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"Discovering Contentment Amidst the Struggle"

This past weekend, a casual question from a neighbor while I was doing a little lawn labor sparked a profound reflection on contentment. A neighbor was walking by and naturally asked how I was doing; typically, a simple "How are you?" would prompt a nonchalant "I'm doing well. How about yourself?" However, I respond with raw and uncut honesty in the Abe Lincoln style if you know me. Admitting that I was going through a lot but taking it one day at a time, the response from my neighbor was unexpected yet insightful. Noting that while they weren't aware of the specifics, they could tell I was going through something.

Their unexpected observation caught me off guard. "I could feel it; I just knew you were going through something challenging. I could see it in your body language when you took your walks". Ahh, I see the PNN Psychic Neighbors Network channel is broadcasting, I said jokingly. This light-hearted moment emphasized the strength of our community's bond and the genuine care shown for each other.

As we continued to chat, my neighbor said, "Even though your mind is heavy, I can tell you are starting to find contentment, and that's a true blessing." Then, they continued with their walk. "Huh? Wait, what? How can you know that? What does that mean?" I whispered, "Come back, let's chat more and help me with this yard labor." This idea of "finding contentment" stuck with me all day. Did this person just find growth within me that I couldn't? As I returned to that darn yard labor and watched my kids joyously setting up tea parties, wagon rides, and scooter races with the neighborhood kids, the biggest smile was on my face. Yet, the word "contentment" kept circling back in my thoughts.

Throughout life, I've been burdened by negative feedback: "You're not good enough." As a dad, brother, leader, friend, or spouse, I've been told I talk too much, I overthink, and I'm a pushover, and these are the reasons why I have been lied to, cheated on, and taken for granted. This constant critique has led me to mask my pain with humor and an award-winning Colgate smile (because if you're going to mask the pain, why not win an award for it, right?). Yet, here I am, being told that my ability to find peace amidst these trials is visible and admirable. That's it; someone call Inspector Gadget—who the hell is this neighbor, and why does this person see me differently?

Here is where my mind wanders: Chasing happiness is like being in a never-ending game of tag with your feelings. You're always "it," and happiness is too fast to catch. It's like some people with heaps of cash who aren't actually swimming in joy. They hop from one high-paying job to another, thinking the next big title or paycheck will finally make them happy. But it's all just a show, like smoke and mirrors — "Look at me, I'm happy... oops, never mind, I'm stressed again." It's like cutting the ladder you've been climbing right in half when you start feeling the altitude.

And then there are the serial daters, always hunting for that "new love" buzz. They dive into relationships, but as soon as the first flush of romance fades, they're itching for a fresh start. This constant search for a new thrill can leave a trail of half-built bridges behind, stunting personal growth and making it hard to ever truly connect. It's a merry-go-round that speeds up with every turn, leaving you dizzy and no closer to finding what makes you genuinely content.

I am no expert, nor have I played one on TV. However, it may be time to hop off these treadmills and merry-go-rounds and start finding happiness in the here and now. After all, contentment might just be the secret ingredient missing from our recipe for a joyful life.

I should have ended it there, but nope! 

As the light turned to dusk, I watched my children finally getting tired from playing. I concluded that contentment isn't about settling or accepting negativity; it's about growth and peace within oneself. It's recognizing that chasing fleeting happiness through external validation, whether through accolades, new love buzz, or material success, will never truly satisfy. Contentment is the soil from which genuine, lasting happiness grows. It's about being okay with where you are in your journey, learning from experiences, and still daring to find daily joy in the people who care about you.

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