There is a sneaky truth in the pain of living for Friday night. But before we unpack that, first, a question:
In what ways have you wished your life away today?
I don’t mean you actually wished it away, like, “if I had three wishes I’d ask for a boat, x-ray vision, and to lose five years of my life”. I mean, how have you wished that time would speed you through pain or boredom, or discomfort, or awkward vulnerability?
Many of us went to work today, and for a large percentage of the population (at least here in the U.S.), the large majority were not engaged or satisfied. This is heartbreaking to me. Not because I wholeheartedly believe that it’s insanely realistic for everyone to be blissfully happy each and every moment of their lives. But I do believe that it is always possible to choose joy.
I believe we can choose joy on crappy Monday mornings, and last-minute staff meetings (led by that next-level annoying guy who constantly practices his football throw sans football and his golf swing sans club, and who also very loudly reminds you that his weekend was way more epic than yours could ever be).
One of the most important things I learned during my years in corporate America was from the man who filled the vending machines in our break rooms. He was an absolutely delightful person who always smiled, was always humming a little tune, and could quite possibly be one of the friendliest people I have ever met. I’ll never forget one morning when I casually said, “it’s almost Friday” and his response was: “Don’t go wishing your life away”.
That really resonated with 25-year-old me, and it still resonates with me today. I wish I could say I have this whole “living in the moment” thing down pat and that I bear a strong resemblance to a Buddhist monk. I don’t, but I’ve come a long way.
So again, I ask you, in what ways have you wished your life away today?
Did you watch the clock while you worked at a job you loathe? Have you traded your soul for an income? Are you biding your time in a career you chose for its safety and stability while you plan to finally start enjoying your life upon retirement? Are you in a relationship that you’re hanging on to until a certain season of life or period of time is over, or an emotional level is achieved where you’ll feel strong enough to end it? Are you holding back from enjoying moments or occasions because of your size or appearance? Do you have a list of “I really shouldn’t” that in reality is just a bunch of lies? Do you have a mile-long TO DO list that if you were honest with yourself is an IF I KEEP MYSELF BUSY ENOUGH I FEEL PRODUCTIVE AND PRODUCTIVITY MAKES ME FEEL WORTHY AND THIS ENTIRE LIST MAKES ME FEEL SAFE BUT ALSO VERY, VERY SMALL?
A lot of these examples are things I’ve felt or lived through or confronted or have had to get really real with myself about or coax out of the people whom I love.
What can we do (about our pain)?
Find joy. Find simple joy in the days and moments that feel painfully ordinary, or even downright painful. Boredom is a slow death, but what is it teaching you? What is that pain trying to tell you? There is a lesson there, there is something you need to pay attention to. In my experience, boredom is letting you know that you’re dimming your light, and this is no good for you or for anyone else.
If we can look at pain as a lesson, as the way that we grow and strengthen ourselves mentally, physically, and spiritually, we learn that it is here to show us something. Be with your pain, listen to what it’s telling you, but don’t wish it away.
On our quest to understand pain, we start to learn to look for simple joy. It could be as simple as, hey, it’s a Tuesday night. There’s nothing particularly special about Tuesday nights is there? Heck, yes, there is! Or at least there can be. Instead of counting the three days until Friday, what about enjoying the sunset now? What about pulling out those fancy dishes to eat your turkey burgers off of? What about kicking off your shoes and drinking a glass of wine with your sweetie pie on the back patio? Why not take a warm, restorative bubble bath, or curl up with a great book?
Stop waiting for Friday. Stop waiting for retirement. Stop convincing yourself that your soul-sucking career is your only option. Don’t save your nice towels and soaps for another time. Burn your candles. Drink the good wine. Wear your nicest clothes.
You may not figure out how to make each day and every moment blissful. But you can choose to have a bliss filled life the majority of the time. Be with what causes you pain, understand it, thank it for the lessons it’s here to teach you, and grow from it. Grow toward joy.