Sober since April 6, 2006


Saturday, February 03, 2007

conditional happiness in cubicle world

Work is becoming increasingly hectic, so they had us come in this morning to work half a day. Yeah, I wanted to gripe and grumble, but I've worked most of my life in retail where I had to work morning and evening shifts on both Saturdays and Sundays every weekend ... so working 8-12 on a Saturday morning really isn't that bad in comparison.

But one of my favorite meetings is Saturday morning at 10am. As I watched the clock hit 9:15, the idea came to mind that I could bail out of work and go to the meeting. But after looking at the amount of work there was to do, I decided I'd put that decision off until I got more work done. The meeting was only a ten minute drive away.

When the clock hit 9:40, I really wanted to bail out of work and hit the meeting. At 9:50, I was overcome with that frantic newcomer feeling of "needing" a meeting (but that was just my alcoholic thinking kicking in: If I want something badly enough, I need it). I missed the people at that meeting and I really wanted to see them. And I knew that if I rushed out the door quickly enough I could make it in time.

But was it really all that crucial? The day before, I promised my boss and coworkers I'd work 8-12. My coworkers certainly weren't leaving -- they were working hard. I knew I'd feel guilty if I left early.

So I decided to stay at work. And I was pissed. I didn't want to be there. I really didn't want to be there.

"If only I could go to the meeting, then I'd be happy ... " But no, not really.

Then I realized I was placing conditions on my happiness:

"IF this happens, THEN I'll be happy."
"IF I get that, THEN I'll be happy."
"IF they do this, THEN I'll be happy."
"IF only I could do/be/become that, THEN I'll be happy."

Conditional happiness is never good. It requires an initial state of dissatisfaction: I won't be happy until I get what I want.

One problem with that kind of thinking is that it's cyclical. As soon as one demand is reached, another is generated, so I still won't be happy. Instead I'll want more, and I won't be happy until I get it. Then I'll want more, and I won't be happy until I get it. So I'll end up never being happy.

Looking for happiness is like conducting a solo but desperate search over hundreds of square miles of dangerous terrain to find my lost shoes -- while entirely oblivious to the fact that I'm already wearing them. Happiness doesn't need to be chased. It doesn't have to be acquired or purchased. It doesn't have to depend on the actions of other people or on the outcome of situations. It's always there in any circumstance -- I just have to be willing to recognize it.

Until I learn to be happy today, where I am, with what I have, with things being as they are, with people being who they are, I will never be happy.

Sometimes it's easy to experience contentment in any situation. Sometimes it's not so easy. But today I managed to be happy at work, albeit after a rough start -- but still, I'm grateful for that today. I'll make that meeting next week.


Pam said...

Oh that was a great read.
I loved --(the line) If I want something badly enough, I need it.

That hit me like a ton of bricks!!!......That is exactly how I feel about ciggerettes. I want them so bad....that I use the excuse that I need them. I've got to go and ponder this for awhile....thank you so much, for giving me this to think about.

An Irish Friend of Bill said...

cool. what you said really reminded me of something I've been mulling over lately. The buddhist wheel of life. It's quite cool! What you describe sound exactly like what they call 'the human realm' of suffering. Here's the bit I've been thinking about. It goes:
Human Realm:
Characterised by:- Desire; Freedom of choice; Dissatisfaction.
"I don't want this, 1 want that".
In the Human Realm there is the constant attempt to maximise pleasure and minimise pain. But we find that no pleasure can be made permanent, and the unpleasant cannot always be avoided. We vacillate between the four pairs of opposites - gain & loss, fame & disgrace, praise & ridicule, elation & sorrow. This vacillation can lead to frustration which in turn may raise the question, "What is there that will truly satisfy?" It is this which motivates the religious quest. And so this realm is considered to be the best one for religious training. The Buddha in this Realm appears as a Monk to show beings the possibility of the religious path, the way of non-attachment.
Consider: Pursuit of the pleasurable, avoidance of the unpleasant; The ups and downs of our ordinary daily lives; No sooner is the desired thing gained than it begins to be scorned; The life of the monk;

I found it here:

by the way, I LOVE the RTFM joke!! just noticed it. I feel like saying the same thing myself quite frequently I have to say..

recoveryroad said...


I'm doing a lot of that at the mo. Thank you for reminding me of the hole I'm digging. Good post. Ta.

ps love the pic of the wee cubicles and office-jonnies. :-D

Noor Azman Othman GBE said...

Thank you for sharing.

lushgurl said...

It's my first time visiting you...Love your post, and I can definately relate to the conditional happiness thing. I've used it all of my life...if I lost ten pounds, if I had more money, if my child behaved better...
Thanks for reminding me to look INSIDE!

Trudging said...

Good read buddy. Hang in there.

Shannon said...

I can so relate! I really appreciate you posting this conditional happiness... how I still stumble on to that also...

thanks for the reminder, and the cubicle pic... which ironicly I printed out so I could hang it in my cubicle HA!