Yesterday after work I went to our local organic market to pick up some food for dinner. While in the checkout line the cashier asked me what I was up to and I replied by saying that I had just gotten off from work and was getting food for dinner. “So, your day is picking up then,” he remarked. In that instance it occurred to me that there was a teaching moment, of sorts, at hand. I replied by saying, “Well, actually I enjoy my job.” After a brief pause, as if processing an unexpected answer, he said, “You’re very fortunate. I like my job and all but if I were given the choice I’d prefer not to work.”
I found it an interesting exchange. In assuming that my workday being over was the equivalent of my day improving he was projecting his notions of happiness onto me. In telling me I was fortunate that I enjoyed my job I also got the sense that he held the belief that I must have some kind of rare, coveted position that was inherently wonderful. I don’t imagine that it ever occurred to him that I practice the art of enjoyment, that I put diligent effort everyday into this practice, and that true happiness is only possible in the here and now. Our collective idea about happiness is that it awaits us in the future, always in the future, when things align in all the ways we want them to. The trouble is that once we reach that future point our ideas about happiness change and it leaps further down the road. Our conventional ideas about happiness are illusory and oftentimes keep us stuck in patterns that are of little or no benefit to our own well being.