Secret to a Happy Life

Happy Woman

Happy Woman

I thought about my life after the crazy hormone swings of perimenopause. Studies report that life is much richer and more satisfying now than at any other life stage.

By: Ellen Michaud

Studies reveal that women over 50 are the happiest. Here’s the secret.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” I demanded.

My stepmother just laughed, tossed another card onto the discard pile between us, and shrugged her shoulders. “You wouldn’t have believed me,” she said simply.

I glanced around the cool white-on-white apartment in exasperation. Playing cards after dinner with Edna Thulin Watts down in Florida is always a learning experience. Whether the conversation travels over family, real estate, manners, health, high tides, biblical truth, or a sale at the local Walgreens, I usually hear something unexpected. And this time was no exception.

You wouldn’t have believed me.

The truth of those words pushed past my annoyance and marched into my brain.

She was right. What woman in the midst of the crazy run-here- run-there life of a 40-something would ever have believed that life after perimenopause and the what-should-I-do-with-the-rest-of-my-life questions is richer, fuller, and happier than at any other time?

My stepmother tapped one well-manicured nail on the pickup pile in front of me. “Your turn, girl.”

My turn indeed. Picking a card at random, my fingers kept the game going while I thought about my life after the crazy hormone swings of perimenopause. Studies from Harvard to Wisconsin report that life is much richer and more satisfying now than at any other life stage. Unfortunately, the studies weren’t set up to tell me why. But thinking about my stepmother’s life and thinking back on my own, I suspect that the sheer joy of life in my fifties rests on the fact that . . .

I’ve got guts. Once you’ve rescued small children from certain death and maybe walked along the edge of a knife yourself, nothing much intimidates you. Taking risks — quitting your job, tossing your retirement money into a new business, telling evil people to mend their ways — is not only easy, it’s addictive. The sense of freedom and the rush of sheer joy are like nothing else on the planet.

I’m comfortable with my body. No matter how many extra pounds pad your hips or how far your breasts sag, this is the body that grew a child, gave it life, and nourished it until it could stand on its own two feet. Forget about cellulite. A body that has nourished a child is glorious.

Chocolate cravings disappear. If every diet you’ve ever started has been sabotaged the day before your period by a clawing craving for a chocolate Tastykake, now you can relax. If you decide to shave a few pounds from those padded hips, it’s now totally doable.

I know what’s important. Family. God. Compassion. Forgiveness. Honesty. Love. Extending a helping hand. Everything else is chopped liver.

Stress isn’t as big a deal.

It’s been a constant for so many years that you’ve learned how to deal with it and put the stressors in perspective.

I know who I am. I’m bigger, bolder, and brighter than some people feel comfortable with, I hug just about anyone who comes within range, and I rescue dogs, cats, and little old ladies. I’m not the person I want to be, at least not yet, but I like who I am on the journey.

I’ve got money. Kind of. I may not be sitting on a pot of gold, but there are no more $100,000 per child educations to fund and I’m making more money than I ever dreamed possible at age 20.

My relationships are solid. All the interpersonal relationship things that caused upheavals throughout my life are pretty much settled. I’ve come to terms with the fact that, no, my mother did not love me as much as she should have, and, yes, my mother-in-law would probably have preferred to have her son all to herself. But the man I married worships the ground I walk on, our son adores every hair on my head, my friends think I’m the best thing since sliced bread, my colleagues respect me, and my neighbors feel that I make the best maple cream cake on three planets. Who can complain?

I’m tolerant. Small people doing small things are more likely to illicit a compassionate response than make me angry. I know they must be hurting inside.

I can eat cereal for dinner. And it doesn’t have to be granola.

I can jump into the hot tub naked. Caution: If you try this yourself, keep in mind that high-flying aircraft can see more than you think.

I can grab my husband. And make mad, passionate love in the middle of the living-room floor in the middle of the day. I just have to remember to lock up the dogs.

I can let somebody else drive. Looking back, I can see God’s fingerprints allover my life. A nudge here, a stop sign there, a barrier where I was about to run off the road — I didn’t arrive on this page or in your hands by accident. And that knowledge allows me to stay centered even in the eye of a storm.

Copyright © 2011 Ellen Michaud, author of Blessed: Living A Grateful Life

About the Author:
Ellen Michaud, author of Blessed: Living a Grateful Life, is an award-winning author who has written for The New York Times, Washington Post, Better Homes and Gardens, Lady’s Home Journal, Parents, Reader’s Digest, and Prevention,where she was the editor-at-large for six years.

For more information, view Ellen Michaud’s Web site.

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