Today, February 4, is the 59th anniversary of my birth. 59?! How did that happen?
Ten years ago, when I was in the grip of a decades-long depression, I heard about some research that found older people are happier. I remember scoffing: “No way! How could you be happier, when you’re decrepit and inching closer to death, and can’t do anything you used to do?”
But in my case, at least, it’s proving to be true—the “happier” part, not the “can’t do anything” part.
Since leaving my job in mid-December, I’ve caught myself thinking on a regular basis, “Today was a good day,” and “Life is good,” and even, “I’m happy.” These weren’t “if you believe it, it will be” exercises. These thoughts come unbidden. And it’s the first time in my life I’ve ever thought them.
And why shouldn’t I be content?
I am working on contract for my former employer. This month I will submit something like $2.7 million worth of funding applications for Ethiopia and Jordan to the UN and US Government. It’s interesting, challenging, and meaningful work.
Somehow, doing the same work but from home is far less stressful and I am more productive. I don’t get into office chit chat—which I enjoyed but which ate up time. I don’t attend meetings except via Zoom and I’m not reading all the corporate communiques.
I no longer commute. My drive was about 25 minutes each way, and by the time I got through rush hour I had usually yelled “you moron!,” at another driver. I would arrive at work shaking from being cutting off or just listening to the news of the world on NPR. I feel agitated writing those sentences. Now I only drive before and after rush hours.
I am working two short shifts a week at the YMCA. I love it. I make 1/10th at the Y as I do writing proposals, but it is something different and it gets me out of the house, very important during the recent polar vortex. I work in the childcare center. I can see some of you grimacing at that—your worst nightmare. But I love little kids, and being around them puts me in a zone—I don’t have to teach them anything; I am just there to play with them and keep them from biting each other. I am now certified to provide CPR and if you knock out a tooth I’ll know what to do. I get a free Y membership, so I am enjoying trying out all the different locations and classes. The sauna was a godsend last month when I had a cold.
Maybe part of my contentedness is my keen awareness of how fortunate I am. When I had that cold, I was propped up in bed one night feeling sorry for myself and I thought, “Somewhere there is a woman my age in a refugee camp who has a cold. She can’t prop herself up to breath because she’s in a fucking tent and doesn’t have four pillows. It’s dusty. She doesn’t have Breathe Right Nasal Strips or eucalyptus essential oil in her humidifier. She probably doesn’t even have Kleenex to blow her nose.
I shouldn’t have to make myself feel better at the expense of a refugee, but there you go.
My son and I received our first royalty check last week for the book we published in November. We’re not going to be able to quit working or make big donations to refugee charities with our proceeds, but hey, we did it—we wrote and published a book!
Finally, yesterday my sister-in-law and I bought four tickets to Japan for June in a big sale through a Chicago travel agency. It still wasn’t cheap, but it was $600 less than anything posted publicly. So use a travel agent for big trips—they really can see things you can’t.
It’s my brother’s busiest season as a wedding videographer, so I will go with Akiko and my two nephews and chaperone the second one back home after a month. I have no idea where I’ll stay or what I’ll do yet, but that will be the fun part. Suggestions welcome!