Is contentment, even if acquired through avoidance, not still contentment? This thought derived while reading a conversation between Liz Gilbert, a New York Time Best Selling Author, and her mother which she detailed in her Eat Pray Love sequel, Committed (which you should read only if you desire to learn more about the history, variances, and idiosyncrasies of marriage around the world).
Liz, on a journey to discover the answer to the daunting question “What is marriage?”, asks her mother a series of questions about her marriage experience. Her mother, married for over 20 years, shared that she is extremely happy with her husband and enjoys their marriage dynamic. They live alone, have individual lives and still find time to spend hours in laughter and deep conversation. At the end of their conversation, her mother shares that while she is very happy now, she will not allow herself to think back to the first few years of her marriage, because doing so leaves her enraged.
Both Liz and I were taken by surprise. Here is this woman who has found contentment in life and marriage yet has done so through avoidance of her past. She refuses to live in regret. She considers that while her past decision are not some of her fondest memories, they are her reality. She chooses rather, to focus on her present. Living alone with her husband while her very adult children visit and communicate periodically. Relishing in the beauty that raising children is no longer her responsibility. She enjoys what marriage has become, even if she hadn’t always enjoyed what marriage was.
As I sit in a consistent pursuit of contentment, I wonder how deeply my concern for my past may have an affect on my present. How much does the habit of regret affect my search for contentment? Am I truly choosing to look at my now? Am I considering how great life is without comparing it to how it could/can be? Or am I in a constant state of searching for contentment through the eyes of regret and “what if?” Somehow, Liz Gilbert’s mother has found a way to prevent herself from dwelling on her past in order to maintain her present smile. I question how healthy it is to avoid past life decisions in order to maintain a sense of sanity; however I also feel there is a balance to be found between acknowledging one’s feelings and dwelling on them.
I do believe contentment is something that has to happen from within. Material things, love, people, etc. can enhance life but contentment will be absent until a person is able to find it within themselves. Maybe contentment is to be sought daily. Or maybe it comes in waves. Maybe it depends on the person. Clearly, I have all the answers right? Who knows.What I do know, is that I’m considering more and more the possibilities of now as opposed to dwelling on the regrets of what could have been. Well. I’m trying anyway.