Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Contentment is being happy with ...

The Kiddo and The Husband and I wound up enjoying steaks at my dad and step-mom's last night -- which was terrific for all around, as I didn't have to cook and The Kiddo and The Husband didn't have to eat my slightly carbonized version of grilled meat.

The Kiddo had stayed with my parental units all day, and when I arrived, she and my step-mom were tempting a huge black and white cat away from the grill and to the other side of the yard. A serving of dry cat food and a small can of the moist, smelly kind of cat food served as bait.

The cat is not my step-mother's. She's not anti-animal, but she and my dad like to travel too much to be tied down these days to the demands of a pet. This big kitty, however, has shown up with no signs of leaving, and my step-mother can't stand to see the poor old thing starve.

She knew my dad couldn't stand to see the steaks in peril, either. Thus the application of cat food to prevent the collision of kitty paws on a hot gas grill.

The nameless cat, however, was having none of it. He took one sniff of the bowl of wet/dry food, and then turned his nose upwind, where the smoke from the grill drifted. That feline knew that steak was a better deal than the fishy clump of food we were trying to palm off on him.

Still, he was a pragmatic critter. After he saw my dad glower in his direction, you could almost see the cat's whole body sigh of resignation. He approached the bowl and started in on it.

I was reminded of the old saying, "Happiness is getting what you want. But contentment? That's being happy with what you have."

The cat would have been blissfully happy for the two seconds he'd latched onto one of Daddy's New York strips. But he wouldn't have been content with burnt paws and the after-effects of being knocked back from the grill. So he decided that he would content himself with the canned cat food.

We writers -- everyone, really -- can take a lesson or two from that old cat. I know the restless urges of want-want-want attack me, usually when I've been engaging in what I call Kitchen Porn -- flipping through one too many glossy magazines of kitchen make-overs that cost more than my house did. I see, and then I covet, and that's not good.

And with writing, even with four sales behind me, sometimes the bad old want-want-want gets me down to the cellular, bone-deep level, and I crave the Next Big Thing. If, I think, IF I could just get X or Y or Z, THEN I would be REALLY happy.

Maybe, though, it would be two seconds of ecstasy, followed by a whole lot of pain of wanting the wrong thing at the wrong time.

So I tell myself to count my blessings, to take stock of what I have -- and that's a lot. And you know what? The old want-want-want monster subsides back to his deep cave, and I find peace and contentment in what I already have.


Kelly Breakey said...

This is a great post. In our relationship, I am the one with my head in the clouds. My husband has his feet firmly planted on the ground. When we walk through a garden center I see yard possibility, he sees extra yard work.

But I appreciate him in the fact that he does remind me to stop and smell the metaphorical roses, because no way are we planting any...they are just too much work.

Jennifer Shirk said...

Ah, very true. Thanks, old cat, for the lesson. :)

Tawna Fenske said...

Excellent post! No matter how many successes you have, it's still easy to look at what someone else has and think, "if only..."

Being happy with what you've actually got is so much easier (not to mention healthier).


Susan Kaye Quinn said...

I SO need to practice this (way more than I do).

Thanks for the great reminder! :)

Lickety Splitter said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lickety Splitter said...

I'm constantly evaluating my needs from my wants, and I can SOOOO relate to your kitchen desires costing more than your house (even though I don't cook much, I love a work of beauty). My new landscaping was a want that has turned into a needy rascal that annoys me to the point of blogging about it.