Thursday 24 February 2011

Seeds of discontent

Oh, how easy it is to allow seeds of discontent to take root in my life.

Never has this been so apparent than last week after a wonderful get-together with a group of online friends. It was a perfect day - the conversation, the food, the games, the lovely group of women and children. Perfect from start to oh-so-reluctant finish.

And yet, as I was driving myself home afterwards, I found myself thinking, so that's what a grown-up's house looks like. It was gorgeous. Everything was just so, from the art on the walls to the coffee tray on the counter to the name plaques on the children's doors to the lovely-yet-uncluttered decorations around the house.

I walked into my own home that evening and felt an overwhelming sense of discontent. Suddenly the house that I have adored for the past year looked little better than a college dorm. There is no art on our walls, just candid pictures of our families. Our furniture, far from being elegant and lovely, has come almost exclusively from Ikea. Our white futon, the only couch we own, has been stained from four years' worth of baby spit-up and spills. Our bookshelves hold Harry Potter, not Anna Karenina. Instead of acres of space for the children to explore, we have a small patch of grass in our unfenced front yard. And on and on and on.

All I could see were these glaring flaws, all the ways in which our home didn't measure up to a "real" grown-up's home.

Far too often lately I allow such moments of insecurity to take over my thoughts, to dictate my happiness and sense of contentment. What happened to enjoying and rejoicing?

I allow my self-worth to be determined by how many hits or comments my blog gets - and thereby permit the same to leave me feeling let-down, even envious. I worked so hard on that post, did no one enjoy it? Why did her post get 50 comments while mine only got one?

Or parenting - oh, parenting. I see other parents, read other blogs, and measure myself against them, invariably finding myself lacking. How does she find the energy to do such fascinating projects with her kids every day, whereas I'm doing awesome if I can just get us to the park for an hour? Where does she get her endless patience from, while I had to apologize to my kids for losing my temper again today?

Always measuring, always coming up short, always self-doubting and second-guessing. Projects and patience, blog hits and comments, elegance and possessions - I allow all of it and so much more to define my self-worth, leaving me feeling discontent. If only ___...then I would be good enough.

But what? What would be good enough? Will I ever truly get there, arrive at "good enough", if I chase this discontent? Or would it only lead to more lacking?

I know the answer. There's no use pretending it's not true. It's just so hard to admit, because admitting means having to let go. It means letting go of dissatisfaction, letting go of resentment, letting go of living with one foot in "if only", and living fully here, fully now, fully joyous and content in where I am and with what I have.

The perfectionist in my balks at that thought. But you should always strive for "better"! Don't settle for "good enough"! I'm finally beginning to see the lie of perfectionism. Oh, it was alright when what I was striving for was "the best" grades or "the best" dance or "the best" sewing project. Pushing myself further wasn't necessarily bad. But it spreads, and it brings with it immense discontent. All I have to do is re-read what I've written - what now? Now I want "the best" house? "the best" blog? "the best" projects to do with my kids?

Suddenly it's not just about pushing myself to be the best I can be, is it?

It's time to find good enough and be happy there. It's time to be truly content. This realization is just another opportunity to refocus, a reminder of our themes for this year, a chance to get back on track.

Content with where I am.

Grateful for all that I have.

Seeking beauty in all things.

Finding joy today.


  1. Can I just say... OMG I can relate! Wonderful post! I have to let go of trying to be the "perfect mom" based on all these blogs I read. And I am SO with you on the blogging popularity contest. I watch each day for my numbers to go up, no new followers except during a monthly blog carnival. Sigh. Why doesn't the entire world want to read MY blog?

    We must, however, be authentic to ourselves as much as possible. Sometimes recognizing the issue really IS half the battle!

    Have you seen this link yet?
    The disease called "Perfection"

  2. I can really relate to what you are saying here! Oh can I ever! Im always comparing our home to other peoples home, other peoples parenting skills to mine. Its awful, downright awful.
    God wants us to be content at where we are, and growing up in a society (and raising very impressional kids in this society) that is all about wanting bigger, better, best and more more more, its so hard to do that soemtimes because the world basically tells us that we are not good enough. Thank goodness that God doesnt look at us that way right! He looks at the heart, not our foutons... which might I add, I have one in my livingroom too, that has about six years of kid stains all over it as well. Drives me bonkers everytime I have to throw another ugly sheet over top of it, but it could be worse right?

  3. Thank you so much for writing this. I think every mom needs this reminder--I certainly do! <3

  4. Hugs!!! I'm not even a mom, and I can relate...I have trouble visiting certain friends, because their homes always seem "perfect" and mine never does.

    Also, people with art on their walls bore me. Give me snapshots of family memories any day. Much better, in my opinion. :)

  5. (((((HUGS))))) Be content knowing that God has you in the circumstances you're in for a reason! It's hard, I know... The 4 of us are in an 860 squ ft 2-bedroom apartment, one bedroom being Jesse's office since he works from home. Which means we all share a small bedroom. And no yard at all! Yeah, real easy to dwell on what we DON'T have if I let myself... I have your blog on my feed reader which I check daily. And I comment when I feel I have something to contribute, not just to see more of my words online ;-) I hardly get any comments on my blogs either, particularly my parenting one. I never set up site stats because I don't want to know how many people AREN'T visiting LOL I try not to let myself get trapped in legalism - I don't HAVE to blog every day. Or every week. I don't HAVE to have people comment or visit. I don't HAVE to... Same goes with parenting. I've been criticized about parenting decisions since before I had kids. There's always more I can be doing. But it's nice to watch the boys learn and discover on their own and see what directions their minds take them!

  6. Yep! I think every mom has those days. I seriously wonder how anyone with kids manages to keep their house clean, much less decorated. And yet I still feel this compulsion to try and get my house looking cleaner than usual when we are going to have someone over. I'm getting braver, but I'd love to get to the point where I can just be the person that quits stressing over it and lets all the other moms feel better about themselves. :)

  7. I am so guilty of this to the extreme. It's so hard to let go of too. Even when reading through this, I was thinking thoughts of how my house is even less grown up than yours :-\ Thank you for being open and honest! You are one of those people that I tend to think "if I could only parent more like her ..." a lot! I'll keep you in my prayers Cynthia, that God will remind you of all you have to be joyous about. Really, thank you for posting this! It really touched me.

  8. Ditto, ditto, ditto!! Great post. Thanks, glad I'm not alone!

  9. You are all so encouraging! Thank you for your kind words and for sharing your own thoughts and struggles.

    Momma Jorje, isn't it true?? I'm so embarrassed to admit it, but yes, that's essentially what it boils down to - "Why doesn't the entire world want to read MY blog?" Oh dear! Absolutely, though, just recognizing the issue makes a huge difference. Thanks so much for sharing that link!

    Barefoot Buttercup, it could indeed be so much worse. When I think of all that I do have, I feel immensely ashamed of myself for every moment I have failed to be grateful for it. And yes, praise God that He doesn't see us as the same way!

    CML, I love watching my boys learn and discover on their own too. It's so fun to see what's going on inside their heads! It's hard to let that parenting criticism not get to you some days. Bah.

    Young Mom, I want to get to that point too. I love it when I go to someone's house and it just feels real. So the sink's piled high with dirty dishes and the coffee table is covered in a child's recent snack - it looks just like my house!

    Hollie, thank you for your prayers and encouragement! I really appreciate your kind words.

  10. I can certainly relate to this as well! I came home from a birthday party last weekend and when I walked in the door of my home all I could see was the mess. Dirt on the floors, clutter all over every surface, etc. I was very discouraged.

    I don't think there is anything wrong with trying to improve our houses, blogs, crafts for the kids or our patience as parents. Life is all about growing and changing.

    I think the trick is to grow and change without feeling like our self-worth is contingent on it. We are all enough, all worthy of love and respect in every moment regardless of the state of our futons. :) Happiness, patience, creativity, and self-discipline flow out of really believing and living in that truth.

  11. What an absolutely perfect way to state it, Michelle.

  12. I can relate BIG time. I put so much effort into some of my posts sometimes, and when people don't comment, I find myself feeling so rejected. And then I find myself doing things on my blog that aren't really me...and as you said, we need to be authentic. Thanks for that reminder!

  13. Wonderfully written post. Speaks volumes to me. I have been working hard on understand where my discontent comes from and in understand it I have definitely seen a change. I find more and more joy in my life even when things go off track.

    Thanks for your honest approach to a challenge for most of us!