I’m not one of those 29-forever types. I’m pleased as punch to have 35 years under my belt, considering that’s 18 more than I would have had with a type 1 diabetes diagnosis a hundred years ago. I get to be thirty-five–to have fallen in love, gotten married, had the world’s most adorable daughter ever (apologies to other parents-of-daughters in the audience … but it’s true), gotten divorced, and all of the other ups and downs and detours and loop-de-loops of life as an adult. Hurray!
Partly I offer this as an excuse for not being here more in the last week, as I have been occupied with real-life goings on and have not had a chance to upload photos of the spring sproinging up all over the place. For instance: the forsythia are blooming. No it’s not native, but it’s not invasive either, and it’s a flower that blooms in March. I like forsythia.
Partly I offer this as an awkward segue into positive psychology. I have been told that 35 should be freaking me out. I have been told that 30 should have freaked me out. I have been told that 40 will really freak me out, but as 30 and 35 have so far failed to make good on their threats, I am skeptical. When I turn 40, that will be a whole 22 extra years of living that by biological rights I shouldn’t have had. I’m expecting to enjoy 40.
I don’t have any of the things a woman is supposed to have crossed off her list at 35. I don’t have a house. I have an apartment and it’s a nice apartment with a small yard, but it’s not a house. I don’t have a job I love on a career track although that might be changing soon. I’m not married. I have a loveable, wonderful daughter who makes me glad to be a mother every day, but single-mothering one daughter was never my life plan. Needless to say I don’t enjoy being a type 1 diabetic, although being an alive type 1 diabetic with an insulin pump beats being a dead type 1 diabetic hands down. I could be really depressed.
But I’m not.
Which isn’t to say that I’m never a stressed-out, frazzled mess. You try being a type 1 diabetic single mother with a full-time job, a part-time freelance writing career, a handful of volunteer gigs, a boyfriend, a bunch of great friends, and a daily running habit without occasionally becoming a stressed-out, frazzled mess. I dare you. That’s also not to say that I don’t sometimes wish that my life with my daughter weren’t moving a bit faster towards what I want for both of us. Why is tomorrow too soon? What do you mean, I’m impatient?
I’m turning 35 … and that’s 18 more years than I would have had, not so long ago.
I’m turning 35, and I’m not married and I don’t have a house … but when I was married and lived in a lovely big suburban house I was miserable from living someone else’s life. It’s better to be slow and sure, and to make the choices that are right for me, rather than ticking off items on a list because it’s what I’m supposed to do.
I’m turning 35, and my work life is not all I want it to be … but I’ve made enormous strides towards it since my ex-husband and I separated just over three years ago. And yes, that does mean we separated a few weeks before I turned 32; and yes, I still enjoy my birthday.
“Positive Psychology, Andrea.” Right.
In the last few decades, some psychologists have turned their research efforts from pathology to health. Rather than continuing to investigate depression, anxiety, mental illness etc. and the treatment thereof, they study happiness, contentment, resiliency, and what makes people thrive. A number of things pop up consistently.
What makes people happy?
Optimism. The belief that one is a generally good and worthwile person with control over one’s life, and a good future.
Meaningfulness. The sense that one is alive for a worthwhile purpose and is making a contribution.
Flow. Work, whether paid or not, that allows one to be completely absorbed to the point of losing track of time.
Strengths. People are happy when they are able to do what they’re good at and use their strengths and abilities on a regular basis.
Savoring. The ability to enjoy what’s good in your life: relationships, hobbies, entertainment, etc.
And a lot more, much like these.
You’ll notice what’s not included:
Money. Money mattes until you have enough to satisfy your basic needs. After that point, money makes less and less of a difference to your happiness, and has more of an impact when you spend it on other people than when you spend it on yourself. (This must be why I am always buying clothes for Frances and rarely for me.)
Youth. In fact, most studies show that older people are generally happier than younger people.
Stuff. Studies consistently show that people are happier when they spend their money on experiences–trips, cultural events, etc.–rather than things.
Why stress about not having things that I don’t value and wouldn’t make me happy even if I did?
I’ll write a bit about what this has to do with the environment exactly next time, although I bet I don’t really need to. But not until after I’ve enjoyed my birthday and posted a couple of photos and some nature-love.