Monday, March 6, 2017

The Happiest Years Of Your Life

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published March 8, 2017] ©2017
Some months ago, AARP Bulletin ran an article about happiness and cited a study that maintained people reached the peak of happiness in their lives between 65 and 70.
This, of course, immediately piqued my interest since Olof and I are both in that demographic.
Some of this happiness argument makes sense.  By 65 you’ve presumably turfed the kids, have maybe even paid off the mortgage, and may well have grandchildren.  In our case, I think it helps that both Olof and I have decided that we’re about as good as we’re ever going to be.
Since 60 has been deemed to be the new 40 (who comes up with this stuff?????), one is statistically likely to still have a modicum of health, which is defined as two working hip joints and at least one working knee. Personally, I have the body of a centenarian.  I used to say that between childhood polio, a horrific auto accident, and just plain age that I had the body of a 90 year old, but my 90-year-old friend Natasha, and my 95-year-old mother-in-law both have stronger backs and clearer minds than I do. 
But if 60 is the new 40, there’s pretty strong agreement that 70 is still the old seventy. It’s like your body knows it can’t keep up the pretense any more. I have to confess that when I see obituaries of people in their 70s, I’m inclined to think, “Well, they were OLD.” I’ve had to work overtime to keep up the disconnect now that I am edging up on that decade. It is a testament to the power of self-delusion that I’m still able to see people who pass away in their 60s as dying young.
The AARP-quoted study maintained that people tend to be least happy in their teen years and 20’s. Personally, I think eighth grade is a year that should be put out of its misery. I’ve never known anyone who was happy in eighth grade. 
All sorts of factors determine happiness. Most moms I know would say they are only as happy as their least happy child. And then there’s the common expression, “Happy wife, happy life.”  Or as we say in our house, “Healthy dog, happy life.” We spent a whole lot of our life and assets at the vet last year.
Of course, most decades are mixtures of good times and bad, but I had one decade that was pretty much a total loss. 
My thirties were the tough years. I got divorced. I had two tiny kids. I was poor. I had an entry level job that in its initial phase was so mind-numbingly boring that I used to have fantasies of drinking White-Out (the stuff you used to make corrections on typewriter-generated copy in the pre-computer Pleistocene era.)  Swimming laps in a very depressing dating pool, I watched my criteria for suitable guys shrink to “hasn’t been in prison.” I was really, really lonely.
I was 19 when I became engaged to my first husband while still in college. Let me just say that the rules of dating in high school and early college are a whole lot different than dating as a 30-something divorcee with little kids. I decided with true Pollyanna optimism that everyone has good qualities so if someone asked me out, I initially always said yes. Everyone deserves a chance.
Wrong, wrong, wrong. Who knew how many sociopathic commodities brokers were out there?   “Sociopathic commodities broker,” by the way, is all one term. I still can’t believe how polite I was to these guys. I even got a marriage proposal from one of them. Actually, I think my house got the marriage proposal. (It, unlike me, had commercial value.) I guess he went long on pork bellies when he should have gone short.
In my 39th year, my now-husband Olof came back into my life. We were high school exchange students together in Brazil our senior year of high school and knew we’d be lifelong friends. So my forties were exponentially happier. Who knew what a difference it made when you could actually believe a word the other person said? 
Other than health issues of the cancerous persuasion for both Olof and me and one horrific auto accident, the fifties and sixties have been pretty good too. I do wish spinal transplants were not in their infancy. Travel is no fun when the airplane seats are torture and the beds leave you crippled in the morning.
The AARP article said to not make your happiness dependent on other people.  I’d have to disagree. For the last 30 years, happiness has been where Olof is.
So we’ve still got a little time before we leave the AARP-designated happiest years of our lives and descend into the dark unknown of the 70’s.  There’s only one conclusion to make: Let’s just party on, Olof.


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