I am not a naturally happy person.
Contentment seems to elude me, much like glossy hair or the ability to walk into a party and feel comfortable.
I just don’t seem to know how to be satisfied.
Sometimes I try to pass this off as a good thing, I use the double-edged sword that are strengths and weaknesses and I say that it’s my discontentment that pushes me or I suggest that the without this constant sense of unease I wouldn’t be the person I am today.
The truth is, though, if discontentment is a sword, it’s not on my side.
It’s not on anyone’s side, really.
In the very final innings of a very long relationship with a boy I loved very much He said to me, “Jill, you are just never satisfied. I hope you one day will be, but I have never seen it from you.”
This was a boy that I had been on and offing it with for years and a boy who had been the victim of my discontent many a time. Once when we got back together after an “off” period, we sat down on a little park bench, me in my fluffy white dress, him in his blue shirt that made my heart drop to my toes, and we talked about how we were going to fix the relationship this time. How we could finally both get what we wanted.
Because we both wanted each other, that was always the problem.
And the solution.
I started the conversation. I listed a great many grievances that I had about our relationship. I named the things I wanted to change. I suggested activities we would do together, and the type of people we would become, and what I wanted for our future and so on and so forth.
I had so many ideas about what we should be from so many years of wanting.
When I finished, feeling very grown up and mature, I turned to him and said, “All right. It’s your turn. What do you want to change about this relationship?”
He looked at me with those eyes (those eyes!) and he said, “Jill, I just want you to be happy.”
That was it. No list. No suggestions. No 30 minute conversation about the nuances of our relationship.
He wanted me to be happy.
And I wanted 100 things I would never get.
Last year when Amy gave me a bouquet of sharpened pencils for my birthday with the instruction to mark the important moments of my life with them, I was excited and willing. The year of pencils would be the year of Jill!
Pencils meant a different me!
I would find satisfaction in my ordinary life like other people do and thus become New Jill! Better Jill! Happy Jill?
And so I started marking my moments.
It’s funny how when you look for the positive you can find it so readily. I found the good in sunsets, and conversations with friends. I found the beautiful in pictures and road trips and service and things that I already knew about myself, but were revealed again and again.
I’m not as complicated as I sometimes like to think I am. I know what makes me happy.
I’m actually quite simple when it comes down to it.
Delia Ephron, in her beautiful New York Times essay, “You Can’t Have It All, but You Can Have Cake,” talks about peace of mind and contentment, and–paraphrasing here–pencils:
Having it all definitely involves an ability to seize the moment, especially when it comes to sports. It can be eating in bed when you’re living on your own for the first time or the first weeks of a new job when everything is new, uncertain and a bit scary. It’s when all your senses are engaged. It’s when you feel at peace with someone you love. And that isn’t often. Loving someone and being at peace with him (or her) are two different things. Having it all are moments in life when you suspend judgment. It’s when I attain that elusive thing called peace of mind.
Isn’t that so perfect? Having it all comes back to moments, comes back to peace of mind. It’s not about days or weeks or a lifetime of things working out.
Having it all isn’t found in the 100 things I’m not getting from a relationship, it’s found in the moment on the park bench when the boy I love holds my hand.
It’s found in a screaming car in Big Sur where I’m blasting Katy Perry and realizing that my dreams may actually become a reality.
It’s found in a string of email conversations from girls who understand me and love me, neuroses and all.
It’s found, it’s found, and it’s found all over again every single day of my life.
My goodness if I don’t have it all far more often than I think I do.