Clouds and thoughts
“The thoughts that occur to me while I’m running are like clouds in the sky. Clouds of all different sizes. They come and they go, while the sky remains the same sky always. The clouds are mere guests in the sky that pass away and vanish, leaving behind the sky.” — Haruki Murakami
Skulls, bloody ghosts, old chests, and eerie sounds added mystery to our visit to the Enchambered escape room on Martin Luther King’s Day. We went there to celebrate my daughter’s 15th birthday a day early since our kids were off from school.
After a short presentation, we were escorted to the Skull Witch room from where we had an hour to escape. Our kids were quick to find clues to open doors and locks and solve various puzzles, but I felt stuck between reality and fantasy. As my family scrambled to escape the room but only completed about 70 percent of the final task, I could not help thinking about happiness clues that I could easily decipher by looking at the clouds during my runs and being outdoors.
This is just temporary, or this too shall pass
“Even if it is very foggy, cloudy, or stormy, the blue sky is always there for us, above the clouds.” — Thich Nhat Hanh
A Persian adage, “this too shall pass,” has been reassuring for me together with “it could be worse” Hallmark message inscribed next to a sad bulldog that I had bought many years ago in my late 20s.
As clouds cover the sky in various colors and dimensions, we seek to catch a glimpse of its blue vastness. Yet, knowing that the sky is always there gives us infinite hope and renewed optimism, even though as Gregory Jantz, Ph.D. points out in his article Choosing Gratitude and Optimism, seeing past the clouds is not easy to accomplish: “the change from pessimism to optimism takes effort and practice. Your optimistic muscles have atrophied while your pessimistic muscles are as pumped up as a bodybuilder’s.”
In my case, being a lover of clouds, nature, and exercise has shifted my views and perspectives lending to my pessimistic muscles to be as pumped as a bodybuilder’s and my pessimistic ones to be atrophied.
Surrender your soul to serenity
“You must not blame me if I talk to the clouds.” — Thoreau
And you must not blame me if I surrender my soul to serenity just like I did while running trails stopping from time to time to admire the sky and the narrow paths leading to the lake.
I have run about 4,400 miles in the last two years, losing and finding myself on life’s paths while chatting with my runner friends, writing poems in my head, and running with joy and gratitude.
Miles of smiles. Smiling through miles with serenity.
Staying fit and healthy was a gift during these challenging times when I sought to regain my soul through divine dives into nature every chance I had.
Give me dirt, sky, clouds, and a pair of running shoes as clues to escape life’s despondent moments.
The escape room is not needed, but the clouds in the sky are a must for me.
Renew your friends
“The clouds — the only birds that never sleep.” — Victor Hugo
Our genuine friends are also birds that never sleep, as they cheer on us whenever we need more support than the clouds.
During these past two years when we weren’t sure if we can hug our friends, or even be close to them, I met three truly wonderful women — all runners, moms, and professionals like me. We support each other’s dreams, and we push each other toward greatness.
For instance, the only reason I am expressing my thoughts on clouds and happiness on Medium is because of Deirdre, one of my new wonderful friends, who is also the host of my favorite podcast Dying to Ask. She inspired me to start writing on Medium and I am so glad I listened.
Once schools reopened, my high school kids started to make new friends who also inspired them to join clubs, get their driver’s license, and even start working part-time.
Having ambitious friends who push us towards greatness is equal to greater happiness and a deeper sense of belonging to the community, as Susan Kraus Whitbourne, Ph.D. also points out in her article Fifteen Reasons We Need Friends: “there are many perks of friendship include sharpening your mind, making you generally happier, knowing yourself better, becoming inspired to reach your goals, advancing your career, helping you meet romantic partners, and living a longer and healthier life.”
Live and laugh
“Always laugh when you can. It is cheap medicine. “— Lord Byron
Last week, I was on a solo run, which rarely happens, since I run with my friends most of the time, and listened to a great podcast Why great leaders take humor seriously. I found out that laughter releases important chemicals in our brains, which are similar to the feelings we get from meditation, being in nature, and having sex.
As a child growing up in Romania, I learned to tell jokes and laugh a lot with my family and friends, as a way to overcome the strictures of the communist regime. We didn’t have much in those times, but laughter helped us all cope and even thrive during oppressive times when our parents had to stand in long lines to buy food, as well as not express any inciting ideas against the communist regime.
Adopting humor early on in my life has been a blessing, as I have learned to make fun of many situations that could bring dark clouds into my soul.
“If we always helped one another, no one would need luck.” — Sophocles
Helping others provides sustenance to our souls and theirs, for it feels good to know that someone can breathe easier because of something kind and useful that we did for that person.
The beauty of helping others is that we can all do it, no matter our material means and social status. We can easily provide help by:
- Making someone smile and laugh.
- Sharing our contacts and resources.
- Recommending and lending them a book.
- Going for a walk/hike/run and listening to someone who needs to be comforted.
- Going out for lunch to connect and exchange ideas, laughter, and hugs.
- Volunteering in our community. Our high school kids are part of the International Baccalaureate program, and they have to volunteer for a certain number of hours every year. They have planted trees, helped feed the elderly, clean up our beautiful bike trail, and made a difference in our community while bonding with their friends and classmates doing this together.
With research showing that it is better to give than to receive, I also believe that the Chinese saying “if you want happiness for an hour, take a nap. If you want happiness for a day, go fishing. If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune. If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody” encapsulates the magnitude of giving our time and resources as much and often as we can.
Although I have not found clues in the Skull Witch escape room with my family, I found wisdom and serenity in knowing that “this too shall pass.” I also found joy in making new friends, laughter, and a renewed urge to help my community even more just by watching clouds form beautiful formations in the sky while running with friends.
When in doubt, watch the clouds carefully and find your own happiness clues for 2022 and beyond. No escape room is needed, other than the great outdoors.
For more poetic musings and short form philosophy, please check out my new book Morsels of Love, A Book of Poetry and Short-Form that just got published. Enjoy!