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.

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.