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Dressing Like Santa

Someone must have realized that my Sunday column has degenerated into an ongoing lament about middle age, because I got in the mail the bound galleys of a book titled "The 100 Simple Secrets of the Best Half of Life," by David Niven, Ph.d. (I'm not sure if he includes the Ph.d. in his name to distinguish himself from the great English actor or to make us realize he's an expert). A quick glance at the book indicates that the second half of life is the one that the author contends is the best half. Offhand I'm trying to think of what you get in the second half that's as cool as the thing you get in the first half (youth), but then I'm no Ph.d.

The second half, from my nervous fortysomething perspective, looks as though it has some rewards (unlimited golf, experimentation with hats, forcing people to listen to your semi-frabricated tales of adventures half a century earlier), but also some serious travails (college tuition bills, hip replacement, death). Clearly I needed a pep talk, and this book has provided it.

The opening chapter is "Happiness is Not an Accident" and it tells the story of "Patrick."

Patrick had a neighbor who dressed up as Santa every year and visited the neighbor kids. But one year the neighbor had a cold, and asked Patrick to fill in for him.

"When I put on the suit, I actually felt like Santa Claus," Patrick reported. "It was a truly magical feeling."

The author writes that Patrick got so involved with the role of Santa that he upgraded to a top-of-the-line Santa suit. He expanded his Santa visits to area hospitals. He has been Santa now for decades. He found happiness in the Santa suit.

So there you have it: You have to make your own happiness. You have to generate your own joy. And possibly you have to buy a costume. I am thinking I am going to be Thor, the God of Thunder. (It is hard to imagine how a person could be unhappy while wearing a cape.)

By Joel Achenbach  |  April 14, 2005; 1:56 PM ET
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