Children and dogs and pink fizz

Every now and then I read those surveys about happiness which tell you that people in their twenties are happy, those in their thirties and forties less so (the twin pressures of work and family no doubt) but the happiest people of all are the over fifties.  This seems entirely convincing to me.  As you get older, if you are lucky, you are likely to be less worried about money, you have the entirely selfish pleasure of time to yourself back as your children leave home, you might well have worked out how to live happily with your partner, either through years of practice or as a second time around with the benefit of more life lived, or if you are single you may have got to the stage where you are comfortable with where life has taken you.  You probably know what is important to you by then and you probably care less about what others think.  You are probably more comfortable than you have ever been in your own skin, even if it is a bit wrinklier than it used to be.

Yesterday I was walking down to the river with my son's dog trotting along in front and my grandson at my side and thinking about happiness.  It is interesting how the life and energy which children and dogs bring can so easily tip over into the sensation of being overwhelmed when you have too much on your plate.  When that happens all the sense of yourself is squeezed away by the weight of duty: work, family, domestic and professional life all queueing up to take a bit of you until you are worn away, stretched as tight and thin as an old handkerchief, practically see through when you hold yourself up to the light.

But take all those things away and what is life for really?  Doing the washing up?  Wandering around a tidy garden that nobody sees?  Getting to the stage of planning your life around what is on the television and circling your favourite programmes with a blue biro?

Maybe that is why is so much easier to be happy in your fifties.  At least for me now I have more time than I ever had.  I work but not all the time so I can look after son's dog for a month which a year ago would have been inconceivable.  I can look after my just four year old grandson one day a week and make lemon cake with him and let him take his time to climb slowly up from the river, being a mountaineer.  But then he goes home and I have my own time again, to sow seeds and populate the windowsills with them, to read, to go to yoga, to share a bottle of pink fizz with my husband, just because.


  1. Exactly so. I'd rather have something like "She really lived her life" on my gravestone than "She always kept an immaculate house". Your grandson will thank you for your time spent building memories for him of his happy childhood.

  2. That's me, just a tatty old nose-wipe :D

  3. Yep. No one ever said on their deathbed, 'Oh, I do wish I'd spent more time creating spreadsheets/ironing pillowcases/
    stuffing mushrooms.'

  4. True, true, Elizabeth.
    I had my grandson a day a week for his first summer - now he's on the other end of the continent and I treasure the memories of that time and the bond we developed. I have to admit that I still sometimes feel stretched with work and my parents (who live in town each winter)but Pondside is, at the end of the day a retreat for me.

  5. All so very true. The time spent with grandchildren especially. I just need Lord M to buy the pink fizz.

  6. I never realized that growing old is a joyful thing until it happened to me.

  7. A lovely, thought-provoking post.

  8. I love that description of being stretched thin... actually I do feel like that at the moment. Came over here at mention of pink fizz wanting to be cheered up. Thank you.

  9. How true - though I still find my self busy, busy, busy. The mystery is how did I ever find time to go out and work?

  10. That, Elizabeth, is all so true! Many many years ago, some friends of my parents came from Switzerland and when they were asked how they are doing, the man said: HA, now that I am passed fifty and being in the best financial age...blablaba... life cannot be any better! Since then, I was looking forward to getting to that age. I am thankful ot have reached it.
    All what you have said, says it so well! And we too, have from time to time a bottle of pink bubbly shared between us :-). Cheers!

  11. E, what day are you going to Malvern???

  12. Yes, recognise so much of all this. Especially the being stretched thinly bit. But I am also happier than I have ever been so the fifties must extend into the sixties and maybe into the seventies too, though the key must be a degree of business. People must be needing something from me even if its only labels or a bit of writing. We are like sharks I think we have to keep moving to stay alive - not physically moving but mentally moving, discovering new things about ourselves and about others, discovering new places and facts and skills, pushing back the boundaries as though they were a kind of invasive knotweed that will strangle us if we rest for a moment.
    Wonderfully intelligent post as always.

  13. Oh, Elizabeth - I think you're so right about being happier as you get older. I think one's twenties and thirties are much overrated, and by the time you've lived a little, you get to realise what's important in life. Sounds as though you have got your work/life balance just right (think I need a touch more pink fizz in mine!)


    PS One think I can guarantee won't be on my gravestone is "she kept ann immaculate house". "She drank a bit too much pink fizz," possibly...

  14. Obviously, I meant 'thing'. Durr.


  15. I am certainly happier as I get older; more confident in myself too.

    I suppose in a perfect world I'd be happy to be 27 again, but with my current wisdom (such as it is) and house and kids .... Dream on.

  16. Rachel - it is fascinating listening to my children talk about the time they spent in Devon with their grandparents. Those times clearly produce many of their most vivid memories. Would be good to be able to do the same for ours!
    Kath - you and me both.
    Fran - wiping worksurfaces, paying bills, and all those things, necessary though they are.
    Pondside - I am sure you have made a bond that will last and I am also sure you must be stretched by all you do but you seem to have a good balance to me!
    LM - there can never be too much pink fizz.
    MNG - I agree, joyful might sound an odd word for it, but it is true.
    HM - thank you. I do tend to wander around musing when I am not just wandering around.
    Chris - I think the feeling of being too stretched is a dreadfully familiar one to many of us. Look after yourself.
    Mountainear - I know, I am puzzled myself!
    Bayou - ah I had the sense you had got it right.
    SS - snap then.
    Milla - have emailed you.
    Fennie - I agree wholeheartedly about the human need to strive and stretch, and yet not to end up like the overstretched old hankie.
    LBD - it is funny isn't it? I had a great time when I was younger but somehow I am happier now.
    Mark - ah well that's the conundrum isn't it? You can't have what you have now and be 27 and if you have to choose, I would choose my own such as it is wisdom, home, family and kids. That's the way it goes.

  17. So agree with you, Elizabeth - the best is yet to be!

  18. Perfect sense! I am just glad I have lived this long to see what its like!! Live for today - enjoy the moment.

  19. Bother. I've done it all wrong and I'm not happy. Not really. I don't want to cast a pall on things but I think I will, none the less, contribute from another perspective because . . . well, because it is from another perspective.

    When I was younger, I had little - but I didn't mind. Now I am older, I still have little - and I do. (Mind.) I've become more materialistic because I don't have many materials! I didn't used to mind that I hadn't seen the world because it was a life choice not to be rich. Now, I chastise myself for not making use of my time on earth to take a look around. I think I've been irresponsible. I think I've been sitting in a theatre with my back to the stage.

    It's tantalising. I have food and shelter and a happy family that I am happy to be with and, though it surprises and hurts me to say it, I think being able to do things is more important to happiness than one's age. Having a big bank of memories to draw on is important and I don't think I've put enough in that bank!

    When my children leave home, I will have to leave home too and move to a smaller house. I wish I was on the way up, not down!

    And now I can't decide . . . if I had lived in previous era - would I have been more settled because the internet wouldn't be beckoning me to see the world? Or would I have been less settled because I wouldn't have been able to do it vicariously through blogs?

    Because tone of voice isn't easily conveyed in writing - I say all this as a sorrowful observation, not a moan or a grump.


  20. With the economy the way it is, and the fact that I'm 43 and can't even open a savings account due to the fact that every cent that comes in is already heading out the door to pay a bill, I will probably be working until I drop dead at my desk. I think retirement for most middle aged, lower-middle income folks in the USA is just a pipe dream at this point.

    There's a cheerful thought for ya!

    I'm glad someone somewhere will be pottering around in their garden, reading books, and drinking champagne with their husband. It cheers my heart to think so.

  21. I do so enjoy your words of wisdom Elizabeth. I shall look forward to my fifties now - they sound like a very good place to be. I've been thinking of you whilst gardening recently - the connections made whilst blogging are such a great pleasure.

  22. I agree with your every word and funnily enough had been thinking along the same lines recently.

  23. Molly - I agree, it is strange as one is conscious of what has gone, to feel so comfortable with where one is. Sorry, sound like the Prince of Wales.
    Twiglet - live for today is exactly it.
    Esther - I have been lucky. I have travelled. I have worked and achieved, by the world's standards. Maybe that makes it easier to relish a smaller stage. In fact I am sure it does, but I doubt your choices have been wrong, or represent sitting with your back to the stage. We are human and will always yearn for something more. You might want to have done more. I might want to have spent less time dancing to someone else's tune.
    Marcheline - that is a truly generous response. I can't retire but I do have the luxury of doing less, principally by virtue of having moved out here and because I am lucky and, even though I have been seriously short of money in the past, did manage to buy a house once, half crucifying myself in the process. I hope you get some time to yourself as the future unrolls.
    Silver pebble - thank you. It is good to be here. Might be just me, might be just luck, but I like it.
    Cait - ah, I am pleased you are thinking these thoughts too.

  24. Very true! Life is all about relationships and being true to what you care about.

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