Lately, I have been very grateful for skype and text messages and other handy forms of electronic communication. People back home often ask me, How are you doing? How’s life down there? Do you like it?
I sometimes find myself fumbling over my words in a half-ass attempt to explain what my life is like here. Or even worse I give a cliche answer like “yeah, everything is going great.” But I think that is because sometimes I honestly don’t know how to describe the changes that have taken place. Not big drastic changes, but small, still significant shifts in my heart and soul.
If I had to describe it in a word: Contentment.
For maybe the first time in years, I can honestly say I feel this peace and contentment with who I am and where I am. I’ve realized that I often spend a fair amount of mental energy comparing myself to those around me. It’s almost a subconscious thing.
I compare my myself to my friends who are newly wed or newly dating. I compare houses or apartments and think about whose place is better decorated. I compare jobs, and cars and who is a better cook or faster runner. I compare myself to girlfriends who have the precious baby bump and wonder if I’ll ever have children. Probably only my female readers will understand this, but sometimes I even compare myself to other women for the infamous who-has-a-small-size-jeans check. Yes, I realize this sounds superficial and pathetic (it is), but gentleman I know for a fact that other women do this too!
I think these kinds of comparisons can happen anywhere, but for those of you who have lived in Santa Barbara you know that SB has an odd standard for what’s “normal.” These past 2 months have given me a much needed break and a perspective change. My standard of what is “normal” or necessary has changed.
I’ve begun to realize how often comparison leads to envy, which leads to worry and then a general lack of faith. Basically, an equation for a disaster. This is not how I want to live.
I believe there is something beautiful about learning to be thankful and let go of the expectations that my life is supposed to look a certain way. When we stop comparing ourselves to others we leave room for God to say, Look, this is what I have for you. A life of peace and contentment. A life that is open to surprises and something new.
There is a verse in the book of Colossians that I have been re-reading this past month. It says that God “is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” This is a new mentality for me, a new reminder that He holds all things together, so I don’t have to. A new perspective that allows me to trust He has gone before me. I know this does not equate to instant happiness and tangible rewards, but it does allow me to live with this new found contentment.
I think the challenge will be figuring out how to integrate this new mentality and way of living back in the states. But, we’ll deal with that when it comes. For now, I could not be more content to be here.
photo: reflection of el arc, a new perspective