If you're reading this and follow me on any social media platform, or have known me and had a moderately deep conversation with me in the last year, you probably know that I actively preach the concept of being content. I always say to "be content in the moment, because life is always moving up and down." It sounds so cliche. Some people I have spoken to about this have rolled their eyes at me, while others listened with an open mind. In this post, I want to address how I came up with this, dig deeper with what living a life content really means, and why it is important and can benefit anyone willing to listen.
In April and part of May last year, I was homeless for a bit. I eventually moved into my friend's house for a month, and started saving all of the money that I could from both of my full time jobs. Towards the end of May, I moved into my own apartment with my close friend at the time, and officially began "living the big girl life." I started talking to, and dating my old neighbor/friend on-and-off, and everything seemed great. I loved living on my own, my roommate and I got along really well, and I made a lot of new friends within my apartment complex, while my other friends helped us out with anything that they could (think groceries, gas money, coming over and cleaning the place, buying us things we might need around the house, etc). I mended things with my parents and they even came over for dinners and swam in the community pool a few times with me over summer. I got a promotion at one job, and quit the other one that I had. Life was great again! I wasn't homeless anymore, I had undying support from all of the people around me, and all of my relationships were strong and full of love and respect. Then June rolled around. My car broke down, I got fired from my job, I couldn't afford my part of rent/bills, and my questionable relationship with my old neighbor came to a final end. I was broke and although I had a great support system, no one could really buy me a new car or pay for everything that I needed to pay for. I began stress drinking and partying instead of handling my responsibilities. After a few days of binge drinking, I applied to numerous businesses and was hired at 2 places within the span of a week. At this point I was working two full time jobs again. My dad helped me buy a new car and I paid him back in monthly installments. Another friend of my roommate and I moved in with us so everything was a little cheaper for all of us. And one of my guy friends and I started crushing on each other, and we had a great time pretending to be just friends. Everything is great again! Then fast forward to August and I have a boyfriend and it's not an on-and-off again, half ass relationship. I was struggling financially still but could afford everything that I needed to. Everything is pretty good and then.... I got into a very serious hit and run car accident.
Do you see the pattern? Everything is great! Then it sucks. Everything is great again! And then it sucks again. Life is constantly moving up and down. I noticed this pattern in my own life and pondered why it was this way. I started thinking about how it has always been like this, and it's not just my life that is constantly fluctuating either.
I began the big girl life with goals towards happiness that I was moving forward to. Yet, it seemed like every time I reached that goal or achieved "happiness" that it ended abruptly and I had to start over again. I was treating happiness as if it were the destination on the journey of life. But after picking up on this pattern, I realized that this is not how life works. This is not how happiness works or is achieved. I needed to find a middle ground, where my expectations were not too high so that I couldn't be disappointed, but my goals were not too small to where I never moved forward. I needed to find a place in the middle where everything wasn't horrendous, but also where the great high times weren't what I was working for. This is how I decided to live a life of feeling content.
"Content" is defined as "in a state of peaceful happiness; a state of satisfaction," and a few appropriate synonyms would include "satisfied" and "gratified" (Oxford). I practiced gratefulness for the good things in my life, and was satisfied with where I was on my journey, even if I wasn't where I wanted to be or didn't have everything that I wanted. Although I had found this middle ground and was all around satisfied, I kept working towards my goals and having everything that I wanted in life. I also decided that this journey had no destination, because as soon as you get to where you want to be, life happens. And sometimes when you reach that point and life doesn't kick you down, you begin working to have more. It's crazy and ironic if you think about it, which is why I would argue that sanity and genuine gratefulness cannot be achieved unless one is satisfied with the good and the bad. There has to be a safe space in the middle. This peace, satisfaction, and grateful state of being despite what is happening around you is being content. Once you actively decide to be content with whatever direction life takes you, or with the consequences of your decisions, you will find peace. If you stop living as though life is a battle that must be won, you will realize that there is no destination. There is no finish line. The only destination we'll ever reach in our lives is death.
Now in no way, shape, or form am I saying to live life passively and still be content. If you want something, work for it! If you want to move, then move! You are still in control of your life and should still have goals that you want to reach (and you still should try to achieve them). I am only saying to live life in a state of being satisfied with where ever you are, while still actively working towards where you want to be.
Living your life with this mindset is incredibly freeing. It allows you to become more humble, and help put into perspective what is really important to you. Nothing can truly disappoint you, and all of the good doesn't get to your head. You are merely at peace. It is quite beneficial to anyone who decides to adopt this idea because it is an almost permanent peace around you. I suppose that in a sense, it allows the dust around you to settle. Living content is not easy and it's impossible to consistently think and believe these things in the same way that it is impossible to be 100% positive and happy all of the time. You'll have moments and stages in life where you are tremendously happy and it appears as though nothing can bring you down. Yet, you will also experience moments of dread, sadness, anger or anything "bad" and it seems like nothing that you can say to yourself will make you feel better or grateful. This is just life constantly rolling up and down. And that is okay. It's actually everyone's reality. Practicing living content is a way to allow inner peace in, and accept things as the way that they are.
Maren Hoflund MT HHP, is a massage therapist and holistic health practitioner based in San Diego. This her self created space where she explores topics such as mental and physical (holistic) health, self care, spirituality, and child development; in addition to her poetry and prose.