Wednesday, January 14, 2009

What Makes You Happy?

What makes people happy? And , what is the secret to happiness, if there is any.

This is a question that has been debated, discussed , answered in so many different ways by great religious, political, literary personalities, philosophers and ordinary people over the centuries, but it seems that even at present, we have not come up with the one answer that could satisfy everybody.

A very close friend of mine who originally came from Southeast Asia who is from a very affluent family once told me that money can buy happiness. He said with money you can live luxuriously and even buy love. I argued vehemently against this view. He retorted back , by asking me how many young women in this generation would refuse to marry somebody if they were offered a mansion, ten million dollars cash, 1 million in shopping allowance a month, the spa, house help. Not many, I answered.

Another friend who is a Moslem said - Allah. Dave, a co-worker who is also a runner (he specializes in shorter distances - the 5k and 10k) proclaimed that Jesus Christ is the only way to happiness. Jeff, another co-worker suggested that there is no God and no heaven so just make yourself happy by pampering yourself with a big house, nice car, good food, nice clothes, a pretty wife, booze , as long as you can while alive because when you die, that is it. That is the end.

Monty, another close friend, who actually I consider my mentor (he was first to encourage me to try running) shared to me his one experience that made him feel so much happiness. He said, that one time, his 5 year old daughter surprised him by jumping on his back and playfully tried to choke him by the neck. So, he played along, pretending that he was getting hurt and fainting. And, then they both started laughing and hugging, and then out of the blue his daughter blurted out, " I love you Dad". He asked his little girl, "Why do you say that ?" . His daughter looked at him affectionately and with an innocent smile said, "because you're a good Dad". My friend confided to me that hearing those words from his daughter was one of the happiest moments in his life.

My sister-in-law and my wife jokingly said give them more shopping money (they're really sisters) and they will be happy. My two daughters on the other hand, would be happy if we could eat out more often in our favorite Japanese restaurant and If I could pay half of their vacation expenses to Paris in March .

I am pretty sure for my runner friends, a new PR, finishing a longer race or running a dream race would make them happy (just like me).

Some people may understandably choose fame, beauty (good looks), intellect, success in their chosen profession, physical prowess/skill or a combination of these as reason/s for their happiness.

One day, while driving home with my "rich friend" (we carpooled that day) , he confided to me that although he has everything a man needs to be happy, money, big house, healthy beautiful children, a good wife, a big inheritance he was expecting from his parents (he's the oldest son), he does not feel happy. He then asked me, "Are you happy?". Considering that my friend was much better off than me financially, I was surprised by the question and I surprised myself even more by answering truthfully, "Yes, I am ."

I remember my late mother telling me that for one to live a happy life, he has to be a good person. A good person has to take care of himself first, so he could take care of his family, relatives and friends, his neighbors, his community. You also choose your friends and try to surround yourself with good and happy people. Happiness is contagious, and when you're with happy, optimistic, kindhearted people you become just like them. She also taught me that when you do good to your fellowmen, you feel good about yourself, and good things happen to you. Another advice that she gave me is to try to live a simple life and not to be too materialistic. If one is contented to live simply, he would not have to perpetually try to keep up with the Joneses. Lastly, engage in activities that you love that are fun, clean, wholesome and healthy .

These are ideas from my mother that I try to adhere to and live by.

So, why am I happy? Simply, because I try to be a good person , I live a very simple life and I try to surround myself with good and happy people. In addition , I was lucky to discover and get into a sport that attracts the friendliest, smartest, most health/fitness conscious, optimistic, supportive and happiest people around - running.

What about you, what makes you happy?


Sunday, January 11, 2009

A Long Run On A Sunny Sunday Morning In The Snowy Roads of Markham

I woke up this morning to prepare for my running club's Sunday long run at 7:00 am. Last night, before going to bed at 11:00 pm, I had my Garmin 305, water/fuel belt, 4 layers of clothing , toque, socks all ready for a quick get away in the morning.

I quickly finished my breakfast of oatmeal, almond nuts and cherries , took a quick hot shower to awaken the sleeping muscles, got dressed, checked everything and as I opened my front door , felt the sunshine and cold wind on my face with the outside of my house looking like this -

I arrived at the Runningroom around 8:20, took my camera with me ( I could not waste not taking pictures of probably the coldest of our winter long runs) and had some pictures taken of Isaac (my clinic instructor), Greg (my clinic mate of a year ago) and myself before the run.

Greg (left), Isaac (middle) and myself had our picture taken in front of the Runningroom. We then all congregated inside the Runningroom, where runners went to their respective groups. After a few minutes of discussing about running routes and distances, everybody went out in the bright sunlight but cold morning of winter , and then each group went their separate ways. I decided to go with Isaac to do 6k and add another 8k after.

We ran with a slow pace most of the time just conversing with the runner closest to you and just enjoyed the bright sunny day, the beautiful snow on the ground, and each others company. Every now and then I ran separately from or ahead of the group to take some pictures telling everybody jokingly to see their pictures at the next issue of Runner's World Magazine.

We returned back at the Runningroom in 49:38. Isaac, Greg, Felicia, Nadine and myself then started doing our extra ks. Originally, the plan was for us to run another 8 kilometers. But after just 2ks, I felt tired and had to part ways with them and I decided to run back to the Runningroom. My Garmin showed a time of 1:21:57 for a total of 10.22 ks.

It felt so good driving back home knowing that I just completed another beautiful, sunny (although cold) Sunday long run in the snow covered streets of Markham.

After another warm shower, I sat down contentedly on my couch, drank my hot coffee with triple cream ( I can afford to do it- I just ran 10k), and just like every Sunday morning, enjoyed reading the day's newspapers.

The icing on the cake today - enjoying my rice and sinigang while watching Wowwowee.

Life is so good when you're a runner.