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The happiest time of life

Published April 14. 2012 09:01AM

One news item on the lighter side getting a lot of attention this week is headlined: What age are we happiest?

How would you answer that question?

I tried answering the question before I clicked on the web site to see the results of the recent study. It was a fun question to ponder. (So much better than why do I owe so much income tax.)

At first, I thought my answer would be the magical time when I held our first-born child in my arms.

I was so intrigued by that little bundle of joy that I wouldn't put her down even when she was sleeping.

I remember thinking many times that I wished I could put a bubble around that time period and keep it forever.

When our second daughter arrived, I proclaimed the only thing better than one beautiful daughter was two of them. I told everyone it was my favorite stage of life.

But when they changed from babies to little girls, I discovered the magic didn't disappear. It only got better.

So I kept changing my opinion about the best stage of life. When the girls were at home, I thought I had to be living some sort of Camelot a perfect stage of life.

But time goes on and our stage of life changes whether we want it to or not.

When I came to the period we all know as "the Empty Nest" I didn't embrace it willingly. But what I found was that this stage came with pleasant surprises.

When the girls were gone from the nest, my husband and I grew even closer. We had time for "just us" and I discovered it to be a fabulous stage of life. I also proclaimed it to be "my favorite age."

My whole life has been like that. I think I'm in the best stage of life until I learn the next one is even better.

When I turned 50, I was told it would be traumatic and I would start to feel a sense of loss. Instead, I found there was something incredibly freeing about being 50.

I gave myself permission to do what I wanted to do, not what others wanted of me. I thoroughly loved being 50 and embraced that wonderful stage of life.

It seems to me that every age we dread like turning 30 or 50 or 60, actually brings more delights than we thought possible.

If there was one age or stage that I most wanted to avoid it was probably retirement. I remember getting annoyed while I was working at the newspaper and so many people kept asking: When are you going to retire?

For a long time, I wanted the answer to be "never." I loved being in journalism, loved my job and even loved my bosses. Why would I want to leave all that and go to the foreign land called "retirement."

Eventually, Florida, the Land of Perpetual Sunshine, persuaded me to change my mind. What I went on to discover was a Second Childhood even better than the first.

So, how in the world can I pick just one age when I was the happiest?

If you read the results of the recent survey, you already know the age most cited as the best 33. It's probably not one I would pick. How about you?

When we were ready to turn 30 my friends and I realized if we wanted to reach our dreams, we better start then or we wouldn't do it.

I remember sitting in my living room proclaiming to friends that I was going to celebrate turning 30 by starting college. It's something I always yearned to do but I never had the money.

At 30, I remembered the old joke about how to eat an elephant one bite at a time. I decided that would work for me in college. I would take one course at a time.

Because I was working part-time at a newspaper and was taking care of my family, it took me ten years to earn my degree instead of the usual four. But what I learned in the process was that I could do almost anything I set my mind to do.

But if I could go back to any one age, I wouldn't pick my 30s. I was way too busy. Too busy to sleep and too busy to eat, some of the time.

It was pleasant falling asleep last night as I pondered all the ages and stages of my life, trying to pick a favorite.

I couldn't pick just one.

I remembered what I used to say when my four grandchildren used to ask me to name my favorite grandchild.

"The one presently in my lap," I used to quip. My ever-changing "favorite" was the one I was holding at present.

In the same way, my favorite age seems to be the one I am presently enjoying. The past is only a memory and the future may not be ours to claim. But the present is ours to savor.

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