“Contentment is an emotional state of satisfaction that can be seen as a mental state, drawn from being at ease in one's situation, body and mind. Colloquially speaking, contentment could be a state of having accepted one's situation.”1
Happiness is a myth! I don’t write this to be sceptical or controversial, I’m simply expressing my truth. Happiness is sold to us as a state of being and a final destination that we "must pursue". For me, happiness is an abstract concept.
What is happiness anyway?
In the Oxford dictionary “happiness” is a state of being satisfied with something as good or right.
If everyone were happy, this world would be an odd place to live. Continuous and universal happiness seems to be a utopian freakish nightmare to me. A breeding ground for inauthentic and unrealistic bonds and toxic positivity.
What does happiness mean?
I can’t imagine what “good” and “right” even look or feel like. The words have me at a loss, which is rare as I have an expansive imagination.
Throughout my life, I’m blessed to have felt pure joy in many moments. I felt joy when I met my nephew Teddy for the first time, holding his little tiny hand in mine. And again, at the birth of my niece Millicent. Life itself born into the world right in front of me. Miracles do happen and Millie is one of them.
I’ve felt joy in less life-defining moments, such as sharing a meal with my loved ones or catching up with friends. Feelings of joy turn the edges of your mouth up to form a smile. Joy escapes from your lungs in blusterous loud sounds of laughter. Joy resides in the depths of your heart space and is contagious when shared with others.
Sorrow, I’ve felt sorrow too. When I was in IVF sorrow visited me many times and it came again at the end of my marriage. Sorrow sees to it that the tears from our soul materialise in our eyes. Sorrow wakes us at night and beacons darkness. Sorrow tells us a story that we need to hear to heal and transform. Sorrow should be sat with and respected, but never worn as a badge and never resisted.
In October last year, I had deep sorrow come visit me. For many people, 2019 was a year of big transformative life-changing year. 2019 was no exception for me. I had moved house and began to live alone for the first time in my adult life. I started a new career. I finished my degree. I had endometriosis surgery. I signed my divorce papers.
I found myself in sorrow, and I resisted it. Resistance to that sorrow created terrible anxiety in me. My thoughts consumed me. I was up in my head. After a few months of my self-imposed turmoil, I had to take responsibility for my sorrow and myself. There was no way around sorrow anymore, there never is.
Joy, contentment, and sorrow are sincere human feelings and emotions. I can see, feel and know these states of being. Can you?
These feelings and emotions display on the faces of others. They can live in the body and form in our actions and words. Like most people, I’d love to be in a constant state of pure joy. And, I do choose to be in joy more often than not. But, when I need to be in grief and sorrow, that is where you’ll find me. I won’t pretend to be anywhere different. I did that for many years and it never served me well.
Both joy and sorrow are states of being that show us the way to a life of authenticity and balance. It is only when we express and still ourselves, that we can begin to heal all wounds. The quest towards acceptance and compassion arrives in the form of contentment. When we let go, resist less and allow more, we move forward in life with grace.
So, I began to take responsibility for life by taking time for myself. By setting boundaries. I let things go that were no longer serving me. I asked for help. I stopped giving space and energy to people and things that were no longer in alignment with my values. This time in my life was pivotal.
Sorrow visited to show me that I needed to rebuild and recalibrate. I needed to find a new way of being. Now, I committed to writing a gratitude list every day. I wrote my list every day and still do. But at the time, I didn’t feel grateful and I have many blessings for gratitude in my life. Yet, I couldn’t bring my body and soul to feel grateful.
It wasn’t until early January that I began to feel grateful again. With my returned feelings of gratitude, my life began to see in contentment. Without sounding cliché, every storm must pass and the sun will rise again. This phase of life for me is the sunrise and I adore sunrises. The storm has come and the sun is rising. At last, I am content. I am grateful to my family and friends. The love of these people helped me withstand the storm of sorrows visit.
Right now as I’m writing this piece, I’m sitting on the deck of a beautiful house overlooking Lake Taupo in New Zealand. The birds chirp in the nearby trees. The sun is sneaking behind the many little mountains that frame the lake ahead. Here and now I am content. Contentment has slowed my breath and calmed my pulse.
How this story relates to my claim that happiness is a myth. Well, I had claimed happiness in the past many times as fact, but in truth, I was denying my sorrow. I see now that happiness represents striving towards something beyond the present moment. I now acknowledge and know that I am enough.
I also know that blessing come to us when we are content and grateful for what we have now – in this present moment.
I am grateful to no longer strive for happiness. The pressure is off, the valve has released. I no longer run and instead I walk. For the present moment, it is slow and steady. I want to embrace it and not run from it ever again. Instead, 2020 is my year for allowing in joy, contentment, and even sorrow.
All states of being are transient and evoke necessary change. With every human experience, we have to adapt to change. When we allow for contentment and embrace all feelings as and when they arrive. I do not doubt that we will continue to evolve with purpose and compassion.
I will leave you with these parting words. When sorrow visits still yourself and allow for discomfort as it serves to show you the way. When joy arrives bask in all its bliss and glory. Let joy spread into the lives of others by filling their life with acts of kindness to show your gratitude. When contentment enters, connect with yourself, others and nature.
Contentment unlike the happiness myth has no final destination. Contentment is a state of being that allows you to adapt to the present moment with grace and ease.