I'll just go ahead and say it: I don't know when I last felt contented. Do you?
I live a life with many good things and people in it. I have many reasons to be grateful, to be happy, to be satisfied. But can I honestly claim to have achieved contentment? I can't.
Predictably (for me), my first honest response to this admission is a feeling of guilt. I should be contented, shouldn't I? Discontent feels ever so close to ingratitude, to a lack of appreciation for all the good that life holds.
But I know that's not where it sits for me. Maybe sometimes - I am human, after all - but rarely. I know what I have. I know the privilege I live with. Contentment evades me, I think, not because of not HAVING but because of not BEING. It's about what I am not, not what I have not.
And how can a person tackle that type of discontentment? It creeps into each shade of the day, wrapping itself around the things I try to achieve, the traits I aspire to. When they are out of reach then so is my ease of mind, if only by a fraction. So to be content, even for ten minutes, is a challenge. Something in me is restless and feels the need to do or be more, somehow.
If I am entirely honest - and writing on a topic like this, I feel I ought to be - I think I am afraid to find out what underlies this need, because what if I can't fulfil it? I like to tell myself that not knowing how to achieve becoming the person I should be is what's holding me back, but I suspect that for each part of that puzzle I do figure out, another two will take its place. To be discontent all the time unless things are perfect seems a dangerous position, so there must be a space for contentment within this conundrum.
I've tried counting my blessings; setting aside time to be, not to do; journalling - those kinds of activities the self help gurus recommend. The success of these efforts is fleeting, in my experience. Largely because life doesn't allow me much time for them, I think, but also because I've rather forgotten how to just be! My comfort zone is in the doing, probably because activity makes me feel productive - but I am aware that life shouldn't be one long to do list.
I am sure of a few things. Contentment does not equal inertia; it is not a state of laziness or apathy. It is hard won. It is an excellent harbour from which to prepare for the next voyage. And it is bliss. But it doesn't seem to come naturally to me. I'll let you know if and when that changes...