One of my favorite authors is Bill Bryson. One might consider him a memoirist and/or humorist, but I just find his writing engaging and he makes me chuckle. In his book Notes from a Small Island (1995), he shares a list of three reasons never to be unhappy. Please read the book (especially if you are an American who's spent any significant time in the UK) to flesh these out, but his list boils down to:
- " ... you were born. This was in itself a remarkable achievement."
- " ... you are alive. For the tiniest moment in the span of eternity you have the miraculous privilege to exist."
- " ... you have plenty to eat. You live in a time of peace."
One could take issue with any of these, of course. And I am especially aware that number three is simply not true for a significant portion of our human population. I think that Mr. Bryson was addressing primarily his readers (through himself, in a way) and not trying to expound universal truths. I think it's probably also relatively safe to say that if you are actually reading this, you're probably doing okay in terms of daily caloric intake and lack of gun fire in your immediate vicinity. That is not meant in any way to down play the horrors of any past, current, or future violence anywhere on the planet. Actually, it's meant to emphasize how lucky many of us are that we can write and read online blog posts instead of worrying about basic safety and shelter and water and food. We should never take that privilege for granted, and we should use that realization to increase our general sense of happiness.
I'd like to add a fourth item of my own. I don't think it's profound or even particularly impressive. But it's the kind of thing that helps me remain positive, happy, and optimistic about my tomorrows. Maybe you too.
4. You are connected to other people.
I can't really define "connected" very well here. I am using it to cover a range of things, from deep and devoted love, through distant relatives, to business-only associates - and just about everything in between. But life is happier, richer, and more satisfying when you have a sense of the intricate web of relationships that is woven all around you. People need people. We are social animals, we are happiest in our herd.
My herd has nearly always been "runners". Now, as I adapt to a new normal, my familiar herd is out-pacing me and I fear I'm falling behind. But what's amazing is that all I really need to do is to open my eyes to the complete herd in its full range - not just those few who are prancing away like gazelles, but also all of those who find joy and meaning in simple movement, pace-per-mile be damned. Being a runner is a self-defined identity, and our herd has always accepted any member who says "I'm in". Yet another thing to love about our sport.
I'll be what competitive cyclists call "pack fodder" now, just a face in the crowd - no longer aiming to win, place, or show in any races. Considering the alternative, I'll definitely take it. One step at a time.