I am learning that a lot of things I thought were black and white are actually gray. And not gray in the way that you might think.
Not gray as in a little of this and a little of that, not gray as in riding the fence, not gray as in I can’t decide which one to be/believe, but gray as in a total paradox. Both things fulling existing, together, at the same time.
But I didn’t always recognize this. I lingered only in the extremes.
When feeling discontent about my job….This work is not fulfilling, I have been created for more, these politics are sucking me dry, that person isn’t who I thought they were…would drop to discouragement, down in the dumps, depression (and any other related d-words I didn’t think of…ooh, despair.)
My overactive optimistic mind would counteract with what I would say is very healthy practice = gratitude. I would focus on all the good…people rely on me, this salary helps us reach our goal of being debt free, I get to help others through writing and teaching, I have lots of great relationships here that fill me…
And I would feel better. For a while.
But when the effects would fade and the discontent would resurface, ever vigilant, I would counteract it with so much gratitude I would feel guilty for ever having felt discontent. I am so fortunate, I have great pay and benefits, so many people are out of work, who am I to be so ungrateful for this job? And on and on.
This cycled around for a while. In both me and my husband.
The rumblings of discontentment would rear up and we’d beat them back with a big stick of gratitude / guilt / shoulds / fear…
But ignoring our discontent wasn’t really solving anything.
Let’s say it had been about our marriage instead of our jobs. If we were feeling unhappy in our relationship but never acknowledging it, just keeping our heads down, focusing on the positives, etc. things wouldn’t have gotten better. Because you can’t find solutions without acknowledging the problem.
The power comes from the paradox.
Finally my husband and I sat down and had an authentic discussion about our situations. We looked at the good and the bad. We talked about our discontent, why we were so torn, our fears, all the pros, all the cons, options. We asked big questions. What do we really want? What are we really after? And then told the truth. And listened to the answers.
There is so much to be thankful for–love, family, a roof over our heads, food on our table, healthy kids, living in a country that allows self-determination, a God that loves us right where we’re at.
And honestly, I am thankful for discontentment. Without it we would never challenge the status quo. We would never grow.
I think there is real power in holding both gratitude and discontentment in your hands at the same time. Because both exist in your life. And that’s okay. In fact that’s the way it should be.
But if we pretend they don’t, we miss the power. If we only focus on the negative so much that we sink into despair, unable to move or change anything, we ignore our own responsibilities for our happiness, our own choices, and all the things there are to be thankful for. And all the possibilities for change.
If we only focus on the positive, we are lying to ourselves. My life is more than a paycheck. My calling is more than health insurance. If I only focus on what I should be thankful for I will miss my true purpose.
Please note I’m not saying you should quit every job / relationship / marriage / hard thing just because there are moments of discontent.
Quite the opposite.
I’m saying acknowledge your discontent. Dissect it. Understand it. And then let all the things you have to be grateful for fill you with great joy. And walk forward holding onto both those things. Become joyfully discontented.
I am learning it’s not this or that, not one or the other, not here or there. It’s both. Together. In tandem.
It’s a narrow road.
Have you ever struggled with the dichotomy of discontentment and gratitude? Tell me about it in the comments. And be encouraged!