throw in a little Thoreau – If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.

Spend a little time in a garden to get perspective. Tulips bloom at different times than do hydrangeas. It’s not that one is better or more on track; they have different growing seasons. And they don’t compare themselves to each other (at least I don’t think they do).


So – the celebration is on. Emily is coming to appreciate her unique growing seasons and to trust the beat to which she’s moving. I hope you do too. It’s all good – and it makes for a more interesting dance, doesn’t it?


Decluttering Tip: I’m going to suggest a decluttering tip with each newsletter, something to remove to open up some space in your life.


Try to remove comparisons from your life. Be mindful of the number of times a day that you compare yourself to someone else. Beware that if you’ve been doing this for a while (like, say, your whole life) that sometimes it’s so subtle that the only way you’ll catch yourself doing it is to focus on your thoughts. Catch yourself. Tell yourself that what you’re comparing yourself to is your perception of something. Promise to be more gentle with yourself. It’s okay to aspire but try not to hitch it to comparison. And don’t beat yourself up for catching yourself comparing. The more comparisons you remove from your life the happier you’ll be.


I saw a video of a little girl trying to buckle herself into her own car seat with some difficulty. When her father tried to help she told him to buckle his own seat belt.


“You do you,” she said. And he did while he patiently waited for her to complete her task. She didn’t give up, she didn’t get frustrated. And eventually she buckled herself in.


You do you – that’s all you can do.

I’d love to hear from you. Email me at or head over to my Facebook page – Anne Greco Writer.


I’ll end this with a shout out to Emily Rose!





P.S. Remember that my book, Serendipity: Chance Pilgrimages is available on Amazon.  Take it to the beach or the lake – and travel with me to Liverpool, Rome, and even South Philadelphia.







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Fear Not!

My husband and I recently took a day trip to Wildwood, New Jersey. I wanted to show Martin the doo-wop architecture of the 1950s and 1960s that I grew up with when my family and I summered there when I was young. I have such fond memories of those Wildwood summers. They were carefree – I got to live for a week with my cousins and grandparents. We played on the beach, rode the rides on the boardwalk, and once even staged a protest complete with signs as we marched around the block (it was the Sixties!) because the adults were cramping our style.


But I was afraid of two things I encountered in Wildwood every summer – the ocean’s large waves and the roller coaster.


Martin and I drove along the beach until we hit the boardwalk. I told him how night after night as my family walked the boardwalk, the flashing crown atop the King roller coaster beckoned to me. Way too high, way too fast. Other kids got on and off with ease – some were even laughing. It took me almost the entire week of vacation to muster the courage to finally ride it. My uncle was always willing to take me on the ride and waited until I said I was ready to get on. It was a wooden roller coaster and the click, click, click of the car on the tracks as we neared the top mirrored my heartbeat. Then in one swoosh we were careening down and then up and around until finally we jolted to a stop. I disembarked, my legs wobbly. But I was so proud to have ridden it! I forgot my fear until the next summer.


Martin and I looked out on the ocean. I told him how I would play at the water’s edge venturing out to knee-depth. The ocean scared me; the roar of the waves as they crashed onto the shore, the crabs that sometimes grabbed for my toes, the jelly fish. I remembered that at the end of the day, just as we were getting ready to leave the beach, my uncle would scoop up my cousin and me in his arms and take us out into the ocean “beyond the breakers.” I would cling so tightly to him, afraid of having a rogue wave separate us. The shore seemed so far away as we bobbed over the swell of the waves. Sometimes the wave was a bit too high to jump and it would hit me in the face. I tasted the salt water. But soon the fear gave way to thrill. I was so proud that I was brave enough to go out with him, not a scaredy cat like my other cousin who remained on the beach, watching us from the safety of the blanket.


The things that once seemed scary when I was young now aren’t scarey at all. Was it that I grew larger than the fear?


I’ve been thinking about fear lately. Some fears protect us from harm. But most fears don’t protect us at all from danger. You know, those things over which we think we have no control. Thoughts of things or people who can harm us, or take away something that’s important, or cause us to suffer in some way –  keep us small, keep us from avoiding those situations that challenge us to grow, rise up.


Over the past few years I have come face to face with experiencing things that, before they occurred, I thought would do me in, like the sudden passing of my father. But I weathered through them. It wasn’t easy. It wasn’t without tears and bargaining. It sometimes came at the cost of a momentary loss of faith that ultimately – and thankfully got restored.


I published my book, Serendipity: Chance Pilgrimages, in January – and that brought up its own set of fears and insecurities. Who am I to write a book? What will I do if people read it and don’t like it? What will I do if people don’t read it? Publishing the book made me feel exposed – my thoughts laid bare – as if everyone knew something about me but I knew nothing about them. Why did I write it and why on earth did I publish it? What was I thinking? And then I read a quote by the writer Jill Smolowe that pushed away the fear – a little.


What propels me is my belief that there is a book missing from the shelves. One that would have been helpful to me, touched me, guided me, showed me I wasn’t alone in my feelings.


And those two lines caused me to remember why I wrote and published Serendipity. It wasn’t for me. It was for you –  to share my experiences with you. To show that on some level we’re all connected. And it also showed me that Jill had the same questions as did I.


Fear had even caused me to hesitate sharing news of the book with the college community where I work. When I finally hit the button to publish news of the book in the college’s monthly newsletter I wanted to crawl under my desk. Retract the submission.  Co-workers would now know my intimate thoughts; read of my trials and growth. I expressed this to my daughter who reminded me that in order to be a writer I had to expose myself in some way. She was right.


The book’s publications is making me see and remember more than ever that when I encounter those things I fear (some small, some quite huge – some by choice, some by no choice of my own) I came out on the other side of the fear. Sometimes a little worse for the wear, sometimes truly beaten up – but I always made it through to the other side. I’m not saying I would want to relive some of those experiences that I feared, but I do see now, on the other side of the event, that I did make it through – and that, my friend, takes away the power the fear had over me.


What is it that you fear? Are there things you want to try but are afraid to fail? Are there classes you want to take but feel that you’re too old, or too young, or too unskilled? Do you want to change your physical appearance – cut your hair, grow your hair longer, apply purple to the tips (okay, that’s mine), dress differently – in a way that’s more aligned with the “real” you? Do you want to write a book? Learn to ride a bike, learn to swim, or learn to dive (okay, that’s another one of mine).


Trust me on this, not doing something that you want to do is worse than confronting the fear. Fear keeps us small. Holding something within that wants to burst forth is painful. Postponing doing things from worry doesn’t ease the situation – and that includes not scheduling that test you need (colonoscopy, mammogram, prostate screening), not asking for a promotion, not declining a request to do something you’d rather not do. Avoiding walking into Weight Watchers, the gym, or AA won’t make things easier for you – the worry will not subside. Do it and deal with it. You can do it.



I’ve challenged myself to continue to do things that are out of my comfort zone all in the name of growth. I try to do a little something a few times a week as the opportunity presents itself – and if nothing seems to present itself I seek out something challenging. Could be large, could be small. Some things involve promoting the book. I was recently interviewed by two newspapers, one in which involved a photo shoot – uncomfortable!  I wanted to cancel the interviews, put the book back in its box, and pretend I didn’t write it. But I didn’t. I put on my big girl pants and talked about the book and myself (uncomfortable again) and then allowed the photographer to follow me around my house as I “naturally” wrote on my computer and looked over my bookshelf – and my favorite – spoke to an invisible person to my right in order to be photographed as if I was in conversation.


A few weekends ago it involved buying a really cute headband. The buying was the easy part. My sister, who was with me, asked why I wasn’t wearing it after I bought it. Well – because I don’t wear headbands even though I like how they look on other people – and maybe one day when I get up the nerve to do something different I might want to wear it. Headbands are outside of my comfort zone. This one I bought was one that Rhoda Morganstern (coolest dresser on TV) would wear – it was wide and noticeable. I know it doesn’t make sense to buy something and not wear it. Fear. So, I put it on! And I wore it the rest of the day – in public!


Now it’s your turn. Try to do something that is out of your comfort zone. Face a fear. Challenge yourself. That’s how we grow. And now if you see me on the street I might have on the headband (don’t stare, please). And if you’ve read the book (please, do) you’ll know a lot of my thoughts, and fears, and triumphs. I no longer feel so exposed and naked – I have the headband like Superman has his cape!


I’d love to hear your thoughts – please comment on Facebook or send me an email. We’re in this together! And – the book is available on Amazon. I hope you read it!






P.S. The photo is of the Lollipop Motel in Wildwood. What fun!



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Serendipity is a modern twist on the Canterbury Tales in which the reader is told stories of pilgrimages that Anne Greco has taken to places including Italy, England, and even South Philadelphia. Along the way the reader meets a 14th century Italian saint and a 20th century punk rock poetess, enters into the childhood homes of John Lennon and Paul McCartney, sits under a tree at Circus Maximus in Rome, travels to Avalon in England, and takes to the yoga mat. Laced with humorous observations, honesty, and tender recollections, Serendipity tells the story of Anne encountering places of power. As she reconnects with herself at each site Anne also develops a deeper understanding and appreciation of her connection with the seen and unseen worlds that surround her. Throughout the story, Anne encourages readers to remember their own pilgrimages to places that transformed their lives.

Serendipity: Chance Pilgrimages is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

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Patti Smith and Serendipity

My friend had gotten us tickets to the Mike Douglas Show and I was finally going to get to see Patti Smith perform live….Nearing the end of the show she was introduced. The curtain rose and there stood Patti and her band. Waif-like, she was dressed in a white T-shirt and black pants; a red scarf was knotted around her neck….After the show my girlfriend and I hung around to see Patti. In her typical unassuming manner, Patti sauntered out of the studio. I handed my camera to my girlfriend. Patti put her arm around me…The trip to the Mike Douglas Show was transformational-a pilgrimage. Patti opened up to me a world of possibilities through her music, her writings, and most importantly an unwavering faith in self….I met my heroine; the one who encouraged and challenged me to dream big, have fun, follow my own calling, listen to my own voice, break confines, and always express myself, even if it gets me into trouble. From my book Serendipity:Chance Pilgrimages. (Photo of me and Patti Smith outside of Mike Douglas Show, Philadelphia 1977.)

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Serendipity and Rome

Alanna, who had not been to Mass in years, asked that Emily and I meet her at Saint Peter’s to attend services on our only Sunday in Rome. Mass, said in Italian, was celebrated in an intimate spot behind the main altar which was flanked by Bernini’s columns. Sunlight filtered through the stained glass window behind the altar. The window held the image of a dove, the symbol of peace. Peace had truly come to my family and me. From my book, Serendipity: Chance Pilgrimages. (Photo was taken in Saint Peter’s, Rome)

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Serendipity and Glastonbury England

I didn’t set out to Glastonbury for the purpose of making a pilgrimage, but a pilgrimage it became; my serendipity pilgrimage. I had never heard of Glastonbury, a small town in Somerset, southwest England, until Martin mentioned it as a possible side trip during our summer visit to his family. Martin booked us into the George Hotel and Pilgrims’ Inn, built in the 1400s to accommodate pilgrims traveling to Glastonbury Abbey. As we packed, Martin filled me in a little more on Glastonbury. He spoke of Glastonbury’s connection to King Arthur and Queen Guinevere…and the belief that the town was once the island of Avalon. For ages Glastonbury has also been known as a center for goddess worship. From my book Serendipity: Chance Pilgrimages. (Photo is of the George Hotel and Pilgrims’ Inn.)

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