What is the secret to a long, happy life? Since I have a birthday this week and thought I could use that excuse to guilt my friends and family into doing my work for me, I polled a bunch of them. They came through.
Although I got chided by some for insinuating that they were old, everyone took the request seriously. I had an answer in mind, which none of them mentioned.
Here are some of their gems in random order, modified slightly.
- Health care is vital. Without it, I wouldn’t have much quality of life and possibly wouldn’t be alive.
- Find a mate who will treat you as an equal. Mine was not only a loving husband, but a wonderful hunting, fishing, and working buddy. We raised two great children. How can life be better than that?
- Step away from the smart phone, iPad, and television to take a walk, paddle a lake or stream, or ride a bike. Embrace nature’s beauty and healing serenity. Spend some time alone with your thoughts.
- Show your love to those you hold dear. Reach out to others and honor their individual differences.
- Forgive yourself for your many flaws and mistakes, and try to forgive others.
- Spend time with those who share your passions and make you feel good about yourself. Start each day with a moment of mindful gratitude.
- Build memories, especially those events involving the ones we love most—our children, then grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren.
- Have a purpose—or many—as your life progresses.
- Take care of yourself and those you love. If you have been fortunate to find your soulmate to share your life, love and cherish that relationship always.
- Find a job that suits your personality and that you love.
- Enjoy your own company and that of others.
- “To thine own self be true.” If you know yourself, you’ll make honest choices. I’m fortunate to have my health and to have had loving parents who stressed education.
- Make informed choices about a healthy diet and lifestyle. As for happiness, the key word is “balance”—balance in every aspect of our lives. Just like a balanced diet supports the health of our bodies, balance is basic to our happiness. Balance between work and play; between time spent with beloved family and friends, and time spent alone with our thoughts and dreams; balance between self-discipline and self-indulgence; between laughter and yes, tears, both happy and sad. And underlying all of this, balance between acceptance of what is and hope for what might be.
- In a few words: Faith, love, all things in moderation. Keep it simple. Don’t fret the small things.
My conclusion based on these gems is that we should choose our companions carefully, contribute to the world, and live life to the max. That means being so engaged, we don’t dare use our precious time to do something as unfulfilling (at least to me) as folding underwear, which was the answer I had in mind. After all, there are mountains to climb, friends to laugh with, pets to cuddle, pickle-ball games to lose and win, places to explore, people to love, and columns to write—starting next week.
My thanks to all who contributed.