I’ve been told there’s no better way to destroy a marriage than to invite a general contractor into your life, so when My Lovely Wife and I embarked on a modest attic renovation project several months ago, we were prepared for the worst.
Contractors never show up on time, they deploy electricians and carpenters who muddy your hallways and traumatize your cats, and then, just when you’ve accepted the fact that your life will be in chaos forever, they vanish without notice for days at time. All this can cut into your domestic bliss.
Our contractor bailed on the project after the insulation phase and turned the whole thing over to his carpenter, a very nice fellow who made an early impression on us by burying one of the electrical outlets behind a slab of sheetrock. (I gained a new respect for electricians when one of them was able to unearth the outlet without removing the wall.) What followed was a series of miscommunications (Who’s supposed to pay the electricians? We have to order the trim?), mysterious delays, and general confusion that culminated in the carpenter’s unexpected two-week vacation.
Most of this chaos fell upon MLW, who shouldered the daily burden while I escaped to the relative calm of the office. And, though she had her moments, she held up admirably — which is to say I never arrived home after work to find her sobbing quietly in a dark corner of the basement.
I chalk this up to her generally optimistic constitution, a trait I’ve had to gradually acquire from her by osmosis over the past 39 years. Neither am I, by nature, a patient fellow, so MLW has had to talk me off a (metaphoric) ledge a few times when the project bogged down.
As much as MLW deserves a large share of credit for our continued marital accord, a new study out of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst suggests our advanced age may have as much to do with surviving the project as anything else. Geezers, it seems, are simply more serene than young folks.
According to lead study author Rebecca Ready, an associate professor in the department of psychological and brain sciences, the older you get the more positively you define various emotional conditions. “Older adults report feeling more serenity than younger persons,” Ready said in a statement released by the university. “They also have a richer concept of what it means to feel serene than younger persons.”
We’re also less likely to feel bummed out by sadness or loneliness. “We were surprised to find that younger adults associated more self-deprecating terms with feeling sad and lonely, such as being ashamed or disgusted with themselves, than older persons,” Ready said.
I’m not sure what to make of all this, to be honest. Ready’s team concluded that emotions are probably more stimulating for geezers than for younger folks, as if we appreciated the occasional wake-up call. I think it has more to do with experience, the fact that the older you get the more likely it is that you’ve been through tough times and proven to yourself that you can survive. Been there, done that. No need to panic.
All of which tells me that, once MLW and I get through this attic project, that kitchen renovation is going to be a snap.