“If Only…”

“Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.” ~ Epicurus

I struggle regularly with contentment, and I have for many years. In fact, I can recall times I wished my days away longing for some elusive event. “If only news of the next job would come sooner.” “If only we owned our own home.” “If only I had a few hours to myself.”

And of course, you know the rest of the story. The new job did come, and it brought with it new demands. The new house included a massive new list of chores. And as I prepare to send my youngest to kindergarten this fall, the time alone doesn’t seem nearly as enticing.

The absurdity of the discontent is that I have traveled this road before, and I know that the problem is me. When it comes to lessons in contentment, I’m like a 3rd grader over summer vacation: I have forgotten everything I learned before.

Many years ago, my husband and I dreamed of owning a home on a small parcel of land. We pored over magazines, cut out pictures of the ones we liked and filed them away in a folder. We spent a lot of years imagining small-town life and a simpler way of doing things. “If only all that could be ours.”

Fast forward 20-something years, and we are new owners of a home on a few acres of land. In a small town. In a home that is literally a duplicate of one we filed away in our folder all those years ago.

And for the first three months I lived here, I was miserable.

As I write this, I realize how absurd it sounds. I had everything I had presumably ever wanted, but I was unhappy. My husband and friends were far away, as was the military base that was my comfort zone. I didn’t want to admit to my friends that I was struggling. Weren’t they the ones who, just weeks before, had listened to me ramble on excitedly about our new home in a new place? They’d surely think I was ungrateful. Which of course I was.

The realization was uncomfortable, but necessary. Those three months are behind me now, but the lesson I learned is fresh in my mind. There is much to be thankful for today. Shame on me if I wish it away worrying about tomorrow.

I’ve come to realize that discontent in my life is sort of like the new-car bug: it creeps in periodically, and it’s not likely to stay away for long. It convinces me that somebody else has something better. And it often comes with a hidden price tag.

If only I could remember that in the future.”

3 thoughts on ““If Only…”

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  1. I’ll remind you 🙂

    I like a little trick I learned from Oprah – She keeps a Gratitude Journal; jots down at least five reasons why the day was a good day; just five reasons to be grateful. You’ll find lots of, what I call, ‘backhanded’ reasons, especially on the crummiest of days. For example,when you miss someone, say an especially good friend who lives in another state, that would be 1) I am grateful today because I have friends so dear to me that I miss them when they are not near. See?

  2. LOVE this post! And I love your eloquent way of phrasing exactly what goes on in my head. It’s all too often that I find myself feeling let down and disappointed by the things that I thought would make me feel happy and whole. I’ll consider myself officially all growed-up when I’m finally able to stop fixating on some perfect future and start appreciating my imperfect present. 😀 Write away, chick… I’ll be reading!

  3. Donna, I can always count on you to keep me on-track. You are the queen of the exact brand of “tough love” that I need… And Erin, that comes as very high praise from you, because I’ve read your writing on Domestiphobia, and you truly have a gift… My favorite is “I Quit!” The visuals I had while reading were priceless… 🙂 You guys are the best!

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