Contentment in Hindsight, by S V
I agree that contentment is a worthy goal. I want to feel content and find contentment in the small and large moments of my daily existence. Except that I don’t. I am not at all content. I want, I want, and I want. Yes, I know I have so much. I know I should appreciate. I know I should list what I’m grateful for in my journal every night like a prayer. But I don’t because it doesn’t work. All activities great and small are mere distractions from the heart of the matter, and the heart of the matter is my lonesomeness. My loneliness is such a strong presence in my daily life that it is blocking any path toward contentment. I don’t know what to do with this beast. It’s ferocious, unpredictable and very unkempt. I can’t tame it, groom it, or release it back into the wild. I’m stuck with it. I can escape it for some time—shoot it with a tranquilizer dart by seeing friends, binging Netflix, puttering around the apartment, cooking. And for a little while, I forget it’s there. I’m happy, satisfied with my seclusion. Until I’m not. The sedative wears off, and then I’m sad. And I want. I want. I want.
What I want is a man. So embarrassing, but I have to be honest with myself, and if I’m honest a man is what I want I want I want. I want a deep connection. I want to love and be loved. I want to cuddle in bed at night so badly it almost hurts. It’s a nightly experience, my wanting. Imagine that—every night having to deal with this beast, stare it down, calm its agitation, overpower it. It’s exhausting, and it’s wearing me down.
So much wanting makes me manufacture projects and distractions. So much wanting moves me dangerously close to precipices that I may jump from like quitting my job, or moving away, or getting back with that ex boyfriend (again). So much wanting places me in the future rather than the present. So much wanting keeps me dissatisfied rather than content.
In hindsight I must have always been lonely and discontent. In hindsight I see that it may just have been what made me marry so young with such limited knowledge, experience, and self-awareness. I see now that it is what pushed me all too quickly into my second marriage—so confused and weakened that I ignored all the signs and dove into the warm bed with the spooning body. My loneliness kept me in each of those marriages much longer than I should have stayed.
In hindsight I never thought leaving my second husband and his suburban paradise would be anything but the fulfillment of a dream. I longed for it for so long. I fantasized about moving back to the city for years. And in many ways returning has been a dream come true. I feel more like myself than I have in decades.
However, this move has uncovered some other truths that were buried deep down inside—truths I’m finally facing. I’m learning about my identity and that I don’t really know how to be with only me. I’m not sure I even like it. I prefer a full nest to an empty one.
I feel better when I’m with others. I’m happier around loved ones. I feel fulfilled when I’m relating to, and caring for, and sharing with others. My loneliness keeps getting in the way of me being satisfied with just me. It is a poison that keeps me from feeling content. It makes me want and want and want.
But I have to keep reminding myself that this time I chose aloneness. I broke up with that ex boyfriend who loved me because I needed to be by myself. In hindsight I didn’t know how much I’d miss him or how lonely I’d feel without him, but I was not content. For the first time in my life, I put me first. For the first time I understand how important it is for me to deepen my relationship with myself. And even though I want, in hindsight I understand what I need. I’m not sure you can call this hindsight, but I see now that going forward, it is solitude that will lead me to contentment.