My friend, Marilynn Asch, is known for the funny things she posts on Facebook. A recent post showed an obviously older couple, holding hands, as they jump from a dock into a lake. Adding to the humor is the fact that they are naked and their saggy tushies are in full view. Here are the words that accompany the photo. (Marilynn attributes them to Dennis Harshbarger.)
I am a Seenager. (Senior teenager.)
I have everything that I wanted as a teenager, only 60 years later.
I don’t have to go to school or work.
I get an allowance every month.
I have my own pad.
I don’t have a curfew.
I have a driver’s license and my own car.
I have ID that gets me into bars and the whisky store.
The people I hang around with are not scared of getting pregnant.
And I don’t have acne.
Life is great.
I have more friends I should send this to, but right now I can’t remember their names.
On the same day that Marilynn posted this, I put up an image of the Eiffel Tower on Facebook. Alluding to travel, I added the words, “Find out what gives you joy and do it.” My headline said, “There are so many reasons to be happy! Please tell me yours.” Usually no one responds to my social media prompts, but “MS” responded. Here is our correspondence.
MS: What is the recipe to being happy?
LKE: I always say the recipe is to do less of the things that make you unhappy and more of the things that bring you joy. Lots of things bring me joy such as travel, my kids, a good meal, my friends, noticing a sunny day, etc.
MS: Wow, that’s amazing. I guess I have to identify the things that make me happy too. But 90% of the things in my life make me miserable and kill me inside.
LKE: Think about the 10% that doesn’t make you miserable and do more of that. And make sure you do one of those happy things each and every day. In fact, do it first thing in the morning and maybe even write it down in a journal to mark the fact that you did it.
As soon as I sent it, I berated myself for this response. I have had times in my life where I have been in a black hole emotionally and this Pollyanna answer would have snuffed any light that I managed to see. So I wrote a PS.
LKE: Forgive my blithe response. I need to add two things:
- If you have health issues, or mental health issues, or if you find yourself in an abusive relationship, or if you have some major problem like that, then I hope you will seek professional help. I have done that and it has indeed helped.
- But for the more mundane life issues, perhaps the advice I gave earlier is incorrect. When I told you to DO something that makes you happy maybe that’s asking you to ADD something to an already too busy life. Maybe instead I should suggest that you SUBTRACT something. Are you always pressed for time? Do you have too many things on your to-do list? Do you have too many responsibilities? In short, do you feel like a juggler with too many balls in the air? If so, perhaps the secret to happiness is to allow yourself to put one of those balls down.
At age 66 I find myself stating with regularity that I have never been happier. I have been unable to explain why. But the juxtaposition of these two Facebook posts helps me understand that as a seenager, I have put a lot of balls down in life.
What gives me joy? Leisure time is high up on the list, right there with no longer having acne.