With Spring in full swing, we note the change by buds and blossoms, the vibrant colors, new growth, warmer temperatures, longer daylight hours, and a general increase of activity in the natural world. One thing we all have in common, regardless of our age, is that we also change, day by day, season by season, year by year.
There is a natural rhythm to the changing of the seasons and they are all predictable according to a calendar that marks the end of one and the beginning of another. Whether equinox or solstice, the movement of earth and sun along with various angles tell a story about light and temperatures. According to most knowledgeable scientists, climate change is real and of serious concern. How we respond to that issue may well write a larger story about change in the future.
There are markers along the way. At 40, plus or minus, we talk about mid-life and sometimes an attending crisis of one kind or another. We celebrate 50 as a peak experience with reassurances that it’s not a downhill trajectory afterwards. In our 60’s many think about what’s coming next, often including retirement when that’s a viable option and that is a big change. A decade of being in one’s 70’s can be full of choices given the blessings of good mental and physical health and time to enjoy them.
As a recently minted octogenarian, I cannot speak with any authority about much beyond 80 but what I can observe in myself and many others gives me hope and encouragement for making the most of whatever time is given for me to celebrate and enjoy. There are no guarantees for how long or how well we will live so the best practice, insofar as possible, seems to be to maintain good health, an active mind, an awareness of how our beliefs inform our actions and interactions with others and to love what we are doing.
How we change as we age and how we age as we change have their own rhythms and seasons, not always so predictable as one might prefer at times. Perhaps one of the most significant findings has been that which was reported in the Harvard longitudinal study of happiness. The main conclusion is that “warmth of relationships throughout life have the greatest positive impact on ‘life satisfaction’”. Put differently, the author, George Valliant, says the study shows: “Happiness is love. Full stop.”