Monday, August 3, 2009

Meanings of Contentment

Malibu Lagoon by Carson Pritchard

After many years of striving for "things" and wanting more, I find myself surprisingly content with what I now have. I say "surprisingly" because it is a me. I have always been very security minded; anxious to know I can pay my bills and there's money in the bank for a rainy day. When those things are not in place, I am riddled with anxiety and fear that tends to make me physically ill. So, the idea that I am finally learning the meaning of contentment is a big big surprise and a welcome one.

This occurred to me yesterday while sitting in church. Our wonderful minister was speaking about the things we need to pursue on a daily basis, one of which was to enjoy the life we have. I realized I do enjoy my life now. This wasn't always the case.

I have gone from the needy, striving, covetous position of having nothing and envying others to finding a place for myself in my relationships, my marriage, the working world. I had to evolve from dependence on my husband and friends to dependence on myself. I had to learn to take responsibility; not an easy thing to do when always looking outside myself for happiness.

It has taken 50+ years to understand that happiness truly does come from within. I was told this but never seemed to accept it. I always thought there should be more. But more is all in your head. It is perception and not reality. If you perceive yourself to be happy, you are and vice versa.

This weekend was a fulfilling and reflective series of events. My husband and I attended an art show fundraiser, mingling with the artistic members of our small community. It was a great deal of fun and a different kind of outing for us. Yesterday, our youngest son turned 21, a huge milestone for all concerned. We took seven people to dinner and then he and his friends invited us to one of our favorite bars for a drink. When he paid for our drinks, my husband was all smiles. "This is the way it should be!" he said. I knew what he meant.

We talked about how lucky we are to have two sweet, kind boys, well-liked by their friends, who include their parents in their hopes and dreams and fears. They fill us with pride. Did we do a good job? We did our best.

I do not have the money I wish I had, I do not have the physical health and energy I wish I had. But, I awaken each day, go to a job I like, see my friends often, write in my blog, read my books, garden, cook and participate in life. I'm so far from perfect it's pathetic. I'm so far from secure, it's laughable. But my expectations have lowered considerably. I'm becoming a little easier on myself; more forgiving. These are the things that contribute to my new found sense of well being and contentment.

The painting above is in a collection of art work by my childhood friend, Carson Pritchard. She's another talented artist whose work I want to share. Double click her name above to see her collected works.


ellen abbott said...

Truer words were never spoke. It's all perception. Choosing to be an artist and depend on an artist's income for everything, I had to give up the desire for things early on. It was one of the most freeing things I ever did. Instead of the physical trappings of a 'successful' life, I found my happiness in actual living.

Bonnie, Original Art Studio said...

Ellen uses an interesting word when she talks about giving up the physical trappings of life to live a life of meaning. The word says it all - it traps us - we have to maintain it, update it, insure it . . . . when there is so much more to life than that.

Sounds to me like you are one very successful woman. Enjoy!

California Girl said...

EA: I'm not sure if Bonnie think it's you or I that is the successful woman but you sure sound like you are a happy and successful person.

Bonnie: yes, too many of us strive for the "trappings" and become trapped by them. Right now, my husband wants nothing more than to chuck everything, take the money we can raise by selling our furniture, antiques and junk and go around the world. My hesitation? I don't want to lose our health insurance.

Auntie, aka Coco's Mom said...

Yes, I can relate and understand your sense of fleeting as it may be at times...Maturity has a lot to do with it (though I know many unhappy Baby Boomers). I thank God I've made it to 50...
I also wonder to what extent the economic recession has to do with our contentment. We are no longer spending $$ as carelessly as before. We are savoring what we already have, and not chasing what we don't need.
Thanks for the post. I enjoyed it very much.

Marguerite said...

I can relate to everything that you are saying and admire your positive attitude. It is refreshing to read a post about contentment and the joys of family. Lovely post! Cheers!

And thanks for the link to Carsen's art. Just beautiful work!

Sandy aka Doris the Great said...

That last paragraph is what's happened with me exactly. Isn't it so wonderful to find contentment inside and not around us. What a blessing to be able to enjoy it!

Judy said...

When I read our blog this evening…. I exclaimed, YES!


Nancy said...

What a great post! You have found what I found this year as well. Happiness is all about the people in our lives, and the small things. We are thinking that we will not take a job in a place we do not want to live. We'd rather live with less, including "security", which is a minmoner anyway. Security is an allusion. All we have is the moment we are in. If we can live with a feeling of gratefulness, then we live with abundance.

Nancy said...

Whoops, I meant "illusion" -

Susan said...

I think you have stumbled upon the secret to happiness...being content with what you have. I believe it does take maturity to realize this and sometimes a change of circumstances. My husband was recently offered a chance to make a salary 50% more than what he's making now, but he turned it down because we don't want to move that far from our kids and grandkids. We have all we need with them.

Baino said...

You're lucky. I haven't quite got there. Once my debt is under control, I'll stop and smell the roses a little although I am content with few possessions and a wonderful family. They're the only treasures I need. Crazy thing is, I have very little to show for the accumulation of debt. I didn't buy 'things' with it so where did the money go . . high price of life I'm afraid. To be able to say "I have all I need" will be a glorious day!

Tanna said...

I LOVE this post, CG! Contentment is a state of mind (I'm working on restoring that state while adjusting to the idea that my grandchild is going to be 1200 miles away). I also love the part about your son's birthday! There is no doubt in my mind that you and your husband have done a great job from the way things sound. I love the right of passage... turning 21... taking honor of buying your parents a drink in celebration! Stepping up.

California Girl said...

Auntie: The recession probably has a great deal to do with it. The media is focusing on folks who are learning to live and enjoy with less. The campgrounds are filled and the retail shops are selling smaller items or less expensive items. People are starting to cook at home more. The "Cash for Clunkers" program has worked so well they need more money. People turning in older gas guzzlers for money to buy more fuel efficient cars.

Marguerite: I passed on your compliment to Carson. We've been friends since we were about 10.

Sandy: Wish it hadn't taken me so long to get to this point but at least I am aware of it.

Judy: Good for you. Glad to hear it.

Nancy: Sounds like our fellow bloggers are striving for this as well.

Susan: I'm just takiing a page out of the Buddhist philosophy. Your story about your husband turning down that job is becoming a more familiar tale. Good for you guys!

Baino: You will. We have debt too and it used to eat me up. I just don't think about it any longer. I figure we'll pay it down some day. The trick is to no longer add to it.

Tanna: Thank you sweetie. Both sons have given us scary, frustrating, exasperating moments. It's nice to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Coffee Messiah said...

Seems most of us realize we can do with less as we get older, and yes, what has transpired in the world lately helps push it home more.

I still can't believe the best money making days are now behind us (or at least me) and we're all living in a precarious position ; (


verification: eyfull ; )

California Girl said...

Hey CM: Your second comment is funny, bittersweet and mostly true. I don't think too many of us expect to make the money we once made. Trick is to lower the overhead to go with it.

Mary Ellen said...

I enjoyed reading this, and feel that I have come to a pretty similar place (most of the time). Perhaps the new vitamin D supplements are helping, but I'm feeling like I am beginning to see what being "adult" is supposed to be about. (About time, I guess!) That is, taking responsibility, even when having sustained damage from the s. and a. of outrageous fortune, for my own well-being, and for contributing to the well-being of others. Cheers!

Reya Mellicker said...

Wow this is beautiful, and EXACTLY what I needed to read this morning. Thank you for the reminder of what really matters. Really, thank you SO much!

Ruth said...

I didn't read all the comments, I'd like to come back and do so. No doubt they are good too.

I love this post. I could have written it, I'm about your age, and what strikes me is that it takes life to learn to live. You can't learn it just hearing what you're supposed to do and be. The failures more than anything teach me, and slowing down and taking it all in is the wonderful reward for living this long.

Books, said...

Hi! C.G.,
I'am so glad that I stopped by to read your post. Because I find it most enlightening...and all I can say it seems as if your sons are learning or learned a very valuable
from their parents.(That no monetary value can be placed...and that is to be...Thankful, caring, and sharing!)

Thanks, for sharing!
DeeDee ;-D

California Girl said...

ME: What a great response! btw, I recently upped my Vit D intake at the suggestion of a rheumatologist. I think it's very helpful.

Reya: thank you for your enthusiastic response. It certainly makes me feel wonderful if I can have a positive impact. xo

Ruth: Oh no! You CANT be that old! hahahahaha! Yes, the writers who commented have insightful wisdom to share.

DeeDee: you're welcome and thank you for the kind words. I hope my sons are learning this!!

Vagabonde said...

This is an interesting post with interesting comments. I enjoy reading about all this but I can’t relate really. I think I was born “content” as it is. I came from another culture where money was not that important and never really thought that much about it – I always had enough and if not, enjoyed what I had. I came from a secular background and maybe that explains it. But at 25 I had a Chinese co-worker who explained Buddhism to me (her type of Buddhism). So, from 25 years old on I have had an independent religion/philosophy which is a mixture of Buddhism, Secular Humanism and other philosophies which have made my life very happy and content. I remember once about 20 years ago being on an airplane, 200 miles from Afghanistan, with fire in the cargo and everyone screaming because we thought we would crash, and I did not mind because I had had a happy life and was not scared at all. But I do understand that many people have trying times and it is good when one finds happiness and contentment, at any age. I mean this very sincerely - since I am happy I love it when others find happiness too.

vrinda said...


this is the first time i visited your blog and am really liking what i saw and read there. I love the color scheme of ur blog, but more than that i like ur posts.
Contentment - very rightly penned and aptly too. These days all of us are so worried in the what ifs and buts that we tend to forget to enjoy the things that are there NOW. Caught up in jobs, health issues, keeping other people happy - drains us of the contentment that we would normally feel if we dint get too caught up with these.
I feel contentment is within you - its your prerogative if YOU would rather bring it to the forefront or let OTHERS make it take a backseat.

Do visit my blog sometime - i think you would like it.


Ruth said...

I answered your question at my blog about the wedding. :) Thank you so much for your sweet interest.

California Girl said...

Vagabonde: I read your comment with great interest. You are fortunate to have discovered this so young. I learned to meditate in my late twenties and it had a calming effect on me, unlike anything I'd ever experienced. I did not stick with it and only came back to it in my early forties when I began taking yoga. Regular yoga classes with a great coach, taught me alot. Again, I let that slip away when I had to have each hip replaced in my late forties/early fifties. The loss of range of motion, fatigue, recovery etc wore me down. I am just now coming around, losing weight, getting more active, trying to breathe properly and listening to my Buddhist minister.
Thank you for your insightful thoughts.

Vrinda: thank you for visiting and I will indeed visit yours. Contentment is in the holder, we have to keep that in mind. Hard lesson for me to learn but am trying to keep that focus.

Ruth: You are welcome. I just loved all the wedding ideas. They are recycling at its most beautiful.

Poetikat said...

I don't think too many of us have the money we wish we had. Oh well.

I love that Carson Pritchard painting. It is glorious!


California Girl said...

PKat: I'll post more of her work in the future.


by Cole Scott