One of the many lessons driven home by the pandemic in our household is that routines matter. So many days of our lives are spent wandering between commitments and deadlines that are objectively valuable in a temporal sense, yet lose their worth when circumstances change. If you are anything like me, you were happy to drop some of your routine tasks on day one (or twenty) of the pandemic, and you are now struggling to reintegrate those into your life in this new time and (perhaps) this new place.
My wife and I speak with each other, as well as our daughters, about the subtle and yet profound difference between happiness and joy. Happiness is context-dependent; it requires circumstances to allow for positive human emotion. I am happy when I order a delicious sandwich, or when my favorite hockey team defeats my least favorite hockey team.
Joy, on the other hand, is not context-dependent. Joy is that deeper sense of fulfillment and meaning that only comes from taking the longer view and integrating it with the other parts of ourselves and others. From a religious perspective, we might say that joy transcends personal preference and includes collective, even divine presence. I have never preached at a funeral or memorial service that was happy.
Yet, I have been a part of countless burial offices that are saturated with joy as we remember and celebrate a loved one who has returned to their Creator. This is because joy is able to include sadness as well as whole arena of other human experiences.
As you rebuild your routine post-pandemic: Are you cultivating joy? Are you cultivating meaningful experiences and relationships to sustain you? The pandemic taught all of us that changing out routines with intention dramatically affects not only our lives but also the lives of those around us. How might you look to build your routine with intention?