Following on from my previous ‘simple’ post comes one that is so close to my heart at the moment. The one word that has been on my mind and on my lips this past week is content. For the majority of my life I have wanted more. I have always had a list of what qualities, skills, looks, and attributes that I was working towards (or what I should be working towards), but what did it leave me with? Initially it helped, I was able to feel better when I was promoted, when I got better grades, and when people said nice things about me. I say initially because these things never last. I based my life around my feelings. My whole outlook on life fluctuated depending on my circumstances. If you have ever lived at least one day on Earth you can testify that feelings and circumstances, whether bad or good, are ALWAYS going to change. In the end, wanting more left me with a severely compromised Mental Health and some pretty unhelpful coping strategies for life. This brings me now to the word ‘content’ and how it plays out in a practical way of our lives. Without a moment of hesitation, I can declare that (as of the past few weeks) I am fully content in EVERY. SINGLE. ASPECT of my life. So what does being content mean?
Content: (adj.) in a state of peaceful happiness
Another definition explains content as being satisfied and willing to accept a situation while not wanting any more. Awesome! Yep. Cool Kathleen, you’re saying that I have to be overjoyed that *insert something not pleasant* happens to me? To that question, I say NO! Not a chance. No way. Scrap that. Reverse. Na-ah. N-O. Nope. Nadda. I say, having the thought that content means we need to be happy about the bad stuff will never allow you to be content. I’ll share an excerpt of my life from this past week: Last Tuesday night I went to do some of my online quiz work for my Statistics course. It’s a course that I am understanding and have the achievable goal of receiving a High Distinction in (90%+). When I went to do the work I realised that I had missed the quiz (9am) and also the weekly homework (4pm) by only a few hours. Disappointment set in hardcore. All I could think about was my chances of my High Distinction fading away. I had two choices in that moment. Choice #1: Cry, eat everything sugary in the kitchen, hate myself, and just mope around for the rest of the night. Choice #2: Accept my mistake of forgetting about the deadlines, assess if I could ask/beg for a second chance (not possible), and treat my emotions with something helpful. A year and even three weeks ago I would have chosen the easy way out, choice number 1. On that night, I chose the second option. In that moment, I chose to be content with my situation, I chose to react to my situation in a helpful way (listen to some music & put on a previous sermon), and I chose to understand that it is 100% valid to be disappointed for slipping up on the deadlines.
Looking back at that specific situation it was a fork in the road that lead me to better opportunities and a healthier and happier frame of mind, even though for myself it was a pretty painful situation. The most important thing from that choice was that it positively reinforced my decision to be content in life. I don’t say I am content and then do actions that don’t align with it (like taking choice #1). Time and time again I have to stop, reassess, and act accordingly. Sometimes I forget, and I go down the path of similar choices #1, but that is life, and I am content in knowing that when the next time I am presented with a choice to make, I will take ones similar to choice #2. I am human, I am content in being a human, and therefore, I am unashamedly a human.
Applying a biblical sense to the post, I find myself at Psalm 131.
“But I have calmed and quieted myself, I am like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child I am content.” Psalm 131:2
When we are weaned off of something, we become accustomed to managing without something we have been dependent on. Personally, my contentedness comes from being weaned off of letting my emotions and circumstances control me. Specifically it allows me to accept what life throws at me. When life throws me a sunny day with a smooth tasting coffee and no looming assignments I am content. When life throws me an assignment due date, no money, and regret of speaking when I probably shouldn’t have, I am content. I am content even of the smallest details like watching the different cloud formations in the sky.
In no way did I reach this place of being fully content overnight. It has taken me opportunity after opportunity, mistake after mistake of trying to accept where I am, is actually where I am. If one thing comes from you reading this, I hope you take away this: Be content with where you are in this present moment. If you make a mistake, love yourself with no strings attached. If you have done something well today, embrace it! If things haven’t gone the way you had hoped, accept it and remember that what you are going through is temporary.
“To be content doesn’t mean you don’t desire more, it means you’re thankful for what you have and patient for what is to come.” -Tony Gaskins