I’m not sure about you, but I often struggle with contentment. The grass is always greener, right? The other day a question was posed on another blog asking what we were running towards, both literally and metaphorically. I’m literally running towards good health, great legs (wishful thinking!) and the satisfaction of finishing a marathon; metaphorically, I’m running to find contentment.
Contentment of all types: physical, emotional, spiritual. Contentment in my marriage and in my parental responsibilities. Contentment with my body and with my problematic hair. But that is probably asking too much.
It’s hard for me to enjoy the present. To realize that life, while certainly not perfect, is good. I don’t want for anything. Our bills are paid; we’re fit and healthy. We have a roof over our heads and more food in our cupboards than we probably should. I’m rarely without the comfort of my favorite vices. Iced coffee flows plentifully; my chocolate stash is replenished without problem. I find solace at the gym and comfort in my cozy bed.
Life on paper is great. And even not on paper, it’s great on most days.
And on other days? Well…not so much. Especially the days where it feels like I’ve repeated the same sentence to my kid a thousand times and each time it falls on deaf ears Or the days where keeping my head above a pile of sinking quicksand would be infinitely easier than keeping up with my household chores. These are the days I find myself wishing I were someone different. Wishing my kid always listened and the floors cleaned themselves. Wondering why I can’t be perfect. Man, I’d really like to be perfect. Wouldn’t that be awesome?
And then I feel guilty. Guilty because some people have real problems. Some don’t have jobs; some are riddled with sickness or wracked with debt. Some women are married to abusive men and are far more wounded and broken then I’ll ever be.
I hate feeling guilty about not feeling content because then I feel even less content because of my selfishness and unattainable standards.
I remember a time when I felt truly content. When Caroline was a baby and all she really wanted was food and warm arms. I didn’t sleep much, but it didn’t seem to matter. I really enjoyed the newborn haze. We walked and sat in our rocking recliner chair. She napped and, thanks to exclusive breast feeding, I ate like a teenage boy and still lost a ton of weight. It was a good time. Caroline was a happy baby and I felt content and fulfilled.
I miss those times.
Just yesterday I was reminded of that time in my life and then I felt sad. We were rather benignly talking about Military IDs and how Caroline will get one when she turns 10. We talked about responsibility and doing our best not to lose it. I lost my ID once, when Caroline was a baby. I had it in the little tray of her stroller and it fell out during one of our walks. Arizona, while insanely hot, is also insanely windy. Just thinking about those walks made me rather nostalgic. I think I felt so content back then because my expectations were low. Survival is the key when you have a baby; just making it through the day; living from nap to nap. Right now I find myself too easily frazzled by the demands of a strong willed 8 year old who would rather eat nails then take a nap. Maybe my expectations are too high?
But, then again, I don’t really have a reason to be frazzled. I don’t work. I only have one child to tend to. I don’t have to worry about paying the bills or having enough money for gas and iced coffee. The fact that I’m not content just further proves that I’m self absorbed and much too hard to please.
Here I am complaining and going all woe is me. But this isn’t meant to be a pity party. I promise! Like I said, life is good. I’m not unhappy. I’m just curious as to why I’m always searching for more. Looking for something better, newer and shinier. Always looking for more can be pretty dangerous and, not to mention, extremely futile. We’ll never have enough. The rich want to be richer; three pairs of black shoes aren’t nearly enough; our television is never big enough, our computer is never fast enough. It’s too cold or too hot, too cloudy or too windy. I don’t eat as cleanly as I should and I’m not patient enough with my kid.
I realize we’re not meant to be perfect; being flawed is part of being human. It must be normal to want more. It has to be. Otherwise, I’m not sure I can deal with being any more less-than-normal than I already am. Please tell me I’m normal. Or at least normal-ish.
You know, I was just re-reading what I’ve already written and I had a little light bulb moment. I realized that I tend to feel most content when I feel most in control. When things are orderly and expected and the universe refrains from throwing me any curve balls, I’m relaxed. If I can think clearly, see clearly and don’t find myself distracted by every minute detail, I’m relaxed.
When Caroline was small and incapable of talking back, I felt settled and in control. If you polled a bunch of moms, I think most would say that they found the newborn stage to be anything but orderly, but I did. I enjoyed the endless cycle of simple and expected tasks. I find Caroline’s current whirling dervish ways coupled with her cacophonous cohorts and their equally dervish ways to be more chaotic and frazzling than the indistinguishable cries of a newborn.
So basically it took me an hour (to include 13 interruptions to get water and snacks, to find the walkie talkie and gather car washing paraphernalia) to type a zillion words which led me to this conclusion:
Control = Relaxed = Content.
So does that mean I should hire a maid, a masseuse and an aromatherapist?