Redefining the Good Life

Wednesday, August 17th, 8a.m. Looking out my home office window at blue sky and the Black Hills. One of the best starts to a day imaginable.

5:45a trail run with the boys. 49 degrees. Semi-dark on the first loop, then dawn for reals, and a second foot-loose and fancy-free one. Can’t remember much of what we talked about–Danos b-day, the Seattle tunnel vote, Black Swan, Rick Perry wanting to use drones on the border, the eleventh grade 6’5″, 270 lb defensive tackle at Tumwater HS.

Near the end, I decided to treat the labradude to a pre-breakfast trip to the lake. He LOVES fetching in the water, but in the late afternoon he has to contend with fishing lines and swimmers. His walking partner has been at camp so he’s under-exercised. Off we went, ring tucked in the back of my shorts, three-quarters of a mile downhill to the lake.

Perfect. No-one in sight. Unleash him, pop the ring in his mouth, and he Usain Bolts it to the lake’s edge. A razor thin layer of wispy fog rests listlessly three-four feet above the water. Seventh or eighth throw goes a little farther than normal and he can’t pick it out, so he just kind of paces the shoreline, perplexed. Gradually, it drifts farther offshore. Now it’s in the low 50’s and my sweat has dried, but what can I do but strip down to the running shorts and retrieve it myself. We swim after it side-by-side, my head down, his up (note to self: become world famous by teaching Mdawg to swim with his head in the water, breathing to the side).

Shirt, sweatshirt, socks, shoes back on, I prep for the final throw, the one where once he’s got it I book up the gravel road, knowing he’ll close the gap in a blink of the eye. He’s paying such good attention, he gets to run home without the leash. Buries me on the last hill, ring still in his mouth. I pry it loose and he fetches the paper. Towel him off and he charges in the house to find his momma.

Even though I’m probably less materialistic than average, I’m still susceptible to the fallacy that our consumer culture is based upon: If I just owned x and y and z, I’d be tons happier. My x, y, and z shift over time, but are often a nice car, a house on the lake or sound, and/or a new bicycle.

Lots of research shows a positive correlation between individuals’ and countries’ economic security and happiness or what is sometimes referred to as “subjective well-being”. But there’s a tipping point, a point of diminishing returns where more economic security doesn’t lead to any more happiness. Maybe the simplest way to put it is members of the (shrinking) middle class evaluate their life situations more positively than members of the lower, but upper classers don’t report much if any more satisfaction than middle classers.

Found a nice house with amazing views of the sound a few months ago and got real close to making an offer. It’s about eight miles out of town, eleven from the start and end of our regular weekday morning runs. We still may end up moving into that hood, but that will mean a twenty-two mile roundtrip every Saturday to reconnect with the boys. That will also mean a different kind of start to the weekdays. Running with just my thoughts. Yikes.

Sure I could make new running friends, but the boys and I run at the exact same pace, their conservative politics are a constant source of entertainment, no one can bust balls as well, and now we have a history that can’t be replicated.

This morning I was reminded that it’s friendships, community, and nature that bring the greatest joy. And good health. No question about it, take my friends, my doggie, and my lake away and replace them with a nice new car, house, and bike and I won’t be nearly as happy. The only question is how long will this insight stick?


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