Dixie Darr

The Promise

In spirituality on May 15, 2017 at 11:07 am

When I was about ten a voice told me that my best years would be after sixty. That had some fundamental effects on my life. First, I never worried about dying young, although I was never reckless, either. Knowing you’re going to live at least until sixty, you want to spend those years as healthy as possible.

Second, I never dreaded getting older. In my thirties and forties, my friends were astonished to learn that I actually looked forward to old age. One young coworker asked me what was the best time of my life. “My best years are ahead of me,” I said. Apparently she didn’t feel the same as she took her own life at 32. I still miss her. She would have been a terrific old lady.

More recently another friend wrote that she had gathered from my posts that “you’d prefer to be content than ‘happy.’” At first, I was offended. What did she mean I don’t want to be happy? Of course, I do. Then I wasn’t quite sure what the difference was between being content and happy, so I did some research.

We have a bluebird of happiness, and Disneyland is the happiest place on earth. Amazon sells 57 books on how to be happy. Several podcasts do the same. All storybook princesses live happily ever after. Economists measure gross national happiness, hold a world happiness summit, and measure which country is the happiest in the world (Norway). Bobby McFerrin told us to “Don’t worry, be happy,” and Pharrell Williams is simply “Happy.”

Still, researchers describe happiness as a fleeting feeling of having a desire met. Contentment is the belief that everything is fine just the way it is. Happiness requires a constant chase; contentment is a more even keel.

After the dark moodiness that characterized my younger years, that sounds pretty wonderful to me.

When I reread my friend’s note, I realized that she had also said, “you’ve found that contentment in your life and have the good sense to appreciate it.”

On my 60th birthday, I started nagging God, “okay, I’m ready. When are things going to start getting good?” Was it all some cosmic joke? Gradually, I began to realize that my life was turning out pretty well.

It doesn’t mean I’ve stopped striving to make things better, but if this is contentment, I’ll take it.

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