At the start of 2016, we did something interesting. We created a special box called the ‘Box of Sunshine’ in which we would deposit a descriptive post-it chit every time something good happened to us through the year. Now the year is wrapping up and what better way to celebrate Christmas, I thought, than to re-live all the joyous moments of the past year.
So we opened the box yesterday.. and out poured sunshine 🙂 Chit upon bright yellow chit of many things which we anyway remembered, and several others which had completely vanished from active memory. I noticed what I remembered even before opening the box, and what I didn’t.
Before opening the box when I had reflected on what all went well in 2016, I had remembered all the accomplishments and major milestones for myself and loved ones- job changes, physical/ mental transformations, weddings, new arrivals, new skills, new hobbies etc.
On the other hand, the chits that brought up memories were about conversations, couple of sinful chocolate desserts, and most of them about really simple stuff like finding the right dress for an occasion, feeling energetic, sticking to the plan for the day etc.
Me being me, I pondered further. Is there something here that will point to what makes a happy life?
My first thought was this:
I have been getting it all wrong. I thought that it is finding the joy in simple things like staring at the sky, or having a nice conversation etc that made life worthwhile. The everyday moments, the little things. And yet, when you look back at a chunk of time- you don’t really look back at, say, one such experience and say, “Yes, this year was well-spent”.
If it doesn’t hold true for a year, it won’t hold true for a lifetime. Contrary to what one might expect, you won’t look back on a lifetime and say it was well-spent because it was a gathering of many moments where you were enjoying little things. They won’t stick.. they are etheral and sort of evaporate in a delicate mist if you try to hold it up against the sun and inspect it for its value.
You look back and find the time you spent to be meaningful if there were accomplishments and progress- in whatever sphere is important to you, whether vocational/professional success, or personal growth, or family life.
Does this mean the ‘enjoy-the-current-moment-fully’ philosophy is essentially self-indulgence, and one will regret if not focusing purposefully on meaningful progress and accomplishment? I have to say this was starting to shake up my belief system quite a bit. But then, there was a second thought as I went through more and more of the chits.
I began to see how many of the ‘little things’ were actually creating the climate and confidence for the accomplishments and milestones. They were small wins creating the momentum for more. They were fueling the tank, creating the excitement and energy, building self-belief and support mechanisms. The joy of running that small distance created the will to enroll for regular workouts. The windows of conversations with friends helped sustain energy in a professionally demanding year. The joy of sticking to the day’s plan early in January helped build more structure and to stick to it. And in many more ways where drawing a direct connection may not even be possible, I know those moments enabled me to do whatever I could do this year. And of course that is not all that they are important for- they are important for themselves, because even if you don’t remember them as such a few months later, they have added to the overall joy and well-being you feel. The days do make the years.
So here’s where I stand on this now- as much as I already passionately felt that accomplishment is not all there is to life, I also realized my frequent fantasies of ‘giving it all up’ to stare at the sky all day also won’t make me happy. I can’t speak for the entire human race based on this small exercise, but for myself I can see that progress and accomplishment are important to finding meaning in life. It can be private/ personal/ family/ vocational/ professional/ other-planetary, but it’s significant. At the same time, the quality of every day provides the foundation for everything else.
It’s not all about the journey- neither is it all about the destination. It is about the journey and the destination- because most importantly it is about the traveler, who will find him/herself at both.