The Washington Post

Life is all about small pleasures and major grievances

As you know, a good life is merely a succession of good days. A day is to a life as a sentence is to a story. The sane person will write into his or her day numerous passages that are innately pleasing. The morning constitutional; the garden reverie; the long soak in the tub; the bowl of ice cream with so many calories they have to be calculated with scientific notation. Many a day I find myself grinding away at work, lamenting a life in the cubicle, feeling trapped, wishing for some little spark of happiness, when suddenly I’ll realize I’m just one good cup of coffee away from being a Master of the Universe. Chemistry is the answer! You just have to find the right combination of molecules. Didn’t I read that once in a Dale Carnegie book? When in doubt, ingest something.

My advice is to always be yourself, your true self, your authentic self, even if that means being the kind of person who pretends to be someone else. Sometimes authenticity is just a costume we wear. It would be disingenuous to go through an entire day without trying to fool everyone. As an experiment you could spend an entire day speaking like Donald Duck, saying the same thing over and over: “This is who I am.”

In searching for these pleasurable mini-moments, you need to stay alert, eyes open, observing, being patient, letting the moment come to you. When that happens you have to let it unfold and flower. You must own the moment and can’t let other people distract you from it or tell you that it’s somehow not as good as THEIR silly little moment. Alternatively, you can manufacture a sublime moment from scratch, for example by stealing something. I’m not recommending this, just saying it can be done, that sometimes theft has its rewards, particularly if you have plausible deniability. Condiments at the coffee shop and the sandwich shop — they leave them out for anyone to take!!!

Yesterday I found in my left blazer pocket a packet of Sugar In the Raw heisted from Starbucks, and I thought: Come what may, I got this going for me. That was a nice moment, here in the land of cubicles.

Joel Achenbach writes on science and politics for the Post's national desk and on the "Achenblog."

The Freddie Gray case

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Campaign 2016 Email Updates

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Get Zika news by email

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!
Show Comments

Sign up for email updates from the "Confronting the Caliphate" series.

You have signed up for the "Confronting the Caliphate" series.

Thank you for signing up
You'll receive e-mail when new stories are published in this series.
Most Read



Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Close video player
Now Playing

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.