You know how at church preachers typically say something along the lines of "this lesson is more for me" or "I need this just as much as the next person" or "I wrote this because it's an area that I feel I need to work on and improve."? Well, that's what I'm doing today.
Contentment is something I have struggled with for a very long time. I tend to find a goal and work towards that, not really taking note of the journey, but focusing on the goal. Once the goal is reached, I barely take note of the accomplishment or relish in the excitement before I set my eyes on the next goal. Some people call this destination addiction: "a preoccupation with the idea that happiness is in the next place, the next job and with the next partner. Until you give up the idea that happiness is somewhere else, it will never be where you are." -Robert Holden, PhD. I've been in denial about this, but it's true. I struggle with Destination Addiction, and until I can actually accept that there is a problem, I will not be able to address it.
It's been how I've accomplished as much as I had. It's how I graduated with my master's. It's how I worked my way from Residential Specialist to Case Manager, to Case Manager Supervisor, and ultimately to working in private practice. I watched so many people get settled in their work that they felt there was nothing more for them. I feared that if I gave up on my dreams, I would settle. I didn't want to settle. I wanted to make a difference. During my years of school I kept telling myself that college was a bridge I had to cross to get to the other side. I told myself not to worry too much about the bridge and the struggles that came with it, because at the end of the day, that is not where I planned to stay very long. This mentality worked very well for my college years, however, this addiction has now lead to discontentment. I keep looking for the next best thing. Now that I've accomplished my education, and my career (to the extent that I want to achieve at this time), I've turned my focus to my desire to travel. It's not simply a desire though, but rather a strong, unquenchable yearning. I can't seem to stop. I want so badly to go oversees that I'm becoming discontent with the life I currently am living.
I should be happy, I should be thankful! Over the last month, James and I have really worked on the house and completed projects that have been on our radar. Our house has finally turned into HOME! I'm so pleased when I step inside. I am at peace and feel relaxed with being here...yet I can't seem to stop the nagging feeling that I want to be elsewhere. It's almost like now that I've got the home in order, the desire to leave has become stronger.
So like I do, I decided to take my thoughts to the page and see how to process my feelings' my yearnings. It was late one evening when James and I were sitting on our deck in the back where we discussed my desires. During the moments of silence, I allowed lyrics/poetry lines to flow through my mind. I tried piecing them together and rearranging like a puzzle. I allowed myself time to contemplate the words as they swirled about. The next day, I sat down and wrote out parts as I continued to process these tugging emotions.
Should I stay, or should I go?
Should I stay, or should I go?
Do I listen to my heart, moving to and fro.
My soul says to stay, my heart says to go.
My feet hold me down, anchor me home
My heart grows wings and says let's roam.
How can I sit when my heart says no.
Should I stay, or should I go?
It looks to be the beginnings of a song I think, and I would like to keep working on it to better express myself. It's a tug of war game in my head. I read a another quote on a minimalist blog that stated "Don't wait until you've reached your goal to be proud of yourself. Be proud of every step you take towards reaching that goal." So that's what I want to share. How can we find contentment without feeling like we've simply given up?
I was reading a book called The Happy Traveler by Jamie Kurtz. She had some really good pointers on how to be happy and content with the moment. What I realized while reading the book is that I know what needs to happen, I just need to keep it in check. As a therapist who very much encouraged Mindfulness, I realized that by focusing at the core, I knew what I needed to do. Here are the steps I've come up with to encourage someone's journey in finding contentment.
1. Embrace minimalism
When I say this, I don't just mean physically. the idea behind a minimalist lifestyle is that focus on the things you want in life and put the effort in those things rather than cluttering your life and home with things that will only bring distraction. I sometimes feel that my desire for travel has distracted me from focusing on all the blessings I do have. A roof over my head. A loving and supportive husband. A wonderful job. Stability. Family. Friends. God. All of these things are a huge blessing to me, and by focusing so intently on traveling, I am focusing on something that I can't have at this moment, which sours every other part of my life.
2. Enjoy the planning process
I read a lot of travel memoirs. I watch a lot of travel movies. I go on Pintrest a lot to find the next big adventure. However, with all of this, it's important to take a step back and simply "trust the process". Jamie Kurtz talks about how the planning process can lead to anticipation and excitement. What would it look like if I looked at my desire to travel as just that, a fun research. Where would I go? what would I do? What would I eat? There's so much excitement regarding learning new cultures and cuisine. I've learned through this researching process that I love cuisine and architecture. What would it mean if I could simply enjoy writing out these travel plans and research them so that when the day comes, I am ready?
3. Enjoy the Small Adventures
I'm totally in denial on this one. I travel a lot. James keeps reminding me about this, but I keep saying "It's not travel if it's visiting family." The truth of the matter is, I have family all over the country. What's to say I can't explore those areas as if I were a tourist? That would change the feel altogether! I've told James that I want to experience a big adventure because I want to find something worth writing about, and he gave some pretty solid advice, "Live each day as something worth writing about." The idea that if I view my everyday life as something worth writing about, and I actually take time to write about it, I will notice more things than if I just go on autopilot. It's really true! One year, we went to a cabin in Kentucky. I spent that weekend writing in a journal as we hiked and relaxed in the cabin. It was the most rejuvenating thing I had done in quite some time. The idea that I can write in any circumstance is encouraging to me that if I can enjoy the small adventures, I will be more content with the travels I do go on and will have improved skills that will make traveling abroad all the more exciting!
4. Be Mindful
By being mindful, I can focus on the here and now. When we are able to be mindful every day, every week, and every month, we will learn contentment. There isn't much else to say on this section because mindfulness is all about embracing where we are in life. It's the epitome of "enjoy the journey" and "happiness is not a destination but a way of life."
5. Focus on the goals
My last point is this: focus on the goals. Yes, I could just up and go on a trip to Europe, but it's more than just that. I want to enjoy it with my husband. I want to enjoy it with family or close friends. In order to make that happen, things need to be put in order. This means taking care of the lose strings. This means paying off student loans and other debts so that we don't have additional stressors. Once I can get myself settled and honestly in a good place, I can enjoy the traveling experiences without worries of what I'm leaving behind. If traveling is something I really want to do, then I need to focus on achieving the mini goals that are holding me back and address those. There aren't many, but if I can focus on them, I can lean back and enjoy as many vacations as my heart desires!
I hope these steps can provide guidance to anyone else struggling with finding contentment. I suppose even while finding contentment, enjoy the journey. Experience the journey. Learn and accept that there are things that are out of your control. This is a hard truth for me, but as I learn this, I know I will become more content! I feel content just writing about it all!
Until next time,