I am slowly realizing why working 40 hours a week in a cubicle is the most tiring job I’ve ever had: in this lifestyle, everything is certain.
With reasonable certainty, I can predict my schedule from how many hours out of the day I will have no work to do (usually around 5), how my cube-neighbor will greet me when I sit at my desk, and how cold it will be in my office. More than at my own job, I came to appreciate this two weeks ago when I went to visit one of my college roommates in New York City. This particular friend works in finance. She has a comfortable one-bedroom apartment in the Upper East Side, earns triple what I do in a given year, and has all the latest gadgets and handbags (not to mention, she doesn’t have to live with her parents!). But her life is predictable. She knows that she has to come in on Saturdays to fix mistakes made by VP’s, and that a few times a month she will have to come home after midnight. Finally, when she got her curveball (a roommate reunion after eight months apart) all she could talk about was how, after working upwards of 60, even 70, hours a week, she was just too tired to enjoy the Big Apple. In the city that never sleeps, her greatest desire was her bed.
This is alien to the human spirit. People, human beings with thoughts and emotions and beliefs, need to have more mystery in their lives that “What will I eat for lunch today?” When the biggest challenge of the day is something so dispassionate and impersonal, it is easy to lose your sense of purpose and, worse still, yourself.
I know I need this job, and that being unemployed was far worse (as, unfortunately, many people in this country can attest to). But I needed something to look forward to everyday besides leaving work (because that’s honestly quite sad). I decided to carve out a little bit of every day for what I like to call “Daily Chocolate”, something that draws warmth and light from the mundane grey day at the office and makes it special, however briefly.
It started out quite literally being a daily piece of chocolate. Every afternoon at around 2pm, when the workload was either oppressively stressful or oppressively boring, I would put on my headphones, listen to a little smooth jazz, and eat one square of dark chocolate . For 5 blissful minutes, all was chocolate, and chocolate was all (general sweetness, indeed).
It wasn’t much, but it was a moment of peace and happiness amidst an otherwise dreary period. Before I knew it I was adding more milestones throughout the week: an afternoon cup of tea, a 5 minute walk outside, or even a planned activity for when I got home, as opposed to flopping on the sofa and feeling sorry for myself. And before I knew it, these little sparks of joy during the work day became bursts of light everywhere else in my life. It became easy to look for happiness and meaning if I was actively seeking it.
A few days ago, I came across this quote that seemed to speak to my newfound daily chocolate:
“The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, nor to worry about the future, but to live the present moment wisely and earnestly.”
― Gautama Buddha
Living the present, truly engaging with now…years of yoga have taught me this, but I was so focused on the negative, on the future I desired, and the past I regretted, that I neglected the power and potential of the present off the yoga mat.
Each moment is a gift, an opportunity to feel something, regardless of how cold my office was, or how unenlightening the glare from my computer screen seemed. I still had my mind, my imagination, and the knowledge that with every breath in the opportunity for growth, for insight, and, of course, for sweetness.
I encourage you all to find at least one moment in your busy day to truly appreciate yourself, your mind, and the Now. For that moment is unique, is impermanent, and will pass by uncherished if you let it.
I would love to hear about your day-to-day struggles, and what you do to make each moment more meaningful. Whether it be an afternoon chocolate break, or a five-minute meditation, nothing is too small.
What do you do to stay positive and live presently? What is your daily chocolate?