At the end of last year, I felt a stirring I hadn’t felt in a long time. I felt like a word was coming to me.
I used to be BIG INTO choosing a word for the year. Readers of my old blog might remember how I spent a year exploring the nuance of meaty words like worthy, savour, ease, trust and alchemy.
And then my life careened off the rails and a sort of skepticism set in. “What was the point of that? I mean, it’s not like choosing one word stopped anything bad from happening! It’s not like it FIXED anything.” Which of, course, was not the point.
Choosing a word is more like giving yourself the gift of a new set of lenses to look through for a little while. Sure, new things may turn up and maybe you’ll even manifest something awesome or get motivated to make big changes. But mainly it’s about practicing being present in a different way.
The word that chose me was CONTENT. As in, to feel contentment. (Content as in: stuff you write to fill in space? Not so much, although I wouldn’t say no to that either.)
When Lilith arrived to keep me company, I wondered how that was going to work. She felt like more of a disruptor, a defender, an enabler. Kinda the opposite of the snuggle-at-home-in-your-jammies vibe I was going for. But the more time goes on, the more I feel the synergies emerge.
Originally, content felt to me like safety. It felt like clear boundaries and looking after myself so that other people’s drama did not seep in through my pores. Contentment also brought a sense of what the Danes call hygge (and probably as close as I’ll ever get to Scandi-cool). Certainly, undertaking the 31 days of sanctuary challenge on Instagram was a powerful way of exploring the things that sparked tiny moments of joy in my everyday life.
I started to realise that content was very much about the simple things, and pretty closely aligned with enough. I wondered if contentment could be an act of liberation in a patriarchal, consumerist society. Taking back my power, as it were. Including spending power and sovereignty of time.
But I also started to notice whenever contentment felt far out of reach. It was usually — startlingly — during times that I had set aside for myself for creative play, once all the housework was done and the laundry folded and the groceries packed away. These times that I had pushed myself to earn then suddenly felt I had to make the most of… then felt completely overwhelmed by. It was also these times that I felt like my legs would give way beneath me as I succumbed to the gnawing anxiety in my belly. And a sense of foreboding that I could not rationally explain.
I recalled a quote from Anne Lamott from her most excellent Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life:
I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won’t have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren’t even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they’re doing it.
Contentment feels like the opposite of this. Feeling content, I suspect, involves having the courage to look at my feet less. In this way, content emerges as an opportunity to live a little more haphazardly, a little wilder (that word again!). Content feels like sinking in to The Kingdom within, rather than waiting to be saved or searching for someone else’s answer. Content is the antonym of Fear Of Missing Out.
This month in One Little Word is all about the questions. I’ve been asking myself:
- What would enough feel like?
- What would wild feel like?
- What is the correlation between gratitude and contentment?
- Inspired by Amy Taylor-Kabbaz: what if I had everything I needed to feel content right now?
- What would it be like to stop consuming?
I love the answers (and surprises!) that are emerging.