Thursday, March 7, 2013

Cultivating Contentment

A few weeks ago, I had a delightful conversation with a "Mentor Mom" at my MOPS group. She is also a friend of my husband's family, and someone I have come to admire for her hospitality, sewing, and all-around pleasant demeanor. Like my mother-in-law, she's a lady

(My late mother and me--we'd just be called women, and that's on a good day! Ha!)

Where was I? Right. This dear sister was showing solidarity and acknowledging just how challenging it can be to mother young children, be a wife, keep a home and still lead some degree of the life you had before children. Then she used a fascinating phrase...cultivating contentment.

As you may already know, I like to get things done. And quickly. I like to look ahead at upcoming challenges and I am eager to accept work. However, my focus is usually on completing the task and getting to the finish line. Then, I say to myself, I can put up my feet with a book and a glass of lemonade. It's not long after I sit that I realize there are 10 other things I've been meaning to get around to doing. The work keeps coming.

I'm realizing that I must slow down. There is joy in the process of work. I should choose to relish the time spent with family or people on my team. Work is not only about accomplishment, it's about relationships and helping others. And really, aren't relationships the most valuable part of life?

My Concrete Sequential style has drawbacks. I'm ashamed to admit how often I've excused myself from conversations that didn't seem worth my time; it was just chit-chat. But that robbed me of the opportunity to get to know someone better. I've completed projects on my own because I could do the work, but that was without considering that I could have learned something. I frequently find myself wanting to split up work when it comes to cooking or running errands with my husband, even though we like spending time together.

 “Shared joy is a double joy; shared sorrow is half a sorrow” - Swedish proverb

So, how am I cultivating contentment?

Mostly by changing my perspective.

First, I've acknowledged that life is fluid and can't be contained in categories. Being "caught up" is really a myth. I hope most of you know this one, but for me, the mental shift took work!

I'm also accepting that my agenda is only partially important. Each day comes with its own set of priorities that I may or may not have control over. I cannot get into a snit if the day develops differently than planned, especially if there is opportunity to love on someone important.

Then there is the whole issue of what I'd like to do, as compared to what's good enough. I'd like to look a certain way each morning but it's not worth yelling at my children so that I can apply full makeup. Life will go on if I make a cake from a box mix. I don't always have time or energy to produce my very best. I can't waste energy feeling guilty about these things.

Finally, I know I have a case of beer budget and champagne taste. Yet I remind myself that I am blessed in so many ways. Simply by living in this country I am among the 5% wealthiest people in the world. There is so much that I can do in terms of giving, entertaining, and creating a happy home without breaking the bank.

This cultivation process will likely take my entire life, but I'm starting with conscious choices to be content even when my heart isn't fully on board.

How are you choosing contentment?

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