I’m up late and writing. I’ve been thinking about contentment quite a bit recently. Is this something I’m supposed to have? Ever? Or is it something I’m supposed to strive for? By the mere definition, can you strive for it? I mean, it sounds so nice – “Peaceful Happiness.” “Satisfaction.” Bliss. I feel pretty guilty that for the most part, I’ve been no good at this.
My husband brought the word to my attention many years ago. We were discussing what it meant to be happy. We each had our own definitions, and I was a little shocked that ours were so different. What it boiled down to is that I really didn’t know. By that, I mean that I couldn’t define it. I couldn’t nail down a concise answer. I knew that I was “happy” to be married to him, “happy” that we both had jobs and family and friends and that I had more good days than bad, but I couldn’t find a clear definition. His definition was more about being content. Somehow, I never considered happiness and contentment to be related.
I was wrong.
Contentment is more of an enduring happiness. It starts with being happy with who you are. HOLD UP. According to my research (my EXTENSIVE INTERNET RESEARCH), I’ve got to get all lovey-dovey with myself before I can be content. Do I have to stand in front of people (or a mirror) and profess my love for myself? I’m a mother. AND a woman. Can mothers and women even DO that? We’re usually far too hard on ourselves to achieve a “happy with who you are” status, much less ever admit to achieving it. (We’ve GOT to work on that, ladies!) Geez, man … can’t I just get new kitchen cabinets? That may be more expensive, but it’s certainly easier and I *know* I’ll be
happy content with new kitchen cabinets.
*Stops writing, opens a new tab to look at kitchen cabinets on Pinterest …
I fight the “Newer, Better, Bigger” mentality. I want to continue to grow as a person, professional, wife, mother … does that conflict with a want to be content? It seems like it. But if you look at contentment as a skill, something you can learn, then you CAN get better at it. We have control over our attitude (or so I’m repeatedly telling my three-year-old). It is beginning to sound as simple as an attitude adjustment. It’s a shift to look inward (within ourselves) for happiness, so we’re not always looking for the newer, better, bigger thing to put next to our other things.
One of the articles I was reading pointed this out:
We start out in life thinking that we’re awesome. We can dance in public as 5 year-olds, and not care what others think of us. By the time we’re adults, that’s been driven out of us, by peers and parents and the media and embarrassing situations. As adults, we doubt ourselves. We judge ourselves badly. We are critical of our bodies, of ourselves as people, of our lack of discipline, of all our faults.
I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to be that. I don’t want to teach my children that. Gross. From the statement above, it looks as though I’ve got a lot to learn from them. Reading that prompted a Sunday School lesson out of memory – (It’s a biblical reference, but it’s pertinent, so bear with me for a sec) Mark 10:15 “Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” Luke 18:16 “But Jesus called the children to him and said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.'” That may not resonate with a broad crowd, but I remember as a child listening intently when the adults were talking about how much cooler the children were and how they had to be like us if they wanted to get anywhere good.
Children are cooler in this regard. Here’s the takeaway for the topic at hand: a child is content in the little things. They’re awesome. They don’t care what others think. Their happiness is internal and enduring. I know that I can’t become like a child by shedding responsibility, experience or curated doubt, but I can (and do) endeavor to be happy with who I am. I will practice changing my attitude. My children can set an example for me, and I can set an example for them.
*Stops writing, opens a new, new tab to look at kitchen cabinets on Pinterest … (They’re in BED, y’all.)