I have been thinking a lot about contentment lately. While I have by no means mastered this mindset, I have definitely been in the process of learning how to be content no matter what is going on in my life. The last month has been really busy, and has included some pretty rough days. But I’ve been trying to make a conscious effort to dwell on the verse in Philippians 4:12, which says “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” I want to get to the point where I can make this statement honestly and wholeheartedly.
I’m not just talking about money here, although that can certainly have a profound impact on our contentment level. I think everyone has caught themselves saying , “If I just made a little bit more per hour/week/month/year, I would be happy/content/comfortable.” Funny thing about money is that if you base your contentment on making just a little more, you’ll find yourself always wishing for just a little more.
But this applies to other areas just as well. If I could lose just a few more pounds, I would be happy with my body. If I could just remodel my house, I would be satisfied with it. If my spouse was more helpful/more romantic/more supportive, etc, we could have a great marriage. (I happen to be blessed with a fantastic husband, so this doesn’t really apply to me, but you get the idea).
It’s just so easy to fall into that trap. We are always reaching for just a bit more, instead of being truly grateful and genuinely content with what we have, right now, at this moment. But how do we get out of that rut? I’ve been trying to keep a running list of all the things I am thankful for. I started it last Thanksgiving, and while I haven’t referred to it constantly, I find that whenever I do read through it again, it definitely gives me a lift. I have so many things to be grateful for, and the things that I have to legitimately be unhappy about are minuscule in comparison.
While I do have a lifelong illness which affects my day-to-day functioning, in the grand scheme of things, it’s far better than most of the other afflictions I could have. Addison’s Disease is relatively easy to manage as long as I stay on top of it, and remember to let myself have low days (basically waking up with my battery already drained). I am not bedridden, confined to a wheelchair, blind, deaf, fighting cancer, or any of the other far worse things that could affect my health. And my frequent back pain from scoliosis and a car accident several years ago has become far less severe and less frequent since I went gluten-free in mid-January. I chalk that one up to the chronic systemic inflammation that can come with gluten sensitivity.
Rob and I are certainly not rich, but we literally lived far below poverty level for the first several years of our marriage, so I can’t help but be grateful that we now have everything we need and many of the things we want as well. I am ecstatic that we have enough that we can use what we have to help others. I’m not really a “stuff” kind of person, and am even less so since starting to give away things we don’t love or use, as the Flylady recommends. And we’re so much more content with the general state of the house since we’ve gotten rid of all the clutter we never use. It’s far easier to keep it clean when you’re not stashing unused stuff. I definitely prefer the simple/minimalist approach here.
And while there are many things that I would like to change/improve about my house, I am truly grateful that I do have a house, and I love where it’s located (in the woods, and surrounded by family). Not only do we have plenty of room, we have actually been able to offer space to people who need a place to stay, and allow first Rob’s grandmother and then mine to stay with us when they needed assistance. And we have a large living room and plenty of outdoor seating for hosting friends, which is one of my favorite things in the world to do.
Although I would still like to continue to lose weight and become more fit, I’m thrilled with how much better I look and feel since I stopped eating gluten. It was a challenge at first, but it’s becoming second nature now, and the health benefits are so worth the learning curve. I have, in the process of blogging about outer beauty, become far more comfortable with my body than I ever have been before, and I’m more accepting of myself just as I am now, even though I know I’m not done yet.
Being content does not mean that you can’t want to improve things. Nearly every aspect of our lives leaves room for improvement. But if we spend all of our time wishing for more, we will never actually reach contentment, never be truly satisfied. My goal is to refer to that list of gratefulness more often, and continue to add things to it. This is another attempt to dwell on the good instead of the bad, and to change my outward attitude by changing internally how I view the world.
Which aspects of your life do you find it hardest to be content with? How do you keep yourself focused on what you have, instead of what you don’t have? Do you have a “thankfulness list”?