http://www.one.org Dixie Peach: Contented

Cooler than the other side of the pillow.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Contented

A sweet friend of mine in New York - the Bronx to be exact, or as she calls it, the "Boogie Down" - reminded me today of a discussion she and I and some other friends had years ago. We were talking about our lives and how they were going and I talked about how I'm content with my life. And I am. I'm happy with how my life is and the way I live and I'll tell anyone who asks that I'm content. That conversation stuck with my friend and today she commented to me that my talking about my contentment helped her see that it's possible to be happy with what you have. It doesn't have to mean that you shouldn't try to improve things in your life if you're dissatisfied - my friend has changed careers and has, after a few crummy jobs, found a job that suits her to a T - but there's something to be said for being content with the good things you have.

Our conversation about contentment reminded me of my life when I first moved to Germany. I really wasn't content. I felt like a fish out of water, I was lonesome and felt out of place and I couldn't appreciate even the smallest thing that was good.

It took me living with B for a couple years - being around him and really learning who he is - for me to learn contentment. It was his example that taught me. B's been a quadriplegic for 24 years now. It's obviously not something he likes or asked for but it's what he's got. And while it took him a few years to get his own self adjusted to his changed life, he did it. He could have been spending all these years being bitter and wishing he could have his old life back but what good would it do? Instead he spent his time learning to do things in a different way and not dwelling on the things he has no ability to do. He began to like his life again.

I'd been spending my time in Germany during those first two or three years wishing I could be somewhere else. I didn't want to change what I knew and what felt comfortable and familiar to me. I didn't want to learn another language and get used to different food and become accustomed to different sense of humor and different customs. I spent so much time wishing I was somewhere else - back home where everything was familiar and felt so natural to me - that I couldn't appreciate anything about where I was. I was so critical of everything around me and I felt miserable. I couldn't even watch TV because I was so busy complaining that I didn't like the voices in the German dubbing.

And during all that time, B let me run. He didn't bother to come down on me or complain that I was complaining too much. He gave me the time I needed to adjust. What I needed was to do just that - make the adjustment. And by watching B live his life with patience and without self pity I learned that I could do it as well. That I could learn contentment.

I stopped thinking my MIL was interfering and began to appreciate that she was there to help me whenever I needed her. I made myself learn German so I could communicate with everyone and I didn't need to isolate myself. I learned to like the city where I live and to fall in love with certain parts of it. I learned to face up to my reality. Much like B had to learn that he wasn't going to have his life as a walking man back, I had to learn that I wasn't going to live in the US again. I learned to stop seeing my home in the US through rose-colored glasses and to see that not everything there is great and as it should be and not everything in Germany sucks and is inferior. Both places have their strong points and both places have their problems. It just didn't make sense for me to see the place where I live now as always being the inferior or second rate one. It doesn't mean that I can't love and appreciate my homeland but it does mean that I can see the good things in Germany and be happy with them.

It's not likely that I will ever leave Germany for good so I may as well learn to be content with where I am. This is my home too. It's okay that I have two homes. Loving my life here doesn't betray my homeland. And I simply don't want to spend the second half of my life being miserable that I'm not living in the US. I don't want to face each day being unable to feel good about my life. I like feeling content with my life and what I have. Why should I battle what I know won't change? I'd rather fill my life with the good things and work around the things that aren't very good.

There are two saying I like. The first is "Enough is as good as a feast.". That idea is what allows me to be content with the things I have. My apartment isn't the fanciest but it's in a nice neighborhood and it's comfortable and I can afford it without going broke. I don't have the most stylish clothes but I stay at home most of the time so why buy fancier stuff no one's going to see? I drive an 11-year-old car but it's paid for and it's not all dinged up or rusted out and it starts every time I turn the key. It's enough. Having bigger or better or newer wouldn't make me happier. The other saying I like is "Bloom where you're planted." and it's the saying that really guides my life. I have a choice - shrivel or bloom. I'd rather bloom.

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12Comments:

Blogger Rositta said...

Let me be the first to tell you that you are a very smart and perceptive woman. My parents came to Canada in 1956 and were never content here. They missed Germany and made comparisons all their lives even though some of the things they had here they'd never have had in Germany. Me, I can live anywhere (well, except Greece), but contentment is a state of mind. I too am happy with what I have...ciao:)

1:15 AM  
Blogger Patricia said...

Found your blog through a comment on my dear friends, floridagirls blog. How the world shrinks. I had to write because I'm an expat Canadian who lived in Wiesbaden and moved the Florida in the late '70's. I miss the Heimat, its where my heart still resides. I'll follow your upcoming stories and catch up on the told tales.

4:29 AM  
Blogger Carol said...

I love this post, Dixie! You are one WISE woman!

Carol

8:51 AM  
Anonymous Buda Baby said...

Thank you for the inspiration you so frequently provide! I'm so glad I found your blog.

1:29 PM  
Blogger jenny said...

I found your blog some time ago via another blog (I can't remember it now!) and just wanted to say how much I appreciate your honesty and insightfulness. I felt the urge to leave a comment today because this post exactly described what I'm going through right now in my own life ... and I only moved to the other side of my state! :) Like your friend, I'm also dealing with a series of crummy jobs and keeping my eyes out for something that's both fulfilling and capable of keeping me financially afloat. It's been rough, but just reading your post made me feel a lot better about the situation and gives me high hopes for the future. Thanks so much for that.

5:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If we just live by those 2 sayings, we'll be happy. I 've never heard them before but I think they will help me. Thank you!

9:59 PM  
Anonymous Juanita said...

What a wonderful, wise way to live your life. If only more people could do that, it would be a much better world. Your attitude should be an example to all of us.

10:59 PM  
Blogger sari said...

"Enough is as good as a feast" is a great saying, and so true. Great post today.

11:21 PM  
Blogger Marsha said...

Lovely thoughts. My life has never been perfect, but I like it very much.

4:47 AM  
Blogger hexe said...

"It's okay that I have two homes." I love this phrase as I will always consider Maine to be "one" of my homes. I will miss it and may eventually live there but I am content, as are you, with the idea that I will have a second home somewhere else. Great post!

4:13 PM  
Blogger Twango said...

Great post Dixie. When I lived in OH for that year, I was miserable. If I'd only had your insight then. You are one wise lady

5:16 PM  
Blogger UmmFarouq said...

Thanks for this. I was just thinking the same, after my visit to the US. I was ready to come 'home,' which is Amman. I am home, Alabama was home, and I'm cool with having the two to call mine.

We have to make our own happiness.

Thanks for writing what was in my brain.

6:00 AM  

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