Do you find it harder to feel thankful and blessed than you did 20 years ago? And how happy and satisfied will you feel 20 years from now? Research is telling us that it has a lot to do with our age and stage in life. Jonathon Rauch’s article in The Atlantic is stellar.
“Long ago, when I was 30 and he was 66, the late Donald Richie, the greatest writer I have known, told me: ‘Midlife crisis begins sometime in your 40s, when you look at your life and think, ‘Is this all?’ And it ends about 10 years later, when you look at your life again and think, ‘Actually, this is pretty good.’ In my 50s, thinking back, his words strike me as exactly right. To no one’s surprise as much as my own, I have begun to feel again the sense of adventure that I recall from my 20s and 30s. I wake up thinking about the day ahead rather than the five decades past. Gratitude has returned.”
Life takes many turns, doesn’t it? More than we can anticipate as we navigate decades like a ship’s captain seeking safe harbor. More and more, the idea of a “U-curve” gains credence: the happiness we knew in our 20s sags in our 40s and then gains in our 60s.
“What I wish I had known in my 40s (or, even better, in my late 30s) is that happiness may be affected by age, and the hard part in middle age, whether you call it a midlife crisis or something else, is for many people a transition to something much better—something, there is reason to hope, like wisdom. I wish someone had told me what I was able to tell my worried friend: nothing was wrong with him, and he wasn’t alone.”
“Science will know a great deal more about the relationship between aging and life satisfaction, and…help us get through the hard patches…The larger significance of the U-curve is not scientific or medical at all, but cultural. The U-curve offers an opportunity for society to tell a better story about life in middle age and beyond: a story that’s more accurate and forgiving, much less embarrassing and lonely…If (we) understood how common the U-shaped pattern is, we might be less inclined to make forecasting errors that contribute to disappointment and judge ourselves harshly for feeling disappointed.”
I don’t know how you are feeling this Thanksgiving. But I do know that as we feel down and find ourselves in “the holidays”, we feel pressure. Guess what? You’re not alone. It is bigger than our circumstances now in the moment. It has to do with how life unfolds.
So much of faithfulness is simple abiding, that is, not giving up on God or life as we find ourselves being tested. But trusting instead that life remains a good gift, that God wants good things for us, and those things are out there, even if we cannot access them now.