“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.”