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Living with Contentment

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“I have learned to seek my happiness by limiting my desires, rather than in attempting to satisfy them.” ― John Stuart Mill

“I am never happy,” I told my mentor.

“Never?” he asked me. “Do you expect to be happy all the time. So you are never happy?”

“Well, maybe sometimes,” I responded.

“So do you expect to be happy all the time?” my mentor asked me. Then he told me something that stays with me to this day. “Happiness, like all things, is fleeting. It comes and it goes.”

It is true that I was just bouncing back from a prolonged low feeling and in the midst of recovery from C-PTSD, developed from a youth being bullied and abused. But this, like many more moments in my future of learning to live with myself, was a watershed moment. I understood his point and finally got it. I was expecting to have life offer me more happiness when the truth is that life offers us contentment and we find a way to be satisfied with that. The truth, I came to understand, is how can one truly know happiness, if you don’t know sadness. We must have a balance in life of everything. It was my false expectation that led to my own unhappiness.

I don’t really understand fully why my thinking was so negative. I know I am very hard on myself, a perfectionist, and I was dealing with low self-esteem. But I have learned that no one can control your happiness, but you. Just like you choose to be angry or not, based on what someone else does. You don’t have to CHOOSE to be angry.

I know that I don’t like to deal with plans that don’t go the way I expected. I have learned to not live in the future and set expectations, but just take it day by day.

So I have learned to be content with this. Content, to me, means that there will be somewhat of an equally good and bad in life. How I choose to handle it is what will make the difference. Content means to not go in with preconceived expectations but to let life happen and enjoy the high points as much as possible. Content means not to predict that things will turn out bad or if they do, not to believe that this bad period will be forever. Content means living with mindfulness and focusing on the now.

Ask me again if I am happy. My new response is that I am content. Sometimes I am happy, sometimes I am sad, sometimes I am good and sometimes I am bad. I am who I am and I work to be a better me each day. I do this knowing that it would be best when asked, to say I am content with who I am today.

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