Well, I am 40 now. I am heading down that slippery slope of becoming my grandmother, who knew absolutely everything and would tell it exactly how she saw it. In a way, this kind of handle on life is refreshing. It is black and white, very clear and always amusing, if you are not the victim.
I am going to make a valiant effort not make it to that bluntly critical state as I journey through the second half of life, which already has a few perks. The greatest so far is the relief of having finally figured a few things out. And because there is a bit of my grandmother in me, I can only assume that everyone wants to hear what I have to say and if you don’t, I am going to say it anyway!
So here goes; the key to happiness, per Allison Greiner, who has recently achieved middle age status:
1. The first critical key to happiness is people. I believe that we are shaped most by the people in our lives, so we should be spending our time with those who lift us up, challenge us, are honest with us, who give us perspective and make us smile. Don’t forget to smile.
2. Love yourself. Please forgive the cliché, but I really do believe this. I spent a lot of time ignoring this piece and wasted a lot of precious time, as a result. Here is the truth: The people that we treasure in our lives do not love us for the way we look, what we have, what we do for a living or in our spare time. They love us for all that cannot be defined. There is a real freedom in letting all the rest go and just being happy in your own skin and trusting that it is indeed a great skin to be in.
3. Second, laughter is paramount. Not just at the world around us, but at ourselves. I take great pleasure in laughing at my own expense and so do others. As a teacher, I have a great audience every day and I think my relationship with my students is stronger because I do not take myself too seriously and can have fun while doing meaningful work. No one truly appreciates someone who laughs at the expense of others, but it is very endearing to others when you can laugh at yourself.
4. Perspective. Tragedy and pain are a part of life, but what we all must remember that there is no sorrow without joy, no grief without happiness. You have to know one to know the other. Someone very close to me does not know true grief. She has protected herself from it all of her life, but as a result, she does not know true joy, either. When my father died after a year of suffering, she was so surprised when she found me so wrought with grief. She assumed that I would have been relieved. I was relieved, but there was something very beautiful about releasing all that emotion that reminded me how important my father was to me. I embrace moments of grief. It reminds me of how rich my life really is.
5. Faith is worth a try. I struggle with this. I always have and probably always will. But the more experiences I have, both good and bad, the more I open myself to the notion that this earthly life is not all that we will know. I cannot define it and do not want to. But whatever it is, it is comforting.
Voila! You may find this little catalogue of ideas insightful or revolting, but please refer to #2. It doesn’t matter. I am happy with it!
Allison Wood Greiner is a high school French teacher, a founding member of Inspired Wining, a wife and mother to three children, including Matthew, who has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.