Contentment and Gratitude: The Lesson That Never Ends

The past year we have been living in an 850 square foot, 2 bedroom apartment. Yes, you heard that right. My husband and I and our three BOYS have been squished into this box we call home. To make it better, we are on the second floor. We have to pay $3 a load to do laundry (that’s about $80 a month if we’re keeping track). And it’s just overall SMALL.

Last summer we moved to Vermont. We never did sell our house. So we are renting it out. Which means we are renting here. I should explain that renting here is difficult to say the least. We don’t want to make the kids switch schools again so staying in this particular town is making it even more difficult. After six months of searching and looking at rentals and countless emails and phone calls, still…nothing. Nothing has worked out.

So I sit here, in my tiny box, trying to make sense of it all.

What lesson is this? Being grateful for what I have? My (ever so lovely but say it one more time and I’ll slap you) husband says, “At least we don’t live in a hut in Africa.”  OK. So yes, that is true. And I remind myself several times a day when I am feeling aggravated that “OMG Why does stuff fall on my head every time I open the closet door?!” And when I get sad and upset that we do not have a backyard for the boys to play in.

At least we have a roof over our head. At least we have food to eat and clothes to wear. Even if they are falling on my head.

Is this lesson on being content? We have all definitely learned a huge lesson on being happy with what we have. I have learned that what I need and what I want are not the same. I have learned that stuff doesn’t make me happy. We have gotten rid of so. much. stuff. We just don’t need it all. When I buy something, I stop and think. When my boys made their Christmas lists this week, they only asked for roller blades and skateboards. “And maybe a video game if you want, Mom.” I mean, how awesome is that?!

Now I kind of feel like, OK! All done! Lessons learned! But I don’t think it’s that easy, is it? I don’t think gratitude and contentment are learned and then you move on. I think they are ongoing lessons. Ones you need to remember and re-evaluate daily.

We have decided to pursue buying a house this Spring. We were thinking we needed to wait but things are looking like they will work out for us to buy soon. This is good. This is good news. It means our planned trip to Disney before Matt’s deployment is canceled. It means a weekend trip to NYC is canceled. It means a 13 year anniversary trip is canceled. But it also means that we are buying a house. So it’s good.

It has been a long, long year. I have complained and cried and complained some more. But I really have learned so much through the complaining and the tears. And I’m sure that I haven’t cried my last tear or whined my last complaint. Especially since the person in the apartment above us is letting her 300 pound, is that a dog or a horse, run laps right now. And tomorrow while I am yelling PLEASE STOP JUMPING SO WE DON’T GET KICKED OUT for the millionth time, I shall complain some more. And when my boys cry because I yell at them for jumping like only normal boys do, I will cry again.

But then, one day soon, we will jump and laugh and dance and sing as LOUD as we can. We will be in OUR home. Ours. We will be happy to breathe in as many square feet as God blesses us with. We will fill every corner with the things we have decided to keep, to call our favorites. I will complain about how long it takes to clean big houses. I will cry that everyone has suddenly decided to start singing opera. And then I will sing just as loud while I clean my big house.

Contentment and gratitude, I got your number. And I won’t stop looking you straight in the eye from now on.

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