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Saturday, December 3, 2022

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Contentment and the Power of Now

A friend posted a painting she did of a woman looking out into the ocean and asked, “What do you think she is thinking about?”

The responses included:

“Perhaps she is waiting for her husband to come back from the sea.”

“I think she is thinking about all the choices she wishes she’d made.”

I added my two cents of course:

“Maybe she is just content.”

I’ve been grappling a lot with the concept of contentment. At this point in my life, I’m not quite as motivated to have more, do more, be more. I’m thinking now that I need to learn to be content with who I am, my life’s experiences, the potential I have for more experiences, and the idea that I am enough just as I am. I’ve always been driven, like crazy driven. I’ve always seen the possibilities in things and gotten upset with myself when I haven’t optimized every chance I’m given.

It’s exhausting.

There’s an underlying message in our society that being content is not as valuable as being “happy.” The constitution doesn’t say, “Life, liberty and the pursuit of contentment.”  I’ve come to understand happiness is experienced for short periods of time, and that’s okay.

I see this pursuit of “happiness” motivating my sons now, and I hope to help them shift their focus to feeling happy in the now, and content with the moments in their lives.  In a confounding way, I also don’t want to confuse being content with not having goals and pursuing those goals, but I see my guys balancing their efforts at their first jobs, and focus at college, with their assessment of their lives in general from a winning and losing perspective. I don’t want everything to relate to more when it comes at the cost of experiencing the contentment of life right now.

I’m sad I wasn’t more content earlier in my life. When the boys were little I should have been content with the sounds they made. Their laughs and giggles when their Wiggles cars were singing and their battle tops bounced against one another. I should have understood the importance of those moments and that they were the sounds I’d miss one day. I should have just immersed myself in the contentment because now I realize how happy I was at that time.

I won’t make that mistake again. Now when the boys come home, when they are bantering and flexing at one another, when they are pacing because they smell one of their favorite foods cooking in the kitchen and trying to dart in to steal a taste, now I am smart enough to be content and immerse myself in the moment. This morning the dogs got me up at the crack of dawn. I pulled apart the living room curtains and one of them, the puppy, crawled up into my lap and went back to sleep. I didn’t even try to doze off. I sat their looking at the snow falling in the yard, illuminated by the glow of the outside light, and I listened to the rhythm the pup’s snoring. It was a long day because of the lack of sleep but I didn’t think about that in those early moments.

Like all emotions, happiness comes and goes as moments of our lifetime. I’ve learned the recognition of feeling content is a graceful gift we earn when we appreciate the power of now.

I wish I hadn’t pushed for so much, but then of course I don’t know where I’d be right now if I hadn’t. I do want to gift this knowledge to my boys now before it is too late for them to be satisfied in their present. I want to sit with them and stare into the fire, listen to the crackles and pops of the logs burning, appreciate the flickering flames and just be content.

I hope they can learn this lesson before I did.

But, if they don’t, I am content knowing I tried. They’ll figure it out in time.

 

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