Chasing Contentment

While I was driving to pick my daughter up from biology lab today, I had to drive through the campus of GCSU.  It always makes me smile,driving through there. I think of my own time in college, which I loved. I loved the people, the classes, the experiences, the Hunky, every part of those years. I always remember fondly, but even though it makes me incredibly happy to think back on those days, I don’t miss them.

Yesterday while spending one glorious last day with my Cheri before she moves away to the far side of a state the size of Texas, we were talking about parenting our littles. We shared about the quirks of all of our babes, and the wonderful things that made us laugh and made our hearts melt.  We also talked about the exhaustion, the fear, the moments we knew just exactly how and why kids are shaken.  Both of us were privileged to be able to be very present for all the ages and stages of our progeny.  I love talking about and remembering that wonderful, exhausting, crazy, beautiful time. But I don’t miss it.

I feel a great many people are chasing contentment.  We look for it in past experiences or past relationships.  We project it as something we are missing out on when we observe the happy “ease” of the people and lives around us. We use phrases like “if only…” to describe the prerequisite circumstances needed for us to be content. We chase, and we rush, and we grab, and we join and we collect, and we enroll and search, search, search and store, store, store because we just know that one day we’ll find the very perfect missing piece that will magically light everything in the rosy glow of contentment.

And thus, while contentment is sitting quietly beside us all along, simply waiting for us to slip her on and let her warm us for awhile, we don’t have time to notice the thing that is already ours. We won’t find her in times long or even shortly passed.  Those times are over and cannot change us further or bring anything more to our selves than they have already offered. We cannot find her in the future with its unwritten, uncertain nature.  There is nothing in the future of this world on whose value we can draw today. She isn’t found in another person’s life or habits or job; even the most worthy role model can only speak of how they have found her, they cannot impart contentment to us. She isn’t in the mansion or the tiny house, in the chocolate cake or the fresh green salad.  She isn’t in the bank account or the pawn shop or next year’s raise or this year’s tax return. She isn’t anywhere in this world other than right inside of our very own hearts.

Let me be clear, There are people that I miss, that I don’t get to see often enough, that I love and wish I could hug around the neck every time they come to mind. There are places that I miss that I know are waiting for me to step onto their soil and reengage with the lives that are unfolding there. The difference, in my mind anyway, is that these are people, places and things with which,  I am still actively engaged though from a distance.  They are still with me, here, in my present, shaping my relationships and my experiences.  But I’ve stopped engaging in the folly that another time was better because it looks lovely through the lens of hindsight.  I’ve stopped waiting for “that day” when when a switch is flipped and everything is spontaneously easy and delightful.  I’ve stopped looking to others’ lives wishing I could have what they have, as though all the myriad of gifts I have already received are not enough.

I’ve stopped chasing contentment.  Like a dog after its own tail, I can’t catch hold because contentment is already here. Part of me. Waiting to be noticed, appreciated, lived. She  isn’t running away. She wants to be captured. Grab hold. Live it.

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