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A reason to look forward to aging

A reason to look forward to aging

Have you caught “the bug” yet?

Do watch out for it’s easily shared though, in this case, you should do your best to pass it along.

Talking with a friend recently, I wasn’t surprised she shared my symptoms – better yet, had spoken with another friend who was feeling exactly the same.

For all my readers who have somehow (When did it happen? Where?) found they’ve crept through middle age and might (or might not) admit to being “elderly” (loathsome word), we’re just ripening – beautifully. See? The thing is nobody told us that, when we pass a certain age, happiness awaits. I’m defining it as greater than mere contentment (which isn’t bad) though there’s that as well. Joy? Glee? Jollity? Let’s not push it.

I can admit I wake up happy (if terribly sleepy and frequently tired), enjoy the hours that pass far too quickly, appreciate my popcorn and a drink before dinner and then head for bed once the kitchen is cleaned. I’ll read – never enough time – before I fall asleep.

Please, please, please, don’t think I’m some Pollyanna or too simple to be tolerated. We of this certain age all face health issues, fear of falling or an accident and, in many cases, other worries as well. I think the difference is we readily deal with what we can and let the rest go.

Yes, of course disasters strike. Just today I burned up my blender making my usual milkshake with a dozen or so ice cubes. It was smoking and sending small black particles across the counter. Easy enough to wipe up but I’ll miss those drinks for lunch – powdered supplement, milk and ice. Been making those for decades. As long as I’m replacing one appliance, I might as well order a new popcorn popper. It’s still dependably hot but, for reasons which escape me, the rim and lid have begun to melt. I see no danger but always keep an eye on it. If I’m not in close attendance, it seems to grow upset and spews hot popcorn and kernels – oh, yes, all those old maids — all over my kitchen: counter and floor. Remember the Sorcerer’s Apprentice? I’ve had those nights too – popcorn everywhere! It pays to be quick for I don’t want Molly to get any. I’ve read she could choke on it. Well, I guess any of us could. Should I worry? Forget it. Let me try to be careful.

Do I worry – fret or fuss? – that the article I need to finish these pages is somehow gone? Hardly. It’ll appear when I’m ready.

And it does.

AARP The Magazine for June-July quotes Dartmouth economist David Blanchflower (who’d have to be happy with a name like that): “There really is a U-curve of happiness.” People generally hit a high level of happiness in their early 20s, dip low around the age of 47 (he calls that middle age; I always wondered – looks like I missed it) but, from there on, experience increasing happiness. What surprised me was his study involved 132 countries with always the same result. High or low income, even life expectancy, made no difference.

“Decades of life experience combine with brain rewiring to create a new kind of happiness for people in their 50s and beyond,” says Dilip Jeste, M.D., a neuroscientist at the University of California, San Diego. “In older people who keep themselves physically, mentally and socially active, we see the growth of what we call the neurobiology of wisdom. You don’t get as upset when things go wrong. You focus on the positive and on people and connections. You feel great when you have a sense of purpose.”

Why? Perhaps it’s as simple as coming to terms with our limitations. Whatever the reason, it seems ingrained in us.

He was a widower when I met him, very recently losing his companion and partner and the mother of a marvelous flock of offspring. His missing her and their times together continues to rob him of some of that happiness available. I pray it won’t be much longer until he too catches our bug.

Recalling what day this is, I’d like to end with a quote from Dave Barry: “America may have the power of a giant, but we also have the heart of a good and generous people. We will grieve for our dead, and tend to our wounded, and repair the damage, and tighten our security, and put our planes back in the air.

Eventually most of us, the ones lucky enough not to have lost somebody, will resume our lives. Some day, our country will track down the rest of the monsters behind the tragedy of 9-11, and make them pay, and I suppose that will make most of us feel a little better. But revenge and hatred won’t be why we’ll go on. We’ll go on because we know this is a good country, a country worth keeping. Those who would destroy it only make us see more clearly how precious it is.”

Susan Crossett has lived in Arkwright for more than 20 years. A lifetime of writing led to these columns as well as two novels. Her Reason for Being was published in 2008 with Love in Three Acts following in 2014. Information on all the Musings, her books and the author may be found at Susancrossett.com.

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