contentment

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My whole life I’ve been wanting to stop wanting. I’ve always been a dreamer, and as a little girl I played imaginary games for years upon years. I like to dream of something next. 

It’s not a bad thing to always be dreaming, but when my dreams changed from owning a pretend candy store or building a teepee in the woods to going college or having a family or writing a book, I found myself in a constant state of wanting.

My mom used to say, “Ruthie, just be happy.” I was happy, almost always happy.

And, I was always dreaming of something next. 

It can be exhilarating.
It can be exhausting.

When Sam was born and we were finally allowed to walk out of the hospital with him as our son because the paperwork was signed and the judge said he was our baby, I started dreaming of something next.

We weren’t allowed to leave the state where he was born until the paperwork was officially filed and received. I dreamed of going home. I dreamed of rocking him in the nursery. I dreamed of snuggling with him on the end of the couch. 

When we arrived home, I began dreaming of something next. Snuggling with him on the end of the couch and dreaming of something next, I caught myself wanting something next.

When I was younger, my dad used to caution me about wishing my life away. As an event loomed near, I claimed, “I can’t wait for [insert event].” As my birthday neared, I claimed, “I’m almost [insert next age].” On Sunday evening I claimed, “I can’t wait for the weekend.”

“Don’t wish your life away, Ruthie,” Dad said. In fact, it was said so much that I would roll my eyes and beat him to the punch line following my words “I can’t wait…”

Snuggling on the couch with Sam, my very own baby (which we thought was impossible), I realized I was wishing my life away…or at the very least, wishing away the moment that was my something next dream for so many years.

I decided that my something next dream was to learn to relish the moments. 

I’ve been on this quest for nearly fifteen years. It is my longest sought after dream.

It has been a journey of faith. God has been strict with me. 

I’m not going to claim that it is easy to stop wanting for something next. It is difficult for me to be fully present in each moment and not dream of something next.  I can’t wait for the next thing. 

Like right now, I can’t wait to take Sam to bowling. I can’t wait for my walk through the gardens next to the bowling alley. I can’t wait to get the ingredients for Southern Corn Bread Stuffing and Christmas Hot Chocolate. I can’t wait to interview a Choice Literacy contributor for the next podcast episode. I can’t wait to write an essay about chasing trains with Sam. I can’t wait to play Sonic racing with Jordan. I can’t wait to watch a movie with Hannah. I can’t wait for the turkey Andy will smoke for Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow. I can’t wait to put up the Christmas lights. I can’t wait to watch Polar Express and drink Christmas Hot Chocolate. 

It can be exhilarating.
It can  be exhausting.

Over the past months, I’ve learned to pause in a moment, breathe deeply and say, “If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.” 

Right now, I’m drinking coconut coffee and clacking words into a blog post.
If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.

Luna is next to me, lightly snoring. 
If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.

Sam just interrupted me to give an update on the Lego invention he has been creating this week.
If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.

The washer is churning and the smell of bleach is wrapping around the laundry room.
If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.

This mantra grounds me. 
If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.

After a lifetime of marking gratitude, I’m learning that contentment comes in claiming the moment as nice.


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13 Comments »

  1. Love the photo, Ruth! Love the words – I think all of us wish our lives away for the better part of our lives AND then if we are lucky we realize we need to treasure small moments to be happy. Anticipation is a wonderful thing. Contentment is even better. Wishing you joy, peace, and mountains of special moments!

  2. It’s refreshing to read your words and these come to me, too. Philippians 4:12. Contentment is learned and and awakening. You’re a gift, Ruth. Wish I had your gift of words. Love you ❤

  3. I too wished my life away…up to a point. Also, like you, I have relished these recent moments, like yesterday when I sat on the couch, doing absolutely nothing, looking at the large tree out the front window. Just being in that moment with nothing to do and no where to go was so wonderful.

  4. Beautiful Ruthie, I enjoy your spirit as you write. It tells a lot about what is inside of you and that is beautiful.
    I pray for protection for you and your family. Stay safe. Love you. Your brother in Christ, Joe

  5. Your words are magic, Ruth. . . your words are real just as life is real. It isn’t pretty as some Christmas bows. In fact it is like the presents wrapped in comic strip paper. If you con’t find laughter at times, you will surely find tears. Thank you so much for crossing my path years ago in a high school in Warsaw at the All Write Conference. Magic was there and it is every day of my life. Blessings to you and your family.

  6. Like Tammy, I’m definitely going to hang on to that line. I have also struggled with the balance between wanting and being deeply content and joyous in the present for so many years. I’m thankful for your vulnerability to share how you work through this, and for how beautifully you say it.

  7. So much truth here, from the challenge of being present in the moment without dreaming of the exhilarating, exhausting “next thing” to learning to savor the moment, submitting to it with that mindfulness mantra: “If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.” The long-awaited baby in your arms – savoring the now. The coconut coffee (!) – savoring the now. It’s the strived-for, inherent refrain of your post, laced by your mantra. These lines especially struck me: “It has been a journey of faith. God has been strict with me.” Growth of any kind isn’t easy and in fact it sometimes hurts. But the stretching is worth it – as Robert Browning wrote: “A man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?” And Luna is absolutely gorgeous…my husband has been longing for a German Shepherd puppy (his “next thing”??). Thank you, Ruth, for your amazingly reflective grace.

  8. I totally get the “I can’t wait” mantra. I’ve done it myself forever. If I’ve learned anything from this pandemic, it is to be happy in the moment, to be present. I’m sitting here with my favorite mug, with dog Charlie on my lap, “If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.” Now if I could just get rid of writer’s envy…

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