Mourning Contentment

M

My definition of mourning contentment is way different from Randy’s definition. He’d also probably spell “mourning” without the “u”. Y’all know what they’re like in the morning.

Anyway, I don’t know if the following story is really the first time I recognized the feeling of contentment or just my first memory of feeling content. I will say that having a narcissist for a parent hindered my ability to feel content, so it’s not hard for me to believe that it took over two decades to recognize the feeling.

I was 23 years old and on my first honeymoon.

I was a newlywed in the Cayman Islands with a husband I was lukewarm over. I’ve mentioned a time or two that my decision making skills are remedial, right? Well, when you walk down the aisle with the thought “I guess I can always get divorced”, then calling your decision making skills “remedial” is an insult to people with remedial decision making skills.

Still, I experienced a true moment of contentment.

The fact that my husband was with me was irrelevant.

I wore a yellow sundress and no shoes while sitting on a boat eating cherry pie from a seashell. I sat on a bench in front of a speaker and listened to Jimmy Buffet blaring in my ear. The air was warm, but not uncomfortable. I remember having this feeling that I didn’t recognize. My chest wasn’t tight. I didn’t wish I were somewhere else. I was exactly where I wanted to be. I wanted nothing more than my cherry pie and to listen to Jimmy Buffet and I’m not much of a Jimmy Buffet fan.

I was content. I value contentment over happiness.

I mean, I’m not going to bitch about feeling happy. Happy is good. Happy is also fleeting. Contentment settles in and spreads all the way down to my digits and feels warm and safe.

That first time I felt content, it didn’t last long. I remember that as soon as I recognized how fucking good I felt, I started to mourn the inevitable end of the feeling. I knew I wouldn’t be able to hold on to it and instead of just living my contentment, I worried it away.

30 years later. For all that is fucking holy, how the fuck is that right? How was that 30 years ago? 

Now, I feel content more often than I used to. Not as much as I’d like, but I do feel it.

Last week, when we were in Tennessee with our mountain friends, we went from a fairly hot morning, to a misting rain in the afternoon.

Randy manned a smoker while Mountain girl and I sat on a glider on a covered deck. We had a kitty sitting between us and there was nothing more in the world I needed or wanted. The rain blew in and felt like religion. Well, religion that never causes wars, hard feelings, or bigotry. Unicorn religion.

I wrote most of this longhand while sitting on the glider.

Well, I wrote until Stripey cat decided he no longer wanted me to be kitty adjacent. I had to stop because he climbed up Stripey caton me and put his ass right on my notebook. Stripey cat and I had to have a few discussions about him making biscuits on my boobies because damn, those were some sharp claws. Even with him periodically kneading my leg, stomach, or boobs, feeling his warmth and listening to the rain and talking with my friend kicked the contentment up a few notches.

I told her the story about being on the boat and how I sucked at feeling contentment. I mentioned how grateful I was that I learned, after practicing for years, to appreciate the moments when they came. I didn’t mourn the end of the afternoon. I just appreciated feeling that I was exactly where I belonged.

Am I content now? Well, it’s late and I should be sleeping. I have to work tomorrow and, if today was any indication, then tomorrow is going to be the producer of stomach acid. So, no. I am not particularly content at this moment.

I can look back at last week and smile. I’m not sad that the moment ended. I am just appreciative that I got to experience it. I’m also no longer afraid that every moment of contentment I feel will be the last one.

I know there will be more.

I have learned to stop and pay attention to these moments when they happen.

I have learned to not be afraid to let them go when the moments pass. That is very nearly true. 

So, there are a few of my moments of contentment. Tell me one of yours. Seriously, because tomorrow is going to suck balls and I could use some of your happy thoughts.

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  • I currently have 3yo and 5.5yo boys….contentment is when I stop caring about how the house looks and just lay on the couch and snuggle with the two of them. If I think about anything else…..it pretty much goes out the window because I let frustration over them not following directions, telling toot jokes, and all in all being wild animals get in the way of my zen. I’m going through a little down phase right now…..

    • Yeah, I have come a long way toward feeling content more often by letting go of things that I decided don’t really matter much. Having a pristine house is one of those things.

  • Contentment for me is any time I’m at the beach. My husband’s mother has a little spot on a private beach along the North Shore of Nova Scotia. Being a private beach is one of the best parts of being there; there’s only the few cottage goers like ourselves there.

    Last night, we made an impromptu drive over; the youngest two (12 and 18) were both gone for the night so we figured why not. We threw a bottle of wine and a couple beer along with a couple sweaters and our cameras and drove over to take pictures of an awesome sunset and an okay full moon rise.

    I’m always content when we’re there but last night was just a bit nicer…no kidlets on our own time. Pure contentment. 🙂

  • On a small island in Fiji, with my very best friends, and nowhere else to be. Or reading in my backyard in the summertime, with nowhere else to be. P.S. I love the term “kitty adjacent”.

  • I haven’t had many moments of contentment in recent years but I do remember a few very definite times though.
    The first was when I was on shore leave from a cruise ship I was playing on, in Mauritius. Me and a couple of others from the band had gone off around the island in a mini-moke, (definitely worth doing), and we found our own little cove.
    I went for a swim in the crystal clear, turquoise ocean, which was very calm and so salt laden that I found I could just lay on the surface. Looking up at the perfect blue sky I thought that I would love to stay there forever.

    Another moment, was when I was visiting a tiny island in the Seychelles, owned by a writer from Yorkshire. The island is full of giant tortoises and sitting amongst these huge but gentle creatures, most of whom were at least 100 years old was a wholly peaceful experience.

    Dancing in the warm rain in Mahe.

    My first holiday alone, post my first divorce, walking across the dunes in Fuerteventura.

    I do hope there are more in my future.

  • Sounds like some good advice. It’s the old Kurt Vonnegut thing: “If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.”

    I’m starting to get a little more like that. I was always moving too quickly onto the next thing to appreciate what was going on around me. But I guess I’m slowing down a little and looking around.

    Work will be better than you expected. You heard it here first.

  • Been a rough year. But there was s moment last night when the light was perfect for the photo I was trying to capture. Everything worked for a few seconds and that elusive contentment visited when I was viewed the photos – so brief, but it was there.

  • happiness and contentment seem to go hand in hand for me now days. If I am content then I am happy. I don’t ask for much and when things are calm and settled I can feel my heart slow down and a smile creep in. The biggest concern is not wondering when the next disaster will occur – worrying sucks!

  • I don’t know if it’s contentment but I felt a wave of good feeling when you said Stripey cat was “making biscuits” on you. I thought this was a saying within my family only and I’m thrilled that it’s used by others.
    And now a moment of contentment: this time two years ago I was in the middle of chemotherapy and some days all I wanted to do was lie in bed. Our middle dog–the sixty-pound lap dog–who didn’t normally get to sleep in the bed would get in there with me. He quickly learned to get there ahead of me and as I came into the bedroom he’d have his ears up and he’d spin in a circle and give me a look that clearly said, “I LOVE TO BE IN THE BED!”
    As soon as I lay down he’d curl up next to me, leaning his body against mine, and go right to sleep. He could go from sixty to zero in 2.7 seconds.
    In the middle of the worst thing I’ve ever been through through I felt as content as I’ve ever been.

  • I have always been pretty close with my kids and their friends. A bunch of them came over the other day with their own kids and spouses in tow. I had one of those “God is in His house and all is right with the world” moments. Complete and total contentment!

  • Unicorn Religion.
    Yes.
    Very much like worshiping in the Pasture of the Grateful Horse and Singing Peacock.
    The chemical component of contentment is dopamine, right?
    It feels like seeing a bunny in a meadow, to me.
    When I quit smoking (everytime 😉 ) after a couple of months, I can FEEL (swear!) the dopamine firing back up. It REALLY does feel like .028 seconds worth of meadow munching bunny glimpses.
    Anyway, that’s how I describe it.
    And yes, when the moment lasts too long, my head starts singing, “Somethin’s Gotta go Wrong Cuz I’m Feeling Way Too Damn Good’ by I Can’t Remember Who.
    And then I laugh, because I’m soooo happy I got that .028 seconds worth of contentment.
    *sigh*
    Been a LLoooNnnGGG ass week. Not much contentment going on around here, so stay on your side where it’s safe 🙂
    ‘K?

  • Just recently I finally moved into a bigger, nicer place, after living in a shoe box for the past 7 years. And one night after all the moving, unpacking, and cleaning was done, I was sitting in the middle of the floor, in a mostly empty apartment (because I don’t even have enough damn furniture to fill it with), in a complete silence, with a beer in my hand, ecstatic cat roaming around the place, thinking ‘I deserve this’.

  • 3 weeks ago, mountain lake cabin, husband, best friend, adult children with partners are all doing their own thing. It rained all afternoon, and now is clearing clouds and coming up on sunset. The lake is calm, no wind, no motor boats, I paddled the kayak about 100 feet toward the middle of the lake. I leaned back and spent about 10 minutes looking at the mountains and watching the sky change and move and alter colors. A loon cried.
    I can hardly believe I got that moment of perfection. I have folded it neatly and put it in my mind where I can pull it out and feel it again and again until it fades.

  • Here in a cubicle farm in IL we are blaming the unusually shitty work situation on the buck moon. We had to look it up – something to do with July being the month when male deer start to grow antlers. Because naming a moon after something so random makes complete sense. Anyway, hang in there sister we are all destroying our stomachs together. 2016 has been a year-of-not-much-contentment BUT I did have a moment on a getaway weekend when I was sitting with husband staring at a river watching families with kids walk and wander and play and everyone just seemed…content. It was encouraging. We will be traveling through Ohio on the way to a week of buck moon recovery by a lake so will send some happy thoughts your way on the back of a unicorn as we pass by…..

  • I’m at the point now where I fear that I’ll never experience contentment ever again. But, I have had many such moments in my past. One particularly strong moment of contentment that came as a child (I was ten) was when I had my first horse, Angelique. It was back when much of the land west of where I live now was still undeveloped and “country”. My parents became really great friends with the owners of the ranch where we boarded Angelique and I remember one summer day, everyone decided to have an early evening cookout. No grill—just a fire pit with a grate and charcoal. Hamburgers, hot dos, grilled corn on the cob, roasted marshmallows—the best I have ever eaten. Why does food taste so much better when you cook and eat it outdoors? Someone had a guitar and my dad, who was very musical, was strumming it and singing old cowboy songs. I remember looking up, as the sky—filled with stars—darkened and I sat back and just listened to the laughter, the guitar, the low nickering of the horses in their stalls as they munched away on hay, the summer breeze rustling through the pine trees behind us and I felt completely content (AND happy), as if that’s exactly where I belonged. If I close my eyes, I can still picture it vividly and hear everything as if it was only a night ago (and we’re talking 47 years). I think my entire life from that point on has been influenced by that one night of contentment. I’ve always wanted to re-capture it and I HAVE felt many moments where life just seemed perfect in a particular situation and the closest I’ve come to recreating it was when Paul and I had five acres and another horse, Tristan (may he RIP, the sweet boy) and we had our goddaughter with us. I wanted to stay in that moment forever, too. Sometimes, I regret that we sold that house to come back to where I am now, but things just are what they are. You can’t go backward, only forward. The other place would have been harder for me to keep up on my own and more expensive, as well. So, I’m in the process of trying to create a sanctuary in the yard I presently have. I’ll let you know how successful that venture turns out. 🙂

    Is Unicorn Religion the same thing as Fairy Religion? I say this as I fluff my Tinkerbell wings out, and straighten my green pixie dress. Haha!

      • That is exactly what I think 🙂

        I need to remember to be happy I HAVE some good memories to cling to.

        I love your green pixie dress, Tink… makes your eyes all sparkly 😉

  • It is so easy to get caught up in ‘finding’ contentment. It is easy to miss actual happiness. I get a lot of shit for being a ‘pollyanna’ – but here’s the thing – anything can bring a sense of contentment. Even the crappy, hot rainy morning complete with hyper hot flashes which I have been having today. Last week was particularly sucky for me – but my husband put it all into perspective. It’s in the old story about the man whose son is washed out with the tide. He prays to God to return his son. The son washes back to shore unharmed to which the man replies ‘But God…he had a hat…’
    Sometimes we actually have it all…just not the hat…
    Hope your tomorrow is a little less ball-sucky than you anticipate…

  • I value contentment too. Sadly I know people who never have it and my heart breaks for them. It is a peace that is more wonderful than the euphoria of temporary happiness.

    Thanks for writing this. Connected with you through Women of Midlife. Have a great week. Teresa from NanaHood

    • I am so glad you are here!! Thank you. And yes, I feel bad for people who never find any contentment. I would like more of it in my life…I am learning that waiting for it doesn’t work so well, it’s up to me. I just don’t always know how to make that work. haha.

  • I can find contentment when I stop wishing for things to be different or certain people to be different, when I stop listening to my brain jabbering nonstop. Brief periods of meditation bring me peace.

  • There are big and small areas of contentment for me, and I try to appreciate them all. Small ones like when the cat walks across my laptop and flops over against me to sleep, and bigger ones like finally seeing Yosemite while visiting my friend Zsuzs who lives nearby (I kept saying to myself “How have you lived in Northern California for 55 years and not seen this?”, and seeing The Joy Formidable with my friend Sara last November at a winery in Sonoma (I know most people probably don’t think of contentment as something you feel at a rock concert, but I was thinking I’d probably never see another one after my stroke, and Sara did take pictures, and damned if it doesn’t look a lot like contentment on my face in them.) And then there’s right now, here in the living room of the nice house where I’m living, writing a comment on one of my favorite blogs, with Briana and the cat sleeping on the couch and the morning sun streaming through the cracks in the blinds… yeah, I’m pretty much content right now.

  • I didn’t actually put a name to it but reading this I realise that, for the most part, I’m pretty content – life is pretty good although the weekends when Al is away suck more than when he is away during the week.
    Have a wonderful day xox

  • Contentment is lacking in my life. And I’m not sure that’s a bad thing. I’m striving and struggling to get somewhere, and if I allow myself to feel content right now, I’m afraid it will lead to complacency. I do look forward to contentment in the future, though.

  • I’m just gonna pretend I’m on the swing with you & stripey, and a cool drink, if that’s okay. Perhaps we are discussing unicorn religion, maybe reciting a prayer in a magical language…there’s glitter floating around us. Oops, a little fell into my glass. That’s okay, you tell me, patting my leg. It’s all good. And there’s just something about the way you say that and the look in your eye…damnit M, I believe you. I do. I really, really do.

  • During the summer, I get to sit on my ass, watch TV, and hang with my dog for about an hour before the need to be productive kicks in… it’s a sweet time.

  • Ahh…contentment – such an elusive state. Loved your insights on this, especially the cat plopping itself onto your journal, as they will do whenever possible. It’s so true that contentment surrounds us – it’s just that the awareness goes out the proverbial window and we miss it!
    I shared some thoughts about this not too long ago…http://wp.me/p6Ojtm-gT.

  • I have a hard time recognizing contentment; my ear is forever to the ground waiting for that next shoe to drop. So thank you for reminding me that it’s something we have to be make ourselves aware of in. I think I am most content when sitting on my sofa beside the open window with a soft breeze blowing in and a good book in my lap. Even then I have to force myself to recognize it and to live in that moment, but I’m working on that. Thanks! Great post.

    • Exactly! I still have to work at it. I think that is why I wrote the post. I do have to work at recognizing the times, but I am not mourning them and I really just enjoy them now.

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