Contentment is something I don’t think about too much but is critical to my (and I imagine most people’s) mental, spiritual, emotional and physical health.
I have always perceived it as our underlying condition, not as flippant as other emotions such as elation or being morose, more of a steady state. We may be fairly content or totally discontent but it doesn’t change as quickly and often requires change, either by ourselves or simply life to shift it into another direction.
What I mean here is that some things are in our sphere of control and some aren’t. Several years of hard work and therapy saw me come out of clinical depression which led me to contentment. I had to make change in order to get to a better place. However, I couldn’t do anything about my mother passing away last year and I don’t think I’ll ever be completely content without her, but I hope time will soften the blow.
Some cultures believe life is circular, not linear and we have seasons of hardships and good times, the ebbs and flows of the human condition, and I think contentment can be tied into this. However, contentment doesn’t have to be a 100% deal as nothing is perfect. For example, we may be super content in our work life but frustrated in the love department.
Perhaps it’s about trying to get the balance right to find contentment. I remember Kelly from Secret Life of Ussaying something along the lines of‘if your three lives: love, work and home, are in order, then you have hit the jackpot’.*
It can be challengingas a woman living in modern Australia to keep those juggling balls of life up in the air, trying not to drop one which we always end up doing at some point. We have all heard about that trap of being the superwoman trying to maintain a career, keep house, be a mum, friend, partner, sister, daughter all at the same time.But I have mindfully made contentment a focus and here are some ways I’ve gotten closer to that peaceful and secure state.
When we first got our mortgage and our home with it, I was obsessed with how I would decorate. I loved interior design mags and spent hours on home blogs. My budget hasn’t been large but with some DIY inspiration and some fantastic second hand pieces I slowly created our nest. Then the kids came. Babies were fine but toddlers are hurricanes and with them comes mess. Then I started getting frustrated. Not content that my house didn’t look like a magazine and I started being envious. So I stopped buying house magazines, I have embraced slow living and I’m trying to remind myself why I love my home – it is shelter, it is ours, it is full of memories and is a place people get to live in, not just exist, especially the little people. Don’t get me wrong, I still love beautiful spaces, but I’m learning to remove the discontent.
For every human this is a life long journey. But I can honestly say I’m starting to love myself more, accepting who I am, faults and all. I’m working on myself without being too harsh and this has created peace in my soul. There is no quick fix to this and my progress has included some intense years of therapy, but it seems if we don’t begin to try and love ourselves long term contentment will remain out of reach.
Realising how darn good I have it breeds contentment. It is all about perception changes. For example, changing ‘it sucks not getting enough sleep because of the kids’ to ‘I love the precious cuddles that comes with co-sleeping, soon they will be grown up and not want us at night’ makes all the difference. Seeing how blessed I am to have a roof over my head and food in my belly is enough to be grateful and happy with my lot, and how I have a duty to help others.
Endurance and change in times of discontentment
This is a toughie and probably one of the biggest character builders in our fleeting lives. I’m no expert but I see it this way – improve the situations you can by creating change and seeking help, and for what you can’t – lean on loved ones, have courage and gain the strength that only comes with enduring heartache and pain. Easier said than done but my prayer for you is that you will find a level of contentment soon.
*something like that, it always stuck in my psyche but can’t actually find a copy of the episode she said it in. The Secret Life of Us was a pinnacle part of my early twenties viewing.
Image: Udith Wickramanayaka