- Some neuroscientists believe we grow happier at least in part because of changes in the frontal lobes of our brains. Teenagers whose lobes are still developing and older people whose lobes have started to deteriorate tend to discount bad news and believe it doesn't apply to them -- which makes them happier. But where does that leave people in midlife? The unfortunate answer is: at the bottom of a happiness trough. This notion -- that midlife is harder than the years that come before and after -- has serious support in the world of social science. A study of half a million adults in 72 countries, published in the journal Social Science & Medicine, found there's a well-being "U-bend" in almost every culture: carefree young people, a lot of contented seniors and dismay in the middle . . . (The authors have subsequently documented that there's a similar midlife happiness dip for chimpanzees and orangutans.)
The author's "unscientific" conclusion?:
- In your thirties, happiness is about other people. In your forties, those other people are driving you crazy, and you're miserable. In your fifties, some of those relationships have resolved -- your kids may have launched themselves, you have have left a bad marriage or learned to trust a good one. Then come the sixties, when life is about you again.
The second article was a Facebook posting by Anne Lamott forwarded to me by PEACEsista (I deactivated my Facebook account three weeks ago). Excerpts:
- It is really not out there, whatever it is that you are looking for.
- Yet this is the good news and the bad news, that you can't achieve, lease, buy or date what you are looking for. Nothing out there will fill the holes inside you.
- . . . creation and discipline and radical self-care WILL bring you what you seek. Creativity -- commitment to the creative spirit -- is medicine.
- Discipline is the path to freedom.
- The world does not have to give. But we do.
The last article was included in the birthday card sent to me by dcsistah. It is an excerpt from Scarred by Struggle, Transformed by Hope by the Benedictine nun, author and speaker, Joan Chittister:
- Surrender is what clears off the barnacles that have been clinging to the soul. It is the final act of human openness. Without it I am doomed to live inside a stagnant world called the self.
- Openness saves me from the boundaries of the self and surrender to the moment is the essence of openness.
- Surrender does not simply mean that I quit grieving what I do not have. It means that I surrender to new meanings and new circumstances, that I begin to think differently and to live somewhere that is totally elsewhere. I surrender to meanings I never cared to hear -- or heard, maybe, but was not willing to understand. Try as I might to read more into someone's words than they ever really meant, I must surrender to the final truths: She did not love me. They did not want me. What I want is not possible.
- Surrender is the crossover point of life. It distinguishes who I was from who I have become. Life as I fantasized is over. What is left is the spiritual obligation to accept reality so that the spiritual life can really happen to me.
The first article about happiness made me feel less crazy; Lamott's made me feel a bit slapped upside the head; and Chittister's, less slapped upside the head. I keep pondering this line: "Surrender is the crossover point of life."
Perhaps I'm at this crossover point. What about you?