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The Many Faces of Happiness

How to make the best of the rest of your life

I've been feeling grumpy lately. Work pressures, home pressures. Who can hope and dream (as AARP encourages us to do) when we've got bills, bosses and bad backs to worry about? So I asked three of my favorite fun folks what makes them so content. Leading a charmed life can help, but my friend John — we worked together at Fortune magazine — was diagnosed with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) last May. Dianne puts her passion for healthy aging to work at Keiro Senior HealthCare in L.A. My sister-in-law Bonnie learned as a military wife to put her happy "game face" on — and keep it on. Whatever your situation, these three show that you can make the best of the rest of your life.

Name: John Curran
Age: 59
Job:
News director, Bloomberg.com

In his own words: Seven months ago I was diagnosed with a terminal illness. It doesn't make me unhappy, though. Why? High on the list is a family that loves me. So, too, is my church, which, combined with faith, gives me an abiding feeling of optimism that my being does not end when the heart finally stops. My employer remains supportive, so I have good health insurance. Notice that only one of the three pillars of my happiness is money-related. (I'd add here that my 12-year-old car squeaks loudly when you put it in reverse. So I'm not wealthy.) At its core, my happiness rests on a spiritual life, a sense of purpose and — oh, yes — a sense of humor. In this life, where beauty fades, wealth wreaks more havoc than happiness and death awaits us all, if you can't laugh about the journey's ups and downs, you'll fret. And who wants to worry?

Name: Dianne Belli
Age:
60
Job: Senior care

In her own words: Am I happier now than when I was younger? I have a lot more to feel grateful about. I have the experience to know that life goes on in the face of extreme challenges. Time has burnished the love I feel for my work — helping the Asian American community age with confidence — and the people in my life. Also, my husband, Joe, and I enjoy trying new things: We have been dancing the Argentine tango for five years!

Name: Bonnie Perry
Age:
70
Job:
School librarian

In her own words: I approach my life in a positive way. It's something I inherited from my 100-year-old mother. I stay informed and relevant. My 40s on has been the happiest time of my life. I began to mature. I started a master's in library science. When I returned to Charleston, South Carolina, 20 years ago, they needed a librarian for a Catholic K-8 school. What a joy! The children are always eager to learn. It helps that my grandchildren attend the school — an incentive to keep working.

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