Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Chasing after happiness

For the average American, it’s hard to smile right now amid our country’s economic, energy, political, moral and leadership crises, which we’re all feeling in one way or another.

"Sold Out," a 1929 cartoon by Rollin Kirby that depicted the fall-out from the Crash of 1929.

Our 401Ks are tumbling. I can’t bear the thought of how far ours have dropped in recent weeks.

We face the real prospect of a credit freeze that will devastate many (but not all) American families, farmers, entrepreneurs and businesses of all shapes and sizes.

We’re still paying out the nose for gas--and some folks in the southeast can't even find it. (As I write this post, my parents and my brother and sister-in-law, like almost every Atlanta resident, are having a hell of hard time finding a gas station with gas, thanks to the hurricanes.)

No one in Washington has a clue. Sting was right about at least one thing—most politicians just look and act like game-show hosts. President Bush might as well be Richard Dawson. “Survey says!” And our members of Congress are like the audience on “The Price is Right”; they’re thirsty for fame and fortune and, when the call finally comes, they come running down the aisle and make an ass of themselves spinning the wheel and hoping for a shot at the "Showcase Showdown."

Our country isn’t respected in the world. Rodney Dangerfield wasn’t respected, either, but he was at least liked. Some say, “Who cares if the world likes or respects us? We’re right!” My response: “When you’re surrounded by those who want to hurt you, don’t you want friends with you? Who else would have your back?”

Times are tough.

In times likes these, I think one’s family, faith and passion(s) sustain them.

If I were a guy whose daily life consisted mostly of eating, sleeping, working and watching 24-hour cable-news (I am guilty of watching a lot of news--just ask Anne) and the other crap on TV, I think right now I’d feel overwhelmed with angst and might not want to get out of bed in the morning.

Don’t get me wrong. I get stressed and unhappy. I can be a crabby bastard. But then invariably something in my life intervenes on my behalf—Anne, our son Noah, my family, my job and, of course, running and the healthy exhaustion it brings.

Sometimes I wake up in the morning stressed about the day's coming challenges--traffic, deadlines, etc. But then 8 or 9 miles later, I’m feeling ready for anything (including more running) and rocking to AC/DC or Bon Jovi on the drive into work. The next day brings the same.

Right now I’m sick. I’m suffering from a bad case of the aches and a sore throat. And yet I am running because I need to run. I’m at 37 miles for the week and looking for over 90. If I run 90 miles for the week, that’s about 12 hours of living in a stress-free vacuum—12 hours of not hearing the noise around us.

What if everyone had 12 hours a week of stress-free living? Would the world be a happier place?

What if the idiots in Washington experienced 12 hours of insulation from stress every week? Would they still act like spoiled children toying with the future of our country? Or would they have some perspective and get along?

What if the people you see out in the world who look like ticking time bombs—you know, those red-faced souls who exude all the happiness of an ogre—had 12 hours of stress-free time every week? Would they still look like an explosion waiting to happen, or would they look happy and healthy?

Yes, in times like these, when it would appear the nation and world around us are coming apart at the seams, it is a good thing we have running. It is a good thing artists have canvas and paints, cooks have pots and pans, swimmers have pools, nature enthusiasts have parks and wildlife, and so forth.

Happiness--it doesn’t find you. You have to find it. And when it evades you, chase after it and don’t give up.

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