The Pursuit of Contentment

During a deep conversation with a coworker today, she said something that got me thinking: “There’s got to be more to life than this.” It’s a phrase I’ve heard and said many times in life. I believe, as humans, we are rarely content with the status quo. We chase after promotions, new homes, new relationships, travel experiences, and so on. Dreams and goals are important; I believe they are what keep up going in life. However, I wonder if we spend too much time wanting and not enough time appreciating.

When I was in my 20s, I had a plan for my life. Go to school, get a good job, get married, buy a house… I had all of these things by the time I reach 27. With everything on my list checked off, I should have been happy, but instead I felt trapped. Trapped by the decisions I had made, and trapped by my fear to change things. Somewhere in my early 30s, I left my husband, sold my house, and changed jobs. Still, I was left feeling like there had to be more.

I’m now mid-40s, and I can safely say I’m content. Not to say I don’t still have goals and wants, I do. What I don’t have is that nagging feeling that something is missing in my life. Work is work; it pays the bills and gives me structure. I have close friends, a decent man, and a place to call home. I still want to see more places, learn more things, and experience new adventures, but those are all extras. My everyday life is good.

Maybe it’s an age thing, or maybe I realized that contentment comes from inside. Chasing things and status won’t fill voids and they don’t create happiness. Indeed, achievements are rewarding, and I have every intention of reaching goals. However, I’m perfectly happy living and enjoying daily life.

A Tough Call

It’s been an action packed week, which resulted in a $22,000 a year wage increase for myself. As I sit and reflect on everything that happened, I’m still unable to grasp it.

I’ve worked for my current employer for the past five years, and it’s had many ups and downs. Recently, I’ve felt the need for change. I need new challenges, and I want to make more money. I’m just gonna say it like it is. I’ve had some feelers out for a while now, and an interesting prospect came my way last week. Phone discussions and in person interviews led to an employment offer last Friday.

The offer was not what I had hoped for, so on Monday I declined. However, the recruiter continued to pursue me, and I agreed to further discussions. With nothing to lose, I sent them a counter offer fully expecting them to walk away. Instead, they agreed to my terms and I accepted the offer.

Wednesday morning, I met with my current bosses to resign my position, and I was completely shocked by their reaction. I’m the HR manager for the company, and I’ve witnessed their reaction to people leaving. They typically take it very personally, and they don’t handle it well. In my case, they were kind. So kind, they asked what they could do to change my mind.

My first reaction was that I wouldn’t entertain an offer. I had already signed an agreement with the new company, and I didn’t want my current employers to feel I was using this as a bargaining chip. Hours later, my boss asked to meet with me. He began by expressing how much the company valued me. He detailed every aspect of what I bring, and how they would consider this a great loss. He then held up my resignation letter and asked me what it would take to rip it up on the spot. I’m sure the look on my face was nothing less than “stunned”.

In that moment, I’ve never felt so valued and appreciated. I told him that I would not be able to give him an answer right then. However, I did give him a number that I felt I was worth. He offered me thousands over that. A number I never in my life thought I’d earn. I left his office with a promise that I would think it over and give them an answer by the end of the day.

I was overwhelmed, anxious, and I had no idea what I was going to do. I was now in a position that made me feel very uncomfortable. I had given my word to the other company, and I’m not one to go back on my word. But how could I not consider my own financial well being? How could I turn my back on a company that had always been pretty good to me? I’m not a ruthless business person, so the decision weight extremely heavy on me.

In the end, I made the decision to stay where I was. The relationships I have with my coworkers was what swayed my decision. Yes, the money was definitely a major factor. I can now provide a very comfortable life for myself, and that means a lot. I still feel terrible for turning down the offer with the new company. They were great people, and I appreciated their invite for employment. I had explained my situation to the recruiter, and today, I emailed the owners directly to thank them and wish them well.

For someone like me, this situation caused a lot of emotional stress and anxiety. In the end, however, I made the right decision for myself.

A Word of Advice

“Why don’t you just Stop it…” he says, as he looks up from my chart.

Is he joking, or is this serious advice? I look at the man sitting in front me and think: who are you, and am I in the right place? I thought I was at the Chiropractor’s office for a consultation regarding a sore leg. So how was it, I was getting a counselling session for my anxiety?

A lingering sports injury brought me to this man’s office. For almost a year, my left leg has been giving me grief when ever I run, hike, or ride. It has now progressed to the achilles tendon and the bottom of my foot. I’ve been to physio, chiro, and massage therapy, but I haven’t found a fix yet. Out of frustration, I booked a slew of appointments with new practitioners to get some fresh eyes on the situation. Yesterday afternoon, I had my first appointment with a new chiropractor; it was not at all what I had expected.

Most health practitioners like to take a full body/mind approach to healing, and I don’t have a problem with that. I appreciate someone who takes the time to try and figure out my personal situation. Therefore, when the “what types of medication are you taking” question popped up, I was fully prepared to discuss my anxiety disorder. However, only to give an insight to my overall general health. I don’t go to the chiropractor to fix my brain — sorry Dr., but I feel that’s not within your scope of practice. This guy, however, seemed to think it was.

My appointment was an astonishing hour and five minutes long. Never, in my life, have I spent that long with a chiropractor. Thankfully, it’s a flat rate fee for the visit, so his long windedness was on his dime. Mr. Chiro told me all about his past (he was in forestry before becoming a bone cracker). He talked and talked and then he talked some more. When he finally got down to assessing ME, the “teaching” began.

Full body charts were pulled off the wall to show me where my nerves come out my L5 vertebrae. Riveting stuff. As a personal trainer of over 15 years, I have some knowledge on how the body works. I don’t mind getting into the details of what he thinks is going on. However, when he started telling me that I should just “STOP” being anxious, my patience wore thin. Since he isn’t the first unqualified person to counsel me on my disorder, I knew how to deal with it. I say the same thing each time this occurs: “That’s an interesting approach, and I will definitely think about it.”

Yes, sir. I will keep that very useful technique tucked tightly in my back pocket for future reference. The next time I start feeling anxious, I’m going to just “STOP IT.” WAIT A MINUTE; I think I’ve tried that approach before, and, believe it or not — it didn’t work. Perhaps that’s why my actual doctor has me on Zoloft. Which, by the way, works fairly well. That along with counselling, meditation, and yoga.

Although I didn’t appreciate the belittlement this man shelled out, I will likely see him again. When it came to his expertise on bone manipulation, he was pretty good. If he can help me with my physical ailments, I’m willing to put up with his ignorance on mental health disorders. My next visit, however, may include a pair of ear plugs.

The Never Ending Need

For as long as I can remember, I suffer from what I call “a never ending need.” I always feel like I need something: coffee, wine, gum, food. It could be anything really, but nothing fulfills the need. Is this a symptom of my anxiety disorder, or is there something missing in my life? If only I knew the answer to that question.

At the age of 16, I started smoking cigarettes. Thankfully, I quite well over 15 years ago. However, I replaced it with an equally expensive habit — Nicotine gum. It’s ridiculous, I know, but I can’t kick the habit. I’ve stopped for a year or so here or there, but I always end up back on the gum. When I do stop, I end up chewing an enormous amount or Trident or Excel. So much so, I make myself sick.

Coffee and wine are my other “bad” habits used to try and satisfy my unease. I suppose I could go without the morning coffee, but I struggle to keep my wine consumption to a reasonable level. Without my little crutches, I find myself restless and anxious. I pace my house or the office, and I get very irritable. Food is my last resort, and I think the other habits started as a way to not eat.

I was a chubby kid, and I suffered from a couple of eating disorders in my teens and early 20s. Coffee and cigarettes kept me from eating my feelings, and I think that has stayed with me into older adulthood. I eat healthy for the most part, and that’s one habit I’d like to keep. However, I’m tired of the useless, expensive, and down right stupid habits I can’t seem to get under control.

I’ve tried therapy, self-help books, talking with friends, exercise, cooking, and classes to try and get a grip of myself. Nothing seems to work long-term. It’s definitely gotten harder as I’ve aged. Even though I’ve failed to find a permanent solution to this persistent “need,” I am not giving up. My ammo is a combination of research and goal setting. There’s a creatively designed vision board pinned to my bedroom wall, and I’m trying mindfulness…again.

With any luck, I will reduce my dependency — even if it’s for a short time. Small victories are my goal. A win would be fantastic, but I will take what I can get. Over the past week and a half, I’ve only succumb to wine on one occasion. I have a goal of not drinking at all this week (including the weekend). This seems like a doable goal, but it’s only Monday morning and a lot can happen between now and the weekend.

What’s a Soulmate Anyway???

After my last long-term relationship ended, I told myself I wouldn’t settled again for anything less than my soulmate. I wanted a beautiful love story; an instant connection; butterflies and rainbows all day long. I wanted “THE ONE.” If Google and Facebook say it’s possible, it must be — right?

Like any smart person would do, I created profiles on a few popular dating sites and apps. I came up with a catchy headline, posted several action pictures, listed my hobbies, and wrote an intelligent yet witty description of myself. I spent my evenings scrolling through profiles, swiping right or left, and reviewing my inbox messages. At the beginning, I was very selective of who I would respond to. They had to have recent photos, a decent job, no kids, live in town, and most importantly their status must indicate “looking for a relationship.”

A piece of advice — don’t trust what you read on the internet. If I were to sum up the majority of my online dating experiences in one word, it would be “misrepresentation.” It’s still shocking to me how many people lie or exaggerate in their profiles. After several years on-and-off these sites, I became somewhat of an expert in reading through the bullshit. There’s only so many unsolicited “dic pics” a girl can take before she’s scrutinizing each profile with a fine tuned eye.

It was six years of singlehood before I met my current guy. I’m happy to say we just celebrated our first year anniversary. If you’re wondering, the answer is “yes” — I met him online. By the end of my time online, I had a system going. If I thought someone had even the slightest of potential, I’d arrange an immediate meeting. The only way to know if there is relationship potential is to meet “IN PERSON.” At least that was my experience.

The majority of my “meet ups” were very disappointing. Not to say that I didn’t meet some nice people — I did. However, I wasn’t meeting “The One.” My soulmate was no where to be found, and honestly, I don’t know that I actually believe in soulmates anymore. I could be wrong, but I’m OK with that. I have met someone, and I’m happy. He wasn’t perfect, and there wasn’t an instant attraction. He was fun and interesting, and most importantly, he was willing to make it work. Both of us were.

I had to let go of expectations, and I needed to learn to trust. Not just in him, but in myself. I was so worried about picking the wrong guy; I didn’t want to get hurt again. However, that’s the chance I had to make in order to find a partner in life. There are no guarantees in life. I had to trust that I would be OK if things didn’t work out. Our first year had many challenges, but we are working it out. Learning each other, compromising when it’s needed, accepting our differences, and challenging each other to be better. We are building our relationship.

That brings me back to my first question: what is a soulmate anyway? I’ve concluded that for myself there is no such thing. “The one” is the person I commit to; the one who’s willing to work through the tough times and willing to let me be me.

The Voice Inside

To look at my life from another’s eyes, you’d see a semi-successful woman. A decent job in business; a great boyfriend; my own home; well-known in the community; friends; family; happy. However, if you could see the thoughts in my head from childhood to now, it would look like this:

Childhood: A big world full of interest, but fear. The smell of the forest and earth. The warm sun on my face; the smell of cut grass.  I remember times of peace and times of great fear.  Sadness and joy so intense.  The fighting and tears before my dad left. Feeling responsible. Abandoned and scared. Anxiety.  Hiding in school bathrooms at lunch time; lost friends, imaginary friends, imaginary loves.  Dreams of a perfect home.  Childhood crushes.  Body loathing. Fear of male family friends and their touch.

Fun and fights with siblings.  New and lost pets.  The excitement of new clothes or shoes.  Toys that brought joy.  Imagination. 

TEENS: Losing my mom (not literally) to alcohol and a man.  Growing up and having my first love.  Too young for my first time.  Finding and fighting for independence.  Fear and excitement. 

Moving to an unknown city.

Making and losing friends.

Fights with my parents.

Guilt.

Self-loathing.

Eating disorders.

Drinking.

Drugs.

Living with a boy, and the ups and downs of navigating teenage life.  Working terrible jobs and feeling ugly.  Feeling rejected and used.  Not having a voice.  Not having a future direction except to find love.

Moving again and hating everything.  Settling in and then uprooted again.

20’s: Meeting my husband and school and growth.  Happiness.  Disgust at my own body.  Eating disorder again.  Searching for acceptance, but only finding loneliness and pain.  Lost.

30‘s: Leaving my husband.  Trying to find myself. Making bad choices with life and men.  Fear.

Choosing the wrong men and work.  Anxiety.  Confusion.  Making new friends and growing.

Running, fitness, and starting a business.

Making mistakes and shutting down.

40s: Pushing myself past the pain to try and find happiness.  Some wins some losses. 

Continuing to push and push. 

Finding love once more, but not without difficulties.

Uncertainty in career.  Boredom.  Drinking.  Trying, but not good enough.

Self-loathing.

Trying to make it through each day at work.  Trying to feel happy and satisfied after work.  Trying to accept myself and not let others define me.  Not caring what others think, but comparing myself to others.

Trying, trying, trying. Gains and failure.

Don’t know what to do.  Then I know everything.

Inspired.

Dejected.

Keep pushing.

Body loathing.

Love for my dog. 

Love for my man.

Angry.

Happy. Sad. Scared. Confident. Confused. Lost. Doing my best!