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Friday, 19 December 2008

Are You Satisfied With Your Life?

Online somewhere, I ran across the question that is today’s headline and was surprised to realize I had never considered it.

Well, that’s not entirely true. When we choose to make changes in how we live – new job, new house, new car, get married or divorced, paint the kitchen, retire – we often are improving our lives or, at minimum, removing a dissatisfaction, making our lives better in some manner.

I’ve made those decisions many times, but I hadn’t thought that they were to increase satisfaction. Most of my life has been a series of moves designed to fill a need or desire, to smooth rough edges. But overall satisfaction? This is the first time I’ve asked myself…

What’s not to like. I have a comfortable home, a beautiful and funny cat companion to share it with, a room that is the real library I’ve dreamed of having since I was a kid, a collection of seven or eight thousand music MP3s (more than I can listen to again in my lifetime). The ocean is a short, two blocks away where I can walk for miles and if you discount the necessity of digging out my car, magical snowy winters and pleasant summers to mark the passage of time.

There are friends here and scattered about the world – some even travel to visit me for a few days now and then. There are many more online friends who are no less important for being at a cyber-distance. My “job” of blogging every day keeps me intellectually stimulated. And it’s thrilling to live in the era of the internet where there is so much to see, do and learn.

I have more than enough interests to fill my days; the real problem is in the choosing.

In comparing my life now to the many “thens” of the past, I was much less satisfied when I was young. There was always something more I wanted: a different job, a husband, a larger apartment, to be prettier, smarter, skinnier or more successful. The dissatisfactions changed year to year and even week to week - and there was no dearth of them.

But not so many now. It would be good to have some additional money but more for the comfort of knowing there would be enough should I need expensive care in the future than to buy anything. For travel too, but it doesn’t feel like I’m deprived. It is easier at my age now to accept limitations that chafed when I was young.

Often in the past, reading about the Great Depression, I lamented its effect on elders, people who had worked hard all their lives whose final years turned out to be even harder. Younger people had time to recover, when the economic tide eventually turned, for their old age. We are faced now with a similar situation, causing similar deprivation. But the blog question today is of personal, not social or political satisfaction and if inflation doesn't get out of control, I can weather this downturn.

If I had my druthers, I would live in New York City or Portland, Oregon. Choosing Portland, Maine was one of the larger mistakes of my life and the economic crisis makes a remedy difficult. But it’s not as though I’m miserable.

I suspect satisfaction is easier when we’re old than when we are young. Ambition wanes in old age – or, at least, mine has – along with striving and competition. I especially like living on my schedule rather than an employer’s; any deadlines these days are self-imposed.

So, yes, I’m satisfied with my life. What about you?

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Nikki Stern has composed a Belated Requiem.]


Posted by Ronni Bennett at 02:36 AM | Permalink | Email this post

Comments

Ronni, I have wondered about your decision to move north and whether you were happy with it. You mentioned having to dig out your car - which will surely get harder and harder as you age.We are at the point of thinking about what to do regarding our current home, which is really too big for the two of us. Decisions get harder to make these days, and the greater possibility for mistakes looms large. It is easier to do nothing, but we realize that would be the worst mistake of all.

I read with much interest this early morning post and also kenju's comment. I can relate to much that you share Ronni. I have lived a full life. A beginning of not much then an opportunity to experience in most ways all the world offered.
After a divorce 30 years ago a new lifestyle emerged. 18 months ago moved to the middle of the city to be near children and grandchildren. I do not like it.
I love being surrounded by nature for writing and photography and I am researching building a smaller home on my old homeplace. Weighing advantages and disadvantages. Guess the biggest is now I am near health facilities if I get sick. My children are busy and my two little ones in a short time will have there own interest. Grandma is really at the bottom of the list unless needed for babysiting. I know if I do not do this now that it will be too late. It may already be too late. Have not decided.
I do know the question in mind "Do I Want To Spend The Rest Of My Life In The Middle Of The City"?

I think it is an impossibility to be truly satisfied with one's life and perhaps somewhat boring. If we did not have things to strive for or changes to consider, we might as well be dead. Our lives will change without us doing anything, so to be happy with one's life is acceptable, but satisfied means to me we pretty much have given up living.

Tabor says "satisfied means to me we pretty much have given up living."
However, I have often thought that living a life without regrets is my personal goal.Fifty years ago, in movie theater on the Champs Elysee in Paris, I watched a newsreel showing a squad of Foreign Legionnaires board a truck in the Algerian desert and ride away from their fort that they were abandoning to the Algerians. In the background Edith Piaf was singing "No Regrets" The experience and sensation of grief remain with me to this day. It was then that I knew that "Regrets" can destroy the soul and one must try to avoid them- at all costs.
Obvously, one way to prevent regrets is to avert any action or decision that could be the source of regrets in the future i.e. "Don't do anything that you'll regret" and this entails a careful examination of all the possible results of one's actions. In addition to the preemptive action, we can also try to live "sans regrets" by making lots of lemonade and doing the best with the cards we've been dealt with.

Have I made mistakes over the course of the last 75 years? You bet! Do I regret making them? No.

Your question is one that has loomed large for me recently. I have certainly enjoyed much of my retirement years and Elyn and I have had many adventures. I've been mulling the question of what the end of life might be. Will I have regrets? My goal is to end life without regret. That means doing what my soul calls me to do now. It will be the things I do or don't do now that will be the source of regret at the end. This perspective has led me to make some rather major changes in how I am doing myself these days. As I've made these changes I find my satisfaction going up day by day. This perspective calls me every day to make the day one that I won't regret later. So far, I'm "having a lot of fun" with my days and I hope you are too.

Am I satisfied with my life as it is today? No. Am I content? Yes.

Contentment means coming to terms with and accepting all of life's foibles and vicissitudes, including the regrets, the little guilts, and the disappointments. Contentment has a large measure of forgiveness in it -- for oneself as well as for others.

I am happier now than I've been in a long time, but I am not satisfied. To be satisfied, I would have to try to freeze my life just as it is, to give up on the future.

One of the things I have always believed in is potential. Even now, I like to think that I have as much potential I have always had. Maybe for different things, but potential nonetheless.

To be satisfied would be to give up a belief that is at the core of my being, and that I cannot and will not do.

When the market improves, and it will one day, move to the other Portland next door to Powells. That would be my vision of nirvana.

I just wrote a long comment which I lost due to my computer ineptitude. But there is something else I wanted to say anyhow. It's about us elders planning for the future and making major life changes, like going into retirement homes. That is a great solution for some people, but not for others, who wish for more privacy, more of an individual lifestyle, the country or the city or whatever. And I don't think many of us have to go the group living route. I watched my mother and my aunt live out most of their lives how and where they wanted to. My mother loved La Jolla and she was fiercely independent. She briefly moved into a retirement place near me, but longed for sunny California and the lifestyle she knew, and she moved back to La Jolla when she was 90 and stayed there happily till 97, when, alas, dementia set in and it was no longer possible. I think dementia is the most dreadful scourge of old age, and is the one thing that terrifies me. I looked after her for her last 3 years, but it was not a good time for either of us. The point is, though, that she lived as she wished for a very long time. My aunt loved the country and had a 200 year old house in Peterborough New Hampshire. She never learned to drive a car, but her neighbors loved her and helped her, and there were social services available. She lived the way she wanted to until she died at 88. There are many ways to solve these end of life problems, but I advocate letting what one really wants be the primary consideration. Most of the time the practical difficulties can be worked out.

"I can't get no satisfaction..."

Growing up as a younger boomer, there has always been a lot of dissatisfaction with the world at large. America is a place that teaches us to never be satisfied, to always be striving for more, more more.

My saving grace has been the Tao Te Ching, which taught me much about finding the satisfaction within the moment, developing peace of mind, and connecting with the world around me, at whatever moment and place I am in. 81 simple verses, but they still speak to me.

So even stuck in the suburbs, in a place I've tired of, longing to explore more of the world and try new things, I find satisfaction moment to moment.

The trick is to be satisfied within the moment, with yourself, accepting wherever you are at an any particular time. And yet, still knowing that the mind will always push you to do more, want more, want different things or places than you have.

It is enough simply to be. To be yourself, in whatever moment, place and time you are in. That is what leads to satisfaction and true happiness. Tomorrow, later today, the next moment, it might be different. And in that moment, in that place or time, you can be yourself and find satisfaction there, too. If you are connected to the larger whole, and know you are part of it, there is always enough. The separation, being stuck in one's one mind, is what leads to unhappiness.

Connect with those around you, share what you have, and you will find satisfaction. Maybe Portland, Maine, still has something to teach you...

Namaste....

I don’t know how to really answer this question. I always feel as though I’m a work in progress. Certainly I’m satisfied to have all I need to live each day comfortably. I’m very satisfied with the people I’ve been fortunate enough to call friends and to be a part of this blog. The satisfaction to have a few trusted friends to complain to, cry and laugh with is priceless. It’s sometimes fascinating to realize that some things once so important or desirous are now meaningless to me. Am I satisfied with my life? It all depends on the day that you ask.

I'm in my early 50s, struggling by each year on part-time, temporary work contracts. I worry about remaining employed the next 19 years, which is my estimate of the time left I have to work. My pension plan guarantee is precarious. The universal health plan is not what it once was. Yet, as odd as it may seem, I am learning and believing in the motto "live slow and live with less". I was raise on the notion that success had everything to do with gain. Now I'm thinking success has everything with learning to live within reason and within one's means. So, yes, Ronni, I am happy with my lot, as precarious as it is.

There is a measure of self-pity in Ronni's post and in too many of the comments. Ronnie has her blog and writin, reaching out and perhaps changing lives. What else is there but to be in touch, relatively healthy and, most of all, alive. The other day was Beethoven's Birthday and I listened to his Seventh Symphony. Is there anything more life asserting than listening to music so sublime. When I was in a hospital recovering from a stroke, I discovered to my joy that I still had an ear for Traviata. Strokes sometimes kill your musical sense. Five years ago, I battled cancer. The other night I attended a performane of the Messiah! How lucky I was to be able to experience that miracle. So what the heck are you complaining about or dwelling on?...I shoulda, woulda,coulda.... If you're healthy and have wits enough about you to write here..Do what you shoulda...Remember Prufrock..."There is time..."

I can't remember the quote but it's something like the world is not changed by satisfied people. I am not sure satisfaction is even a virtue. Might it also be complacency or accepting things as they are instead of fighting to make them better? I am not dissatisfied, but satisfied? I can't really say I am. I always can think of things that I could do or try or that might make it better than it is. I don't think you have to be unhappy to be dissatisfied and always reaching out to improve your lot. I thought a lot about this though as it's not something I think about often-- being satisfied or not. I mostly just am but I often have plans or ideas for something more which likely I would not if I was totally satisfied.

I had to think about this post allll day! No, my life isn't what I want it to be but I'm alive and reasonably well and thirty years ago the docs said that wasn't in my future -- even whether I had a future was a question. And yeah, I have regrets. Someone wiser than I said, "A life without regrets is a life not lived." I have lived my life for better or worse and survived both. I have every intention of continuing to do so for another 30-40 years. The past is a bucket of ashes and the future is a big question mark and I can't do anything about either except deal with the latter as it careens my way.

You made me stop and think for a moment, then I smiled because I realized that I am happy with my life. Satisfied no - there are always things that I will want more of, different things to do, go visit or something better, but at this stage of my life I am very happy with the direction my life has taken me.

After retiring from the military, I was in an unhappy marriage, made some mistakes and went through a messy divorce. I don't regret the divorce, but I regret terribly what it did to my kids - that is the part that will always bother me and that they are not a part of my life as much today as they could be (geography does that).

But I met a beautiful woman who has taught me so much about life and myself. We have made a good life together and even though there have been some tough times, we have had a stable and loving relationship.

Professionally I bounced around a bit and have found a job that I really do like being an AmeriCorps Grant Program Officer - a way that meets my need to "give back" (only if I could get someone else to be the "bad guy" and manage the money).

So the choices in my life have led me to being very happy today, but not satisfied, I still have a lot of living left to do and as another reader said, when I become satisfied, it will probably be time for me to go.

Thank you for bringing a smile to my lips (my wife is looking at me, like okay what did you just do look). Good night

Snowed in, I sit alone in my warm sweet home and ponder your question. The truth is, as I made selfish choices in the past, I always thought there would be lots of time to make up for things in the future. I wish I had been a better parent - we can never redo the attention not given, the experiences not offered. I wish I had hugged them more. So yes...there are regrets..But over the years I have learned to live and love each day without putting the important things off for the future. I am peaceful knowing finally, that this day..this moment is the the time I have been given. The future is right here, right now.

Our perception is the only true reality. My younger brother, who died ten years ago of cancer once wrote to me from his new home in Michuacan, Mexico that "What we've got isn't much but it's enough and that's a lot". If I were to summarize all of the good stuff that's been posted here, it could probably be synthesized in a simple phrase:

"It's enough and that's a lot"

Don't worry- be happy!

To me, if I was satisfied then I'd be done, and I'm not done. If I had a do-over I might make two choices differently, but then I'd miss everything that came after and who knows what would have happened then.
I'm okay.

Hmmm, I've pondered this one and can only say that feeling satisfied comes to me after some activity - a job well done, a meal well cooked and enjoyed, a good dig, plant and prune in the garden.

For most of the time I live in the moment and do relish the feeling that my timetable is mainly of my own creation.

I've felt contentment for a few years now. Thanks Mythster for the "it's enough and that's a lot" - that says it all.

Thank you Ronni for this subject and sharing your views. I turn 59 in a few weeks, getting very close to 60, and I've been thinking about the same thing...am I satisfied with my life? I sure enjoy retirement and not having to live by someone else's schedule or goals, but then I have problems sticking to my OWN schedules or goals! I love living with my sister and our two wonderful retired greyhounds, and although the summers are brutal, I love the pool and the wide open spaces of Arizona. So why do sometimes I feel like the line from that old Sinatra song, "Is that all there is, my friend?" Then again I feel guilty if I'm the least bit dissatisfied for I am so fortunate in so many ways, when others are struggling in these hard economic times. What do I have to complain about?? Really, nothing that I can only blame myself for. Like you I am intellectually stimulated by the Internet, learning and keeping informed; and I love my pursuits in photography. So overall, I must say yes, I am satisfied, but I could do better to make my life even more enjoyable by practicing better self-discipline!

I just want to say Amen! and thanks to Anne Gibert, who wrote:
"There are many ways to solve these end of life problems, but I advocate letting what one really wants be the primary consideration. Most of the time the practical difficulties can be worked out."
A wonderful reminder not to let the practicalities drown out the possibilities. Happy Holidays, Anne -

What is it in our souls that seems to quiet with age? I am still torn between yearned for the younger craving for a world expanded beyond measure and a need for a settled peaceful secure bubble... I hope in some ways that I am never, ever, never satisfied...

I am trying to post a comment again, but don't really know what I'm doing. I'm not computer illliterate but am also not totally savvy about it all. So here goes.
I am 74 years old and sorry to say I don't think I'm really satisfied with my life. I had a very successful career and was single for many years. Married late in iife (in my fiftys). I had an active social life when I was working and single but I find it very different now that I am older, retired and married. My husband and i have few friends, most of them have escaped the Great Northeast for warmer climes where I am told friendships are easy to come by because everybody is a transplant and are all looking for new friends. We live in Upstate New York ( I call it SmAlbany), My husband likes it here, I prefer to look for greener pastures, especially in the winter. But here I am. I have a nice home and am comfortable, and probably shouldn't be complaining but I am, because i feel that I'm not really satisfied with my life.
We have family in Portland ME and I love it there when I visit. I find it much more exciting than SmAlbany as far as good restaurants, shopping, sightseeing, etc. I'm sorry Ronni, that you are not all that happy with Portland ME but I think that it was not a terrible choice.

There is a saying in the Ethics of the Fathers "Who is wealthy? - One who is satisfied with his lot." This could also read who is happy - one who takes what comes and says Praise the Lord - I am still here doing the best I can. That is what I am trying to do - Self Acceptance and Joy in living and being. To get up in the morning and know .... what else can one be but grateful. Sometimes I think too much and have to pull myself back and say - I have a home - a nice husband of 45 years who does the laundry and never nags me and I AM ALIVE -BARUCH HASHEM!!!

Ronni, since I've always admired and envied your life after retirement I was a little disturbed by your statement of regret about moving to Maine. I've always wondered why you moved north when most retirees head south. I would love to live in New York City too, but it doesn't sound very retired person friendly though.

I've always loved cold weather, but in the last couple years it's started to bother me, making me think all those folks who retire to Florida and Arizona know something.

I'm troubled in my thinking about where to retire. On one hand, staying where I know all the ins and out and where all our friends live has many advantages, but on the other hand going someplace new sounds fun, and being able to pick a elder friendly environment feels like the practical thing to do.

This post and its comments gives me more fuel to confuse my thinking about where to retire.

I don't think I'd like to be old and frail and dealing with digging my car out of snow, but then when I get old and frail I don't expect to be driving either.

Hi Ronni,

It's probably no coincidence that many of us are asking similar questions around this time of year. I just wrote a blog post on the Famento blog about doing a end-of-year life review. I think the fact that we're asking ourselves these questions, instead of avoiding them, is a healthy sign. I recently watched Randy Pausch's "The Last Lecture" video on youtube, and highly recommend it (link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ji5_MqicxSo). It really reminds us to constantly ask ourselves, am I happy with what I'm doing in my life? Am I doing things that will allow me to achieve my dreams?

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