Even in the best of circumstances, happiness is elusive. We seek pleasant sights, sounds, tastes, sensations, and moods. We satisfy our intellectual curiosity. We surround ourselves with friends and loved ones. We become connoisseurs of art, music, or food. But our pleasures are, by their very nature, fleeting. If we enjoy some great professional success, our feelings of accomplishment remain vivid and intoxicating for an hour, or perhaps a day, but then they subside. And the search goes on. The effort required to keep boredom and other unpleasantness at bay must continue, moment to moment.
Ceaseless change is an unreliable basis for lasting fulfillment… Is there a form of happiness beyond the mere repetition of pleasure and avoidance of pain? — Sam Harris
We get up. Maybe we eat breakfast or gulp down a cup of coffee. Drive in congested traffic for however long it takes to reach a cubicle dividing us from the rest of the world where we spend the best part of our day doing something we do in exchange for financial gain and pray for a raise. This is how life plays out until we reach an age where they tell us our services are no longer required. Then we leave to begin our life but by this time we have forgotten how to live. This is the routine for many inhabitants of the Western world. This could have been and was for a while how my life existed.
One day while shaving, getting ready to start my routine, I saw a 65 year old version of myself staring back at me from the mirror. I was thirty-six. He was shaving his face, donning his white shirt and tie just like me. In that instant I knew I could no longer follow this routine that had been a constant in my life for over fifteen years. I had to do something to change it. I handed in my resignation. A month later, I still looked in the mirror each morning but I was no longer shaving my face or putting on a white shirt and tie. I was not longer snarled in traffic jams, and I was unemployed.
It is difficult to change a routine. Many thought I had made a big mistake when I left the corporate world and for a time so did I. When you jump from the mountain top, you always do so alone. Always. “Some make it, some don’t,” I was told in a dream. Later your friends will tell you they wish they had to courage to do what you did but they have families, obligations, mortgage payments, car payments, etc. They have to continue their ritualistic daily sacrifice to Big Brother. I did not want to reach the age of sixty-five knowing I had never lived. I did not want my retirement to be the beginning of my living.
Today my routine is much different. In the mornings I watch others from my windows following their routines. The unique horns of the sanitation truck notifies residents to put their trash out. The ladies bring their laundry to the open laundry center where they wash their clothes by hand in concrete basins and hang them on the line to dry. The milk man brings farm fresh milk to the city and the women gather around his truck with their pitchers ready to be filled. The taxi drivers wash their cars and hope for a busy day. The gas man drops off tanks of propane where the empties are standing on the sidewalk. Life goes on, and we all carry out our routines. The key to surviving a daily routine is to have a routine you enjoy doing. If you enjoy doing it, the feeling of it being a routine is lost. I hope your daily routine is one you enjoy. You could be doing it for a long time.