Another birthday passes and my mind checks its internal gauges for insight into the state of its union. Mental, physical, emotional. The goal is healthy balance. The goal is quality of life. The goal is to feel acutely and correctly the experience as it happens and to learn from what has gone before.
That has not always been the goal. Once upon a time the goal was a good story, didn't necessarily care how the yarn was crafted, just that the finished product was a compelling tapestry I would be proud of. I wanted to be 80 on the veranda chuckling to myself about how it all played out.
It is definitely interesting. Hopefully I will chuckle, but I forgot to imagine what it would feel like on the way through,so the way through feels unfamiliar far more frequently than I would like. I thought interesting meant adventure and intrigue. I wasn't smart enough to realize that you don't get to just observe life and tell it as a tale when you are older. You have to live life and life will change your parts around, alter your context and understanding and you have to convince yourself that you know who "you" are both before and after the shifting. Oh, and the shifting, the subtle persistent, pervasive shifting is far harder to grasp than the big earthquakes. You remember the earthquakes. You remember what was before and you can see what is after, but the shifting offers no such reference and no conclusion. So I realized that and I changed the goals and I try to recognize this as what life is so that it might be easier to embrace. Love is a powerful thing, but it is a powerful thing and as with all powerful things, it should be approached with respect for its power.
A widely-publicized study from 2008 in the British Medical Journal reported that happiness in social networks may spread from person to person. Researchers followed nearly 5000 individuals for 20 years in the long-standing Framingham Heart Study and found clusters of happiness and unhappiness that spread up to 3 degrees of separation on average. Happiness tended to spread through close relationships like friends, siblings, spouses, and next-door neighbors, and the researchers reported that happiness spread more consistently than unhappiness through the network. Moreover, the structure of the social network appeared to have an impact on happiness, as people who were very central (with many friends and friends of friends) were significantly more likely to be happy than those on the periphery of the network. Overall, the results suggest that happiness might spread through a population like a virus.