TORRANCE, CALIFORNIA – Just before 9 a.m. on February 18, the ExxonMobil refinery in Torrance, California exploded, shaking the surrounding community with the force of a 1.7 magnitude earthquake, and sending a quarter ton of sulfur oxide gas into the atmosphere. With the capacity to refine more than 150,000 barrels of gasoline a day, the facility supplies nearly 10 percent of the state’s gasoline supply, and its reduced capacity increased the cost of filling up a tank of gas in California by 6 to 10 cents per gallon.
Workers inside the refinery likened the incident to a “loud sonic boom,” and soon roughly 50 firefighters were battling a three-alarm fire. First responders initially feared the possibility of radioactive materials at the scene, though that concern was ruled out some three hours after the initial explosion.
I have not abandoned my effort to compete for the title of Happiest Man In The World. To the contrary, I am training more diligently than ever.
An important part of my training is going for long walks as often as I can. I prefer the woods and the beaches. I don’t think it really matters where I go, or how fast I walk, as long as I walk for long enough. Over an hour and a half and less than 3 hours seems about right. I begin early in the morning, hopefully before 6:30 am. At that time, the sun is low in the sky and birds are still singing their morning cantatas. The air is sweet. It’s cool. In fact, it’s perfect. Even when it’s raining. It brings me happiness.
Soon, later in this month, I hope to go on vacation. This is an important part of my training. When I’m on vacation I do very little. I read. I write. I swim. I day dream. I increase my meditation. I increase my walking. Some people have suggested that the sloth might be my totem animal. But they are wrong. I never voluntarily climb trees. I do not hang from my appendages. Instead, I turn my focus more exclusively on the beautiful planet we all live on. I explore my feelings of gratitude. I see where inspiration might be. I do only what I am called to. Mostly, I’m just being. And just being brings restoration and freshness. And yes, happiness.
I’ve been known to rant here. And to argue against what the Government is doing or not accomplishing. That has sometimes made me happy, made me feel that I was speaking the truth to power. Even though in all likelihood power wasn’t reading anything I wrote. But that kind of writing can also be exhausting, and at some point, it can be frustrating. Frustration doesn’t make me happy. Nor does exhaustion. So a change of course might be restorative.
You don’t have to go to exotic places to have a vacation. You don’t have to be rich. You can stay home, and have a vacation. What you need is some time, enough time that you can put your usual, daily life briefly on pause, and collect yourself. Time to refresh yourself. Time to think less habitual thoughts. Time to assess and appraise. Time to care for yourself.
None of this is earth shaking. None of this is particularly controversial. I’m saying it because the season lends itself to slowing down, to disconnecting briefly, to taking a break. I’ll take a break in a couple of weeks. And I hope that will make me happier.
What would make me most happy, I think, is if everyone could take a break and come back in the Fall excited to continue, rested, energetic. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?