For many years, I thought that I could be happy only if I did such and such a thing, or met such and such a person, or lived in such and such a place. Naturally, happiness was never where I was, but somewhere “over there”, and if sometimes I did manage to get “over there”, I found out that what I was searching for wasn’t actually there, but in some other place, and so on. Nowadays, I like to think I find in everyday patterns, in the balance of careful habits, something more concrete and more nourishing than happiness.
“Life consists of rare, isolated moments of the greatest significance, and of innumerably many intervals, during which at best the silhouettes of those moments hover about us.” – Friedrich Nietzsche
Those “isolated moments of the greatest significance” Nietzsche speaks about, we often can’t control them. Sometimes we do plan them; at other times they just happen: romance, spiritual epiphanies, sunrise on some mountaintop, babies, chirpy mornings after. In them we often seek happiness, not in the banality of life.
But we do have more control over the “innumerably many intervals” between these significant moments – the patterns, repetitions, habits, and routines of our lives. These fill up most of our time.
Sometimes, I find that the pleasure of meeting someone or doing something long awaited comes only second on my radar of anticipated pleasures, after the pleasure of the return home, of the relapse into everyday patterns, into the “innumerably many intervals” of life. Sometimes, I find myself going places just so that I have somewhere to return from back into my quiet world of careful habits, of books and writing.
Some people live for Saturdays and Sundays, for nights out, for holidays and birthdays and celebrations and special events, for wedding days and parties and promotion days and Superbowls. Workdays are for them just checkpoints and milestones to those events. Stuff they have to do to get there.
Must it be so?
I think we can derive a lot of (quiet) pleasure from everyday habits – even the smallest and most insignificant of them – from those “innumerably many intervals” between our joys and our sorrows. It’s just a question of choosing our work and our habits with care, and do more of what we like and less of what we don’t, Monday to Friday.