The Good Life: What Truly Makes Us Happy!

For the past eight months or so, I have been thinking of making another film.  I say this with LOTS of trepidation.  It took seven years to bring Who Does She Think She Is? to the screen.  And it was a hard haul; two years into filming and editing, I was told “there is NO story here.”  I wandered the desert, cutting and pasting the women’s stories together with Paula and with Micki; then Nancy Kennedy came on board.  She is a genius–she knew the material would make a story, but it took another year to complete.  Still  the film was not finished: we spent another year submitting the film to the  “festival circuit.”  Then, working to get it to theaters.  Our outreach efforts–a fancy way of saying, letting people KNOW about the film–was nearly as much work as the making of it.  The good news, of course, is that three years later, we are still selling it, still showing it and still finding our audience.   In fact,  our audience is GROWING.  Wow!!!  Thank you all.

So, am I ready for this process to begin again?  I think so.

Here’s what I’ve been thinking.  What is “the good life” in America: a nice house, in a good and safe neighborhood, two cars, money left over for vacations.  The latest appliances.  Good schools, sports, music and enrichment activities for our kids.  But, is that it?  What have we left out in our pursuit of more and bigger and better?

Has our focus on material well-being  been at the expense of happiness?  Are we so busy paying the bills and the mortgage that we don’t have time to connect with our neighbors?  To connect with nature?  To take a walk with friends?  What happened to our sense of wonder?

At what cost is  “the good life”?   And when is enough, enough?  And how secure are we when the whole thing falls apart in an economic downturn?  We have counted on the rising value of our houses to finance this lifestyle.  We were told to go out and buy.  Buy on Credit.  Refinance.  Then the downturn.   Uh Oh.  Now what?

But, maybe, just maybe there is an upturn to this downturn.  Maybe it forces us to reconsider what truly makes us happy.

I am not suggesting that we scrabble from month to month to pay the bills and put food on the table.  No one wants that.  But, maybe we’ve gone too far in the opposite direction.

So, I want to investigate this purported link between material well-being and happiness.  I want to find people who have cut back on spending, perhaps downsized their job so as to have more time for community, for their family, for others.  I want to find people who have left behind the Big Job with its promise of success and status and salary….for something simpler and closer to their hearts.  I want to find people who laugh more and stress less.  People who are right here now, instead of busy busy busy.  How have they achieved this?  What have they given up?  What have they gained?

Maybe they have been forced towards this path by the downturn.  Maybe by something catastrophic.  Maybe they chose it.  What matters is that they have lost or given up something that promised satisfaction and yet found something surprisingly better.

So, there it is.

Tell me what you think.


9 Responses to “The Good Life: What Truly Makes Us Happy!”

  1. I have devoted my life to a project inspired by the desire to connect my children with nature. I feel this generation is missing the boat! Never before have children been more disconnected with nature and out of touch with what really makes us happy. The name of the project is: The Osage Ranch Club I call it a conservation ranch community. It’s been a labor of love, as I’m not wealthy person and have put this together by my own research. Recently I was published in an article called “Why our kids should be outside” in the August issue of Tulsa Business Journal and they wrote an article about my project called Home on the Ranch. It’s been a long and lonely road as a single mom in Oklahoma and it is far from over. I loved your recent documentary, it inspired me. Thanks for your time. I’d love to share my story with you someday.

  2. Joanne Dero Says:

    First of all, I’d like to tell you that “Who Does She Think She Is” was a great inspiration to me. It helped me become clearer about my own commitment to being an artist and move forward in my creative and professional journey.
    Now about The Good Life:
    The turning point came for me 7 years ago when my father died. My life was turned upside down and I began questioning everything: what I believed, what I was involved in, my relationships. While doing personal research on grieving I learned that this questioning is part of the process. I allowed this process to change my life. The questions forced me to be more honest, more true to myself, and to make choices for a life that is more satisfying to me.
    I try to simplify my life every day, to keep to the essentials so that I have time and energy for my passions: my loved ones, my artwork, and other satisfying endeavours. It’s hard not to get caught up in too many things; sometimes I do and then I need to slow down and re-evaluate.

    I think that the more we spend on material things, the more time and energy is required to keep up, and the more responsibilities these things bring. If we’re busy spending most of our time working to pay for things, how much time will we have for the important people in our lives. I don’t believe our possessions and lifestyles are more important than the people in our lives, though sometimes it seems to be the case. I find it shocking and sad. People are more important than things to me.
    I prefer a simple life filled with memories spent with people who are important to me rather than have a busy life filled with material things and activities but no time or energy to enjoy them or my loved ones.

  3. diemdangers Says:

    I absolutely loved “Who Does She Think She is” and recently became a new mother and am determined not to let my artwork slide away. It has been truly an inspiration and has kept be going through postpartum depression. I think your new idea on what the good life is hits the spot as well. There is so much pressure these days to conform to socially acceptable norms that may not fit each individual’s passions or life purpose, so definitely a film as you describe would be valuable and worth watching!!

  4. Micki Seligson Says:

    What a wonderful new project, Pam, I am excited for you and I love the idea of shining a light on how people’s beautiful will to live a life of meaning brings new understandings about what’s important. Not an easy topic, but you go girl! This time you have the experience of our being told, “there’s no story here” and knowing there was a story and telling it.

  5. first, i haven’t seen “who does she think she is” – yet. but a friend recently saw it screened at a workshop and told me she loved it – and immediately thought of me. i was struck by this, as this isn’t a woman who knows me well. so now, i must see this film!

    what is the good life? another close to the bone question. for me, it meant that once my children were grown, i walked away from me entire east coast life and transplanted to the sonoran desert – where i didn’t know a soul – in order to pursue a career as a full-time artist. i “gave up” a life in suburban boston to do so. what many would consider to be “the good life.”

    and i can tell you that even on my loneliest days in Tucson, i am much happier and more grounded than i was back east. I miss my kids like crazy (the opted to stay on the east coast for now), but my art expanded as my soul expanded and has improved in leaps and bounds.

    those who know my journey are often “jealous.” but what they don’t realize, i think, is that we all have the potential in us to walk the talk.

    i suspect this new film comes at a very important time. it seems many are re-evaluating their lives and choices right now. and sometimes all we really need is permission to go be bold. to be reassured that its not selfish – and even if it is selfish, that when we are happier as people we are better people. and really – toys, fancy cars, a well-manicured lawn and stainless steel appliances have little to do with happiness.

    thank you for doing such important work and shining a light.

    • Your story sounds amazing! Exactly what we want to highlight in our film… what many consider to be “a good life” with “a steady Job” is really an illusion. By making the kind of life altering changes you have made, we are able to find out what truly makes us “happy” and what is good for our soul is good for all aspects of our life, our community, our environment! We would love to see some of your artwork! Send it to us at with our bio/artist statement and we can post it on our Facebook and blog for all to enjoy!

      • thank you for your kind reply – i really wasn’t expecting one! i will be in touch through email, and have already “liked” your facebook page. is there a specific form you’re looking for for the bio/artist statement? if so, i’m unable to find it.

        bravo for more strong women coming together in the world!

  6. Charlene Gowen Says:

    Who Does She Think She Is? I can’t tell you how much your film touched me. I have felt the calling to be an artist since I was a child, but was strongly discouraged by my parents. I did work for a time as an actress, was just beginning to see some success, then my marriage failed. As a single mother, the desire for a good life for my child was uppermost in my mind. I strived to remain focused on my art, but settled for becoming an arts educator.

    Now retired, I look back on the energy devoted by “experts” and loved ones to discouraging my artistic pursuits. I have recently written a screenplay, under option. I have also created a short documentary I hoped would become a series, entitled “Artists At Work”.

    I have so much to say, and I’m rambling. What it boils down to: “The Good Life” as interpreted by aforementioned experts and loved ones was all about material gain. You are what you have, it would seem. We lose so much of ourselves in things, that we have no awareness of our true selves. Recently, my mother shared with me that she always identified herself as an extension of someone else: a daughter, a wife, a mother. She said she didn’t know who she was, and asked me if I knew who I was. I resisted the urge to scream, “I’ve been trying to tell you for years!!!! I am an artist! I am a creative! I experience God through my art! My life is synonymous with my ability to create!” I simply told her, yes, I know who I am. If she doesn’t understand by now, she never will.

    I apologize if this seems self-serving. Clearly, your film touched a raw nerve. Thank you.

    • Pamela Tanner Boll Says:


      It does not sound self-serving. IL think that there is enormous pressure to do work that might be considered “safe.” I think that many many people believe that self- expression, trying to make something beautiful out of the found moments of ones” life is “selfish” and “self-serving.” But, I disagree. We would be in a very very dull world without people who poured their heartache into song, without people who noticed the first buds of the trees in Spring, the bright yellow of the finch at a feeder.

      So, do your work….your mother needs you to put your heart out there….it might even help her answer her questions about who she is….

      I believe that we are here to help each other….to witness each others struggles and happiness, and I think we are here to notice the world around us….

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