Last night I dreamed I was renting a room in a boarding house. Another woman was renting a larger space across the hall. She came to me and offered to switch rooms. I thought it would be nice to have more space; however, I realized how cozy I felt in my warm, inviting room with its lovely fireplace, desk, and bookcase. The larger room was not cozy. I felt a bit of a conundrum, but I woke not having switched rooms.
This dream was a classic “the grass is greener” message telling me that, although I considered switching, I liked my own room too much to exchange places. When seeing another’s home or possessions, my husband’s grandmother used to say, “No now, I like mine best.” It’s been a family saying ever since, and I often smile when I think of it. My mother-in-law used to say, “I suffer from contentment,” as though it were an illness. Some would consider it just that, as if contentment were the enemy of achievement rather than the opposite of discontent.
To those living under or near the poverty line or dealing with health issues, discontent is understandable. In that situation, the struggle for health and life’s basic needs is often painful and exhausting. For the rest of us, discontent can cause problems—especially in relationships. It can lead to comparison, which is not healthy and can result in continuous unhappiness and reinforce low self-esteem. Comparison can also lead to competition and envy, which is not compatible with support and kindness in a relationship. No matter how much we own, there will always be those who have more. In my experience, everyone struggles in this world. Those who have more materially struggle too—in different, invisible, ways.
I am lucky all my needs are met, and I have very few wants. Perhaps I feel fortunate because of the contrast between my present and my past. I was an abused child, not fed properly, not cared for, and often cold. And those in responsible positions were the worst offenders. That is why I am now grateful for all God has given me. Still, I am human and envy occasionally crosses my mind; however, I am blessed in that envy is a feeling I rarely experience.
More important to me than possessions are goals and purpose. They make my existence worthwhile and the daily struggle and demands of life bearable. I look forward to writing, and when I write, the time flies. Being an author, and all it entails, is an enormous challenge and also a source of joy. Caring for my family and myself properly continues to be fulfilling. Spending time with and making myself available to my friends is a high priority. Like my mother-in-law, I suffer from contentment. I may think about it for a moment, but I inevitably decide I don’t need or want a bigger room.