At a dinner party I attended recently, someone coined the phrase “the bitter years” to refer to that period of life when cynicism starts to take its toll. “You've been burned in marriage, suffered a business failure or two, you realize that there's no magic pill to lose weight, and you get bored easily. Life just wears you down.” Astonishingly, to me at least, most everyone present agreed that the bitter years begin in the 40s.
As I see it, the bitter years begin any time you stop being excited about life. It’s so easy to allow that to happen. Everywhere we look we're bombarded by media. The Internet is exploding, music is louder, movies have become special-effects spectacles. Not only are we overloaded, but we have come to expect constant diversion and amusement. It's up to the world, we think, to entertain us.
The truth, however, is that it's up to us to notice life's little moments and pleasures as a way of staying involved. I can't count the number of times I've taken the same hike along the same trail in the mountains, always finding something new to appreciate ? the outline of a tree against the sky, cloud formations, animal tracks, etc. And yet, friends who've accompanied me as few as three times will comment that they're bored with the hike. Just as they got bored with jogging or weight training or aerobics.
In my experience, people who are enthusiastic about life are connected to something that excites them. And that could even be life itself - living the ideal that every moment is ripe with possibility and promise. So try letting that promise and sense of adventure sweep over you the next time you feel bored with life. Stop to consider the silence, the smells, the sights. Build a snowman or a sandcastle. Appreciate a sunset. Reawaken the childlike delights within you.
And when you move your body, experience the motion of your limbs as something pleasurable by realizing how blessed you are to have that freedom. Remember, the bitter years are a state of mind. And so is happiness.