Zero answers and one idea for when you're feeling discontent

Discontent; restless, zero answers, one idea,

I spent much of the summer and a little of the fall being a minuscule grain of sand in my husband’s proverbial shoe. You know, a small irritation at first, honestly, I’m sure he didn’t feel a thing; I can employ a soft touch with the best of them. But over time that small, single irritant became like sandpaper on his tender tootsies.

You see, I wanted a new house.

There’s nothing wrong with the house we have. It’s a good size for the four of us, in a great location—on a park, and a good commuting distance to Chris’ work. But, while it’s a great house for us now, it’s not a forever house we can age in. As a split-level, there are too many stairs and no single floor living.

Lastly, built in 1958, and renovated in 1988 and again in 2003, it also has a long list of maintenance and items that need updating sooner rather than later.

So, when our neighbours listed their house for sale this past summer, it ticked a lot of boxes for me. It’s in the same neighbourhood that we love, it backs on to the same park our house does. It was built new in 2008 and doesn’t have the long list of maintenance needs our house does, and best of all: it’s a bungalow! Single floor living! We could age in place!

There is just this one, small, teeny-tiny detail: we can’t afford it.

And Chris, after listening to all my very good reasons why we should extend ourselves to buy the neighbour’s house—nodding in that thoughtful, understanding way he has—said no.

Well, of course, being the submissive wife I am, I accepted his verdict and let it be. (Are you rolling on the ground laughing right now? Because you should be.)

Of course I didn’t do that.

No, instead I rolled up my shirtsleeves and relentlessly badgered him about this house for the better part of four months. In that time, I made absolutely zero headway with him. (The force is strong with that one.)

There’s a scripture verse that says, Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife.” (Proverbs 21:9) Some versions use the word “nagging.” I wonder if he was seriously contemplating his options by the time I finally acknowledged defeat.

By now you’re probably wondering what this has to do with anything. Stick with me.

This story is a little illustration of a bigger issue with me:

I’m Discontent.

It shows up as restlessness and it shows up as distraction.  And it’s a problem.

  • Like wanting a new house, even though the one I have is perfectly fine.
  • Like wanting a new car, because mine lacks a few bells and whistles.
  • Like following my wanderlust, because staying home feels a little too safe (and boring).

It’s a voice that whispers, “Do something different”, “Make a change” and “This is boring.”

What it’s not…

It’s not a keeping-up-with-the Joneses thing, even though on the surface it looks like it might be because much of my discontent manifests in material things—but these are things that I have some modicum of control over. (Except, obviously, the whole too-expensive-house thing.)

What it is…

…is a failure to acknowledge and address a big gaping hole inside of me that I feel like I have no control over. And so, I turn my attention to distraction. Big things, like my list above. But, it manifests on a smaller scale too: redecorating a room, getting a new piece of furniture, procrastinating, buying books. The list goes on…

I’ve lost my why.

Many moons ago I did some work with a life coach. Now, even all these years later, I sometimes hear her voice in my head, that certain inflection—which may or may not have been exasperation—as I find myself repeating many of the same unhealthy patterns of a decade ago. (My inner voice has a similarly exasperated tone.)

In those days, we talked a lot about restlessness and discontentment. She said something that stuck with me:

Restlessness and discontent are signs that we aren’t living according to our core values. There’s a discord that exists between who we are, what’s important to us, and the choices we make in our lives.

Last week, in this post, I shared a quote by author and researcher Brené Brown, who says unused creativity isn’t benign. The little distractions that I use to mask my discontentment are the same things I use to avoid being creative and that avoidance isn’t without its consequences.

Cerena Reid-Maynard of Atlas Counselling Centre describes it this way, “Values are the “why” behind what we do. It is the force that drives our everyday behaviours. When we are not living in alignment with our values (considering we have already identified them), we become discontent and unhappy with life.”

I’ve spent a lot of years making decisions that run counter to who I am and how I’m wired. There’s no one specific reason I do this:

  • Sometimes I give fear a louder voice than it warrants.
  • Sometimes it’s expectations, both the unreasonable ones I hold for myself, and the ones I think other people have of me.
  • Sometimes it’s avoidance—because it’s easier to change some external thing around me than it is to acknowledge that the change required is actually something fundamental in me.

And I think, with each well meaning but misguided decision, I’ve gotten just a little more off-course until I found myself wading through the weeds.

Author Michael Hyatt has been known to quote his wife Gail on occasion; she says, “People lose their way when they lose their why.”

So, here I am, working on rediscovering my why, so I can find my way.

One idea.

I know the title of this post states that I have no answers (which is totally true!). But I do have one idea. (Actually, I have lots of ideas, but one of the pitfalls I am regularly sidelined by is trying to do too much all at once. So, I’m fighting the urge to make all the changes and do all the things.)

Instead, I want to invite you to try just one thing with me this week: I’m going to keep a gratitude journal.

As a means of becoming more aware of the things that drive me to distraction and combatting my discontent, I’m going to keep a physical list of the things in my life I’m grateful for on a day-to-day, hour-by-hour, minute-by-minute basis (if necessary). The big, the small and everything in between.

When I find myself drawn to daydreaming about planning a trip out of the cold, or the renovations I want to make to our house, I will redirect those thoughts to what I do have here and now in an effort to re-align my core values with the choices I’m making.

The Apostle Paul wrote, “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”

Philippians 4:11-13

If you’re willing to try this exercise too, drop me a comment below and let me know.

Thanks for being willing to walk this road with me. I’m always hopeful that something I’ve said here will resonate with you. I’m no guru or expert, but I believe in sharing our stories honestly because there just might be one person out there who says, “You too? I thought I was the only one.”

Until next week, I remain ever grateful for grace,

12 thoughts on “Zero answers and one idea for when you're feeling discontent

  1. Janine, I can relate to this so much! I have identified so many distractions I have used to avoid doing the hard inner work. Keep going my friend – gratitude is a great way to start.

    I love the way you write – with humility, humour and encouragement. ❤️

  2. Dear Janine;

    thank you for sharing your thoughts with us.
    You have reached a time in your Life, when we women all get restless, some of your Children are on their own,
    the other ones do not need us so much anymore, do not blame yourself for wanting a change, maybe instead of a
    new house you could volunteer somewhere, I was a Volunteer for 18 years at the Children’s Hospital, that gave my Life focus and appreciation for my blessings with my healthy Children. Aas long as you can manage the stairs, be
    grateful and contend, you will at some time get the home you dream of.
    Take care
    stay well
    have fun as long as you are young.

    Tour mother – in Love

  3. Yusssss! My friend Aly has been doing a “good list” of things she’s noticed and appreciated and I wanted to start but now that you too are encouraging, I am going to do it in earnest!! Thanks for your honest words that we all need! 🙂

    1. Thanks for joining in Anna! It just helps me to slow down and notice what I do have instead of focusing on what I don’t.

  4. Alright, I’m pulling out my barely used gratitude journal as we speak. There’s something about writing a thing down, isn’t there?

    I’m thankful for your words today!

    1. Yes Wendy! Gratitude loves company! 🙂 I process a lot of things by pen on paper and so this will hopefully get my brain to slow down and pay attention! So glad you’re doing this with me.

  5. You’re always so eloquent, Janine. Your words ring true for me. My struggle is that I do feel restless but don’t have the ability to verbally express it or even fully understand the root of it. I have no reason for discontentment. My life is full and busy and I’m thankful for all that I have and all that I’m able to do. So, it’s interesting to me to feel some discontent. The to do list never ends and it’s seems I can’t make the time for things I want to do as opposed to the things that need to get done.

    I appreciate your openness and vulnerability. This post is a reminder to me to be thankful in all things. And it’s comforting to know there are lots of us out there experiencing the same thing. Thankful for your and your posts. Love you!

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