When you wake up happy

Looking out the sliding glass door to the back yard.

For some unknown reason, I woke up feeling very happy. It’s not unusual for me to be in a good mood, but today I feel exceptionally hopeful. I can’t stop smiling.

I’m trying to figure out what makes today different.

• I checked the temperature on my phone and it was in the low 70s. A perfect day for a walk.

• It’s bright and sunny after a few days of dark gray clouds.

• I went to sleep early and slept through the night.

• I have an entire day without a “to do list.”

• I’ve recently spent time with friends and had visits with my kids.

• I’m backing up my files on my new laptop — which by the way — doesn’t mysteriously delete my work.

• I had my home-baked banana nut bread with coffee for breakfast. Maybe it’s the sugar in the banana bread. The recipe is from my mom’s old orange Betty Crocker cookbook. It reminds me of my childhood.

• My rewrite of my manuscript is going well. I’ve decided to tell the story from the four main characters’ points of view rather than from one.

• I’m reading an enjoyable book called “The Optimist’s Daughter” by Eudora Welty.

What little things make you feel positive and encouraged for the day?

One of my favorite spots in the house. I love to sit at the table and look outside. We moved the table and chairs from Palm Springs. It was our kitchen/dining room table for 28 years and continues on in Arizona.

What makes you happy?

brother and sister on a rock by the sea
Laguna Beach picture of my kids from around 2001.

My husband asked me to sit and watch a webinar with him yesterday. It was CE credits for him, but he thought I’d find the subject interesting. Begrudgingly, I sat with him. Surprisingly, there were a few tidbits that I found helpful.

The topic was about what makes people happy in retirement. Number one was not being stressed about money. At a certain point, when you aren’t worrying about outliving your money, more money doesn’t improve happiness. Good health is another key item.

I was surprised that friendships were near the top of the list. When people leave the workplace, they often give up their daily social interactions. I thought about this because it’s something I’m dealing with now. Since the pandemic and moving to Arizona, I don’t have the day-to-day interactions with people that I had before. Of course, I lived in California for three decades in the same house, so I had it wired. I had the swim team, women’s club, my kids’ school parents, etc. I stayed in touch with people I worked with years before and we still got together. I knew the postman, the grocery clerk and countless other people.

Moving to a new state and neighborhood, we were lucky to discover friends from Palm Springs who moved a mile away from our new home. It’s refreshing to get a last minute call and be invited over for football or dinner. And we reciprocate.

My husband had one of his closest friends two miles down the road. They were friends from their 20s and we got together every week or two since we moved. But my husband’s friend died suddenly in November from an illnesses that was not COVID. Watching the webinar, my husband muttered a few words about missing his friend.

I haven’t thought much about needing friends or a social life. I’m pretty content to sit at home and watch the birds. Sit outside and read. I didn’t really view myself as a people person. This webinar made me think about the years ahead.

It’s hard to make new friends when you’re older, not in a work environment and in a new state. The webinar convinced me to join book club, which I’ve never done before. I had gotten an invitation earlier that day. It was a sign that yes, I’d better give it a try.

Here is what I found really fascinating about the webinar: most people facing retirement think living close to their children will make them happy. In reality it doesn’t bump the needle like friendships do. It’s not even close.

What do you think will make you happy in retirement? Why do you think living close to your children doesn’t make retirees as happy as social friends?