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The birth of ALL THE HAPPINESS THERE IS taught me that something wonderful can emerge from any aversive situation. In late 2003, I traveled to Chicago for a three-day professional training. I had no interest in attending the event, but my employer required me to go.

The only thing I was looking forward to that weekend was spending time with my friend Janie, who lived in Chicago. While Janie is a lovely person, I’ve always known her to be disorganized and scattered.

The first evening I was in Chicago, Janie picked me up at my hotel and treated me to a lovely dinner. Afterwards, she took me to her apartment, where she introduced me to her cat. Then we headed back to my hotel. I was hoping to get a good night’s sleep before facing the next day’s dreaded training.

But just as we were pulling out of her apartment complex, a police officer pulled us over. Easy-going Janie appeared strangely nervous. When the officer spoke to her through her driver’s window, he informed her that one of her taillights had gone out.

He then went back to his car to take care of business. I tried to calm Janie down by assuring her that she wouldn’t be ticketed for the taillight. The officer would just tell her she needed to get it fixed.

But when the officer returned to our car, he promptly arrested my negligent friend for failing to appear in court for previous traffic violations. I was placed in another squad car and transported to the police station, where an officer called a cab to take me back to my hotel.

The only event of the weekend that I’d looked forward to had suddenly gone terribly wrong. I was so shaken by witnessing Janie’s arrest that I couldn’t sleep at all that night. The next few days of being trapped in that interminably long training proved to be a test of my ability to endure sheer hell.

Yet, I managed to find a bright spot in that weekend, one I hadn’t anticipated. During my free time, I scribbled away at the ALL THE HAPPINESS THERE IS manuscript, composing most of the book while in a state of misery.

Truly, that little book was the only thing that kept me sane during one of the worst weekends of my life.

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