Originally posted on my Facebook page on the 3rd November, 2015.
In our materialistic culture we're nurtured to always want what we don't have. Adverts and media present us with the beautiful things, the perfect lives, we don't have but should attain to. The sad thing is that this thought infiltrates everything, not just our material possessions, but the very foundations of our lives.
Our lives, our relationships, we ourselves, are never enough. The art of learning to be content goes against everything we're presented with. Who wants to settle for what they already have?
Don't get me wrong, I believe in striving to be a better person, for myself and for others' sakes. I believe in goals, dreams and aims that will take us beyond ourselves. I'm not saying we should be stagnant or stale.
But I also know that sometimes, when life doesn't present us with the perfect life and things we see around us (which let's face it is not rare), that to learn to be content is the only way to find fulfilment. Sometimes the pursuit of more only leads us to overlook or take for granted the beauty we're already surrounded by. The saddest thing becomes not only wanting what we can't have but not seeing what we do.
I got talking to a lady in a jewellery shop a while ago. In the course of the conversation it emerged that I was widowed (Ems had bought me jewellery from the shop in the past & she recognised it as theirs on me hence the conversation going that way).
"Oh no" she said sympathetically, before immediately asking (like many before her) "did you have children?"
After replying that we hadn't had time to start a family before he passed she then asked if I was with anyone else.
Taken aback a little I explained that I wasn't and didn't want to be, that I was as content as I was with the immense love in my heart for Ems & memories we'd shared, the wonderful people I have around me, and the amazing closeness I have with my niece and nephew.
"Oh but it's not the same as having your own" she responded. "You're young. You should have your own family".
I've often thought about this conversation. Not as an example of how opinionated some people can be on situations they know little of, but to highlight how the joy of contentment is overlooked in the pursuit of something more.
It didn't matter that I didn't want anything more or that I was content in the wonderful experience of being an Aunty rather than mourning not being a mother.
This (lovely & I'm sure well meaning) lady thought I 'should' have my own family rather than what she saw as settling with 'just' being an Aunty.
Admittedly I don't know the experience of motherhood and am sure it isn't the same as being an Aunty, but I wholeheartedly believe that the fact that I have learned to be content in the beautiful closeness and wonder of being Aunty Ruru over the years is something to cherish, rather than to overlook or see as second best while living in the frustration of not having what I may once have imagined. Even in the face of miraculous contentment in the most surprising of places, I was encouraged to look for more.
None of us know how our lives will play out. I am testament to that. Yet I am also convinced that contentment in the moment is what will give us joy for the day when future goals and dreams seem delayed or frustrated.
Strive to be better but don't take for granted the beauty you have as you learn to be content.
As someone who has known the sheer agony of frustrated dreams and a total, utter absence of contentment in the face of overwhelming pain and frustration, I for one will never underestimate contentment. In fact, I cherish it, just as I cherish the beautiful joy of being these wonderful little peoples' aunty. In the most perfect of times with them there are moments when I truly believe that I couldn't ask for more.