My Journey to Contentment

“Cafe Americano?” I ordered, with more of a question than a statement, when the waiter tossed his long, deep-brown hair and turned his brooding Gaelic features in my direction. We, my mother, daughter, husband and I, were seated at a table at Chez Janou, a side-walk bistro in the Marais district of Paris, and I was suddenly filled with regret at my decision to drop French 101 in favour of yet another junior philosophy class. All around us people hustled down narrow, cobble stone streets, gesturing madly with a speed that was surpassed only by their speech, while the smell of French cuisine intoxicated our senses and our desire to just sit and people-watch intensified. In perfect Francaise, my Little Miss placed her order, beaming with pride at the french language skills she has acquired at such an early age, knowing that her ability in this regard will forever trump mine. The sky was grey and the breeze cool for June in Paris, but none of this mattered. I was with my family and we were in Europe, together. I was content.

It has been a long, difficult journey for me to come to this place. Not to Paris, no, but to contentment. You might think that my mood this day comes with the fact that, yes, I am on vacation, and yes, I am in one of the most beautiful cities in the entire world. Why wouldn’t I feel at happy and at ease? But place does not equate to disposition, and this feeling of contentment has been there, lingering in the deep, dark recesses of my consciousness, for quite some time. I just didn’t want to tempt the fates by acknowledging it.

Two years ago, if you had asked me, I would have said I was happy, and it would have been the truth. I was happily married, living in a beautiful city, the mother of a breath-taking child, with good friends, a close family, and nothing to want for. But two years ago I wrote this:

“Emotions are a complicated thing. Sometimes I feel too much. I feel like I could explode from emotions so big, coiled so tightly within my organs, yearning to burst forth and free my insides from the burden of so much sadness, so much happiness, so much love and so much regret. Do other people feel this way? Why do sadness and love always go hand-in-hand? I am so lonely.”

I don’t remember writing this, but when I came upon it in my notebook it moved me. I cried for myself. I do remember my husband being away a lot. And I remember that my Little Miss decided to grow up instantaneously, just like that, and that I felt the passage of time in a sincere and profound way. I recall that my friendships and my career were in flux. And I also remember that it was rainy. Very, very rainy. For days on end there had been no sign of the existence of a sun, and the grey, damp sky hung on my skin, my soul, my spirit like a wet wool blanket. My disposition is, at times, inextricably linked to the weather. I have never been a sun-worshipper, but the grey that permeates my west coast existence is a presence.

The same journal entry continued: “I believe that the universe gives us exactly what we need, when we need it. Maybe this is the time in my life when I’m supposed to look inward, to learn to love myself, to find happiness within instead of outside, to learn to appreciate who I am, not what I am.”

Profound for one day’s scribble in a journal, n’est pas? So what’s amazing to me is this: Two years later I sit in my rental apartment in Paris, writing this, with absolutely no recollection of the internal tumult of the woman who wrote that. What has changed. How did I get here?

The answers aren’t easy to find. I think it has to do with acceptance and gratitude, and maybe a little with turning 40. Quite simply, I reached a point in my life when it was just easier to let it all go. And I mean all of it…anger hurt, regret, guilt. All of the feelings that I harboured inside that just were not productive emotions. Letting go is difficult, but in the end, hanging on just makes life harder.

Today I am with the man I love, the family that means more to me than anything else, and I am with myself. I am with me, the woman I have become, the person it has taken me many years to understand and accept and even, at times, admire, and the woman who has learned enough from life, the good and the bad, to see the beauty in all things, even a rude French waiter with a damn bad attitude. Mon dieu! Have I come this far? Yes, it seems that I have.

2 Comments to “My Journey to Contentment”

  1. Thank you for writing this! I agree … turning 40 (which I did year ago) really makes you want to be able to just live, and be happy, and not worry about everything all the time … Good for you for finding the place of contentment …

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