Wednesday, March 30, 2011


I have been thinking a lot about contentment over the last couple of weeks. The defining moment was when I had a home party. I had an idea in mind of what I wanted to "earn." I was discouraged when I managed to pick a date that wound up being unworkable for many people. But, in the end, I had a small but fun group over and we had a wonderful time. No one ordered much but I wasn't terribly concerned. I had an amount budgeted to spend and the month's specials allowed me to get what I wanted, within my budget, without any hostess benefits at all. I was content with my items and happy to have had such a fun time.

Then, when I did wind up with some hostess benefits, I struggled to figure out how to use them as I have been making a concerted effort to avoid "stuff." After that, I started hearing about other people's parties. How much they had "earned," all the neat stuff they had acquired, and their free shipping. It took me a couple of days to regain my contentment.

I continually reflect on what I would like my children to learn and what I would most like to teach them. One of the things I have been struggling with is teaching them contentment. There are constant small battles over whatever the other one has and demands to set the timer or enforce turns. While there is a time and a place for that, there are also times that I simply say, "The only reason you want that is because your sister has it. Find something else to play with." I was thinking about the way that I often utterly fail to follow that instruction myself. I am perpetually noticing things to yearn for instead of simply being content with what I have.

I struggle a lot with the whole "keeping perspective" advice. I often find myself stressed out and frustrated with a fussy baby, whining toddler, and pouty four year old and try to remind myself of how lucky I am to have them, to have food for them to refuse to eat, a house for them to wreck and toys for them to bicker over. I think of the homeless families all over, the mother's struggling in war zone, refugees, Darfur and how very fortunate I am. Unfortunately, I tend to wind up still frustrated and stressed but with a sprinkle of guilt on top. The "keep perspective" advice just pulls you back into that trap of comparison and coveting but in reverse.

I have decided to take my own advice and focus on "contentment" for the remainder of Lent as a second Lenten sacrifice (we also went with a paperless kitchen). I am going to try to give up comparing and coveting and instead be content. Notice, I didn't say "happy." I think"happy" is a trap. To be happy all the time is exhausting and ignores other feelings you might have. I can be stressed and frustrated in the moment. I can have plans and hopes and goals and aspirations. But, I can be content with the jeans that do the job if they might need to be hiked up fairly frequently while also aspiring to buy a couple pairs that actually fit next fall. I can be content with the baby I cuddle through the night if also having a plan to cuddle slightly less and sleep slightly more. I can be content with a body that is reasonably healthy and has brought 3 children into the world while also having a goal to manage a couch to 5k this summer. "Content" allows space for real feelings while also allowing freedom from the constant comparisons that come so naturally to us. "Content" leads to "enough" and I find no other feeling quite so comfortable as "enough." Now, to see if I can pull of a reasonable approximation of "content" while driving 3 screaming children to school through a never ending road construction project...

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