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.]