Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Pursuit of Contentment

Having a blog has augmented the cyclical nature of my lackluster life. If I’m not careful, I could blog mindlessly about the same events and thoughts over and over again season after season. Which would NOT be droll, and I am totally aiming for droll. I am literally a hamster in a wheel, running the same lap over and over again. Except I’m not losing any weight.

We’ve passed the mid-summer mark here in Western NY and are already discussing back-to-school clothes and Halloween costumes. And this has made me all that more aware that…

Life is expensive. You have a budget, but it never covers everything. There are always new shoes to buy, a car to get inspected or a clutch to be replaced. A wedding gift to buy, a baby gift to buy, a birthday to celebrate. Christmas. Easter.

Swimming lessons. Piano lessons. Baseball uniforms. Facial moisturizer and decent conditioner for your frizzy hair.

Gas. Diapers. Butt cream.

Dinner out. A glass of wine costs 4.00. (Outrageous!) Movie tickets. Dinner in.

Then there’s lawn-care, babysitting, prescription co-pays, dentist co-pays, doctor co-pays. The annual donation to the state troopers because, quite frankly, you’re terrified of telling the deep-voiced police office who asks you if you care about the safety of children: “No. It’s not in my budget to care about the safety of children this year.”

Tickets. Tickets for the zoo, for the amusement park, and admission to the beach.

Parking tickets. Tips. Tips for servers and for hotel staff and the pizza guy. You are literally bleeding money.

Taxes. Taxes on clothes, on food, on the air you breathe. The taxes take up nearly half of your mortgage payment. You feel like a divorced parent paying an excessive amount of child support. There is no judge to appeal to.

There’s not enough money for the things that would make me truly happy! Happiness, I’ve been told, comes in the form of granite countertops and a landscaping service.

Yesterday, Caleb came home from our church’s annual Sports Camp. He dissolved into tears because even though he had memorized his bible verse (Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding) he had not received a prize. He had waited in line, primed and ready for a hearty, spirited recitation, and watched kid after kid receive a water gun or some other goody. So you can imagine his disappointment when they ran out of toys and instead bestowed upon him the lame gift of a slap bracelet.

And my fist inclination upon hearing this story of woe was irritation- why didn’t they come prepared? They should have planned for this horrible catastrophe! And that is a truly sick thought process.

Caleb already has, like, three water guns. Plus, Sports Camp is completely free and I, being a lump, am not even volunteering at the church, so we have no right to complain about anything.

Caleb and I had a little talk. “Pull yourself together man!” I shouted. “I want granite countertops! But I have to be content with the laminate ones I have. You need to be content with your totally sweet and awesome slap bracelet!”

He gave me a look that said, let’s not fool ourselves, mom. This bracelet is totally lame. But, when I reminded him of the super soakers he already had, he had to admit he really didn’t need any more water guns.

He wasn’t happy. But there was a glimmer of contentment.

To be honest- this pursuit of happiness business is hard. There are moments in life of breathtakingly wonderful nearly tangible happiness. But mostly life is drudgery; mundane chores, laundry, homework, budgets, and constant exercises in self-control. My breathtakingly wonderful nearly tangible moments of happiness are rarely accompanied by the receipt of some material item, but rather in those moments when I am surrounded by the ones I love the most in the world: perhaps when we are all laughing, when we are truly together.

Evangelicals preach that God didn’t promise happiness but that joy is found only in the Lord. Others insist your personal happiness trumps anything else, including other people’s happiness.

And then there are the crazy people who insist there is great joy finding matching socks and getting a grass stain out of jeans. (Good for them!)

I’m trying to rest somewhere in the middle. Pursuing that all-consuming happiness factor is exhausting. Contentment is still a lofty, but hopefully attainable, goal. Especially for someone who struggles with depression and, while on a depression forum looking to find out about whether or not people gain weight while on Zoloft, ran across a statement like this from one, apparently, extremely happy Cindy:

A good long walk with the dogs does it for me. Watching those tails wag, and seeing how excited they are just to get outside. Exercise is the best cure for depression.

I don’t buy the depression crap. You choose how you feel each and every day.

I work with people who choose to be depressed. They choose to be nasty and hateful to those around them. I don’t know how anyone can live like that. There is so much to be thankful and grateful for. Just walk outside. Look at what you HAVE, not what you don’t have. Don’t worry about what others have that you don’t, just be thankful you wake up every day and have a chance to start fresh……..

First of all, this did NOT answer my question about weight gain.

And of course, this is a simplistic, naïve, and insensitive observation, but it is a very common one.

I don't know how anyone can live like that.

But, Cindy, I’m trying. I’m trying soooo hard. Every day I wake up and I want to be... happy. I don't want to be irrationally depressed. I want to rest in contentment and be thankful for everything God has given me.

Exercise IS one of the best cures for depression; I'll grant you that. I'm even going to follow in your condescending footsteps and get a dog...



Ruthanne....Empress of her World said...

Don't get a dog it will only add to the nonsense you have to be responsible for. Find a way to do something for yourself that is not in anyway related to responsibility.

Anonymous said...

Your post reminded me of the following verses:

"A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work. This too, I see, is from the hand of God." Ecc 2:24


"Then I realized that it is good and proper for a man to eat and drink, and to find satisfaction in his toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given him--for this is his lot." Ecc 5:18

SAHMs have it hard. Everything we do is undone in a matter of minutes. We clean, it gets messy; we cook, it gets eaten or thrown on the floor; we launder, it gets peed on, etc. If we had something tangible for our efforts, maybe we wouldn't be so prone to feeling blue.

Anyway, I hope God grants you the gift of satisfaction in your toil. Goodness knows I have to pray for it continually :)

Toaster said...

I am glad to see that the one-word book reviews are back! :)

Elizabeth said...

Contentment is NOT a dog! It is however another thing to look after, pay for and be responsible for ;-)
Contentment is NOT granite tops ...its a finished reno with granite tops.
Being aware that you can find happiness in non material things all the while actively managing depression is very inspiring to me.

Embejo said...

I have been thinking on this very subject today after a friend posted this on Facebook:

"Contentment is natural wealth, luxury is artificial poverty" - Socrates

I'm thinking of going minimalistic. Then selling our house, and buying a flat to rent out to support us while we go overseas and learn from the poor. I am such a dreamer.

Beth said...

Excellent post. And as someone with two dogs (and three cats and two turtles and two kids) I can tell you that while chaos reigns my home, I still highly recommend it.

I am a new follower from MBC and would love for you to come visit me at :)

Holly said...

I appreciate the concerns about the dog issue- I will address them at another time :)

Thanks for the verses and the kind words, all. Love yous.

Eileen said...

Dudette, do you know how EXPENSIVE a freaking dog is? Annual vaccinations: $100/yr. Anti-worm pills: $100/yr. Anti-flea cream:$50. DOG FOOD: $400/yr. for a big dog. Just yesterday (and I kid you not) I paid for my dog to get BUTT SURGERY! She needed her anal glands cleaned out and fused together. ($200) It's a stinkin' nightmare, I tell you. I want to kill someone.

P.S. You're super funny. I'm officially stalking you.

Holly said...

Anal glands fused together? Dear God!!! I often wonder what I'm getting into...

Thank you for stalking! Come back soon!