a state of happiness and satisfaction.
When I was a single, I would spend hours – sometimes a whole day – sitting in a coffee shop, writing and reading, sipping coffee while I listened to my favorite music (and checking out coffee shop guys, TBH). During this season of my life, I would often daydream about my ‘happily ever after’: a husband, children, and a home for us to share. That was the dream, that was my picture of happiness. Sure, I was happy as a young woman living in the city, doing my own thing – but I knew I would be truly happy, truly satisfied once I had my happy ending.
Now, as a married woman and a mother, I spend my days in a bathrobe, drinking cold coffee until noon, folding laundry and listening to Wheels On The Bus on repeat. I have the husband, the kids, the small house in the small town – and my daydream has changed. Now my ‘happily ever after’ would include a day alone (or, if I’m dreaming big, a night alone) to sit and just be by myself, to write, to read, to b r e a t h e the sweet air of independence. Sure, I’m happy being a mom and a wife and all that that entails, but I would be even happier if I could just spend some time doing my own thing.
Ironic, right? The grass is always greener, and all that.
It’s natural as humans to wish for what we don’t have. To long for the grass on the other side of the fence. Happiness and contentment can sometimes feel elusive, even in the best of times. Moms understand this especially. We desperately want a day away from our kids, but when we get it we miss them too much to enjoy ourselves. We long for our kids to learn skills that will make our lives easier, but then miss our babies once they’ve become more independent. There seems to be no winning. “Cherish these days, you’ll miss them” “you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone” – yes we know! But we can’t help but dream of a little time for ourselves – even though we’re living out our happily ever afters*. And I think that’s true across the board, not just for moms, but for humans. So can we ever truly be content? Or will we always want more, or want for what we had in other seasons of our lives? And even if we are living our dream, we could always be a little happier, right??
But maybe the key to contentment is in making it a practice, just like every other good thing we want more more of in our lives. Gratitude, self-care, compassion. We can practice these things and the fruit of that practice will cultivate contentment.
When making my intentions (or resolutions) for the New Year, the theme I wanted to focus on was contentment. I set out to focus on being satisfied, being present, being ‘here and now’, being content no matter what my circumstances are. I’m living out the most important years of my life (IMO), while simultaneously living in the most connected and distracted generation of all time. (This is what motivated me to do this phone/screen-time challenge, to minimize mindless use of technology and even be more present online.) I know that in order to be present and content in this season of my life, it’s going to be work. And I honestly don’t know that it is something I will ever ‘achieve’ or totally grasp, but I’m determined to practice contentment every chance I get. Here’s how I’m currently doing that:
- Minimalism: getting rid of all kinds of clutter, to make space for what is truly important to me, has been soooooo helpful in becoming content with what I do have, and stop the never ending desire to have moremoremore. Read more about that here.
- Meditation / prayer: whatever practice is right for you, having a phrase or a prayer you can come back to in moments of discontentment and chaos can be so grounding. For me, that’s at 3am up with 2 kids and tired as a mother. Some simple phrases I like are “I am content in all things”, “this is not forever”, or “I return to the practice of the breath”. Pick something that helps you BE HERE NOW, and takes you out of the ‘worry of the future’.
- Focusing on what is essential: Greg McKeown says, in ‘Essentialism, the disciplined pursuit of less’, that “if you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will.” This book and the ‘disciplined pursuit of less’ is helping me develop more focus and clarity in my life, which creates more contentment. We cannot be content if we do not have our priorities in alignment with our core values.
In 2018, I don’t want to ride or die on the circumstances of life. I don’t want to be so easily bothered by the day to day struggles of being a mom. I want to remember that all of life is a changing of seasons, and today is not forever. The good or the bad.
I want to be content when my kids don’t sleep, and content when they do.
I want to be content when my house is messy and covered in crumbs, and content when it is sparkly clean.
I want to be content when I have time for myself and hobbies that give me life, and content when ‘self-care’ is a 5 minute shower with my baby sitting on the other side of the shower curtain.
I want to be content when relationships ebb and flow, when my body changes (or doesn’t change), when I am anxious and frazzled about the small and big burdens of life – even then I still want to be content.
Because today is not forever and I can be comforted by that in any and all circumstances.
*I know this is a generalization. We didn’t all dream of being house wives and raising babies, and really that wasn’t my only dream as a little girl as it is for some. My main point in this illustration is that we often desire what we had or others have in different seasons of life, and motherhood is the easiest example for me to use cause DUH, I’m a mom! If you don’t fit into the generalization, there’s nothing wrong with you my friend xoxo*a