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a woman cuddles her dog
Jane Isay
August 11, 2022

The Four Secrets of a Contented Life

I share them with pleasure.

It makes a big difference to live with a non-speaking, non-judgmental living being.

Until Covid hit, I was engaged and productive. I was lonely sometimes, but mostly too busy to notice. When the doors closed in March 2020, I suddenly felt isolated. I couldn’t be with my children and grandkids, and everybody wore masks, so I didn’t see a mouth for months.

Like most people, I got used to it. And during this time, I discovered the four secrets of a contented life. I share them with pleasure.


I should have known how wonderful naps are. When I was a kid, my very busy father swore by 10-minute naps. So does my older son. So why didn’t I nap much? I don’t know, but Covid taught me the virtues of the nap. What a simple way to refresh and restore. Now my friends also nap. “Where are you?” I ask my friend Liz when we speak in the afternoon. “In my beddie,” she replies. I picture her cats frolicking on her bed as we chat.

Chicken Soup

I used to go out to eat with friends 4 nights a week, and suddenly that wasn’t happening. It became a chore to cook. Now, alone, I couldn’t figure out in advance what I wanted to eat. Here’s where chicken soup comes in. It never fails to satisfy. I keep a stash in my freezer, and I have become a connoisseur of chicken soup take-out.  If the matzo ball soup runs out, a decent chicken soup with noodles will suffice. And if that doesn’t work, I’ll stoop to chicken soup with rice from the local diner. I know that I will never go hungry.

A Pet or a Plant

It makes a big difference to live with a non-speaking, non-judgmental living being. I was never good with plants. I would drown them in water or starve them in the sun. But dogs. Dogs love you, and they don’t criticize or judge you. Big eyes, loving looks, and only the occasional mistake. Having a living thing to love and take care of cuts my loneliness. And if I want to cry into her fur, she doesn’t mind at all. Cats, also.


This is the secret sauce of a contented life. My friend Ali and I chat. We share the ups and downs of our week. We don’t mince words. Together we are honest, vulnerable, and imperfect. Sometimes Ali cries. Me, too, and then I sigh. We both feel better. Today Ali texted me, “And thanks, as always, for a safe place to vent!” Yes. In these Covid years, many of us retired women have plenty to vent about—and not many people we can complain to. We are careful about where we complain. Our adult children may grow weary and think we are a burden. Or worse, they will offer a solution. No! We don’t want a solution. We know what to do. “It is what it is,” my friend Tina sighs. She’s right. Nobody judges, we just listen. Maybe we offer a word of encouragement. Enough said.


Don’t overlook these four secrets of contentment. Maybe they are already in your life. If that’s true, plump the pillow, sip the soup, pat the pet, and call a girlfriend.


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