I think I've found contentment, and it was actually in the last place I thought to look. There is a story by Paulo Cuehlo about a boy who leaves home seeking adventure. He meets a king who tells him of great wealth. The boy goes seeking it, finds more trouble than treasure and gives up to return home. It turns out the treasure was in his backyard the whole time.
I am that boy, but a modern version of it in the form of a woman and this is my story:
I grew up outside a miniscule town in the Midwest on a peaceful plot of land that backed up to a lake, where the night sky was so effervescent that it glowed even with no moon, and pulsated with the sound of millions of cicadas.
It was contentment if the word was a vision, but not for a 17-year-old seeking adventure. I was not eager to spend the rest of my life there. It lacked excitement (except for the time we went parasailing in the cornfield behind a 1975 International Scout, but that's another story). It lacked intrigue and romance and, well, geography.
So I left home at a tender age and while most kids I knew were preparing for college, I was learning the art of combat in the army. This hadn't been my original plan and it was far from anyone's expectation of my destiny, seeing as I am a 5-foot-tall woman who was never into sports. One day, it just seemed like a good way to fulfill my goals of travel and adventure.
After basic training came eight years of seeing the world'and living in it too. I'd seen the demilitarized zone and the desolation of North Korea. I rode elephants in Thailand. I drank Hefferveisen in the Bavarian Alps and walked through the haunting Dachau concentration camp. I mingled with famous people and national media as I escorted them on military visits. I wrote historical news articles as a military journalist in the Army.
But, I wasn't content yet.
So I thought, 'If I find a good man, I'll be fulfilled.'
I found a man with passion and dreams for his future (I actually found him in South Korea, where I was living at the time - I'm a fan of accomplishing as much as possible at one time). He was a musician in life and an ammunition specialist in the Army.
He was great at everything he set out to do except making me content. He made me laugh, he gave me a son, but we grew further apart and soon I no longer knew him.
So I focused on my son, especially since I lived (again) in a foreign country, away from all familiarity with a husband that I had now lost familiarity with.
Before my son was born, I left active duty service to raise him. I was spending all my time doing the laundry, changing diapers, cleaning the house while living in Europe, which I couldn't go explore like I wanted to. Then came the guilt of not being completely content to be a mom and at the same time, the fear that I wasn't good at it.
Again, I wasn't content. Maybe it was because I wasn't happy with not having a career.
So I got a job in public relations for the government. I worked hard, strove for perfection and accomplishment and worked my way up to become a credible and highly regarded figure in my community.
And do you think I was content yet? IT was still missing. IT was eluding me.
I was happy, don't get me wrong, but I'm ever the optimist. I thought for sure that when my son was born, I would be complete. I would be content. I would just'be.
My son has proven to be my greatest accomplishment in life, my pride, my joy, my love.
But even when it seemed like I had it all - the husband, the son, the perfect job, checking off of the list of life goals - IT still wasn't there. And my happiness was waning too.
I was stifled. I needed to get away. I packed up my son and we went to visit my parents in the same house I had grown up in so many years before.
Every time in the last eight years that I had visited, every phone conversation we'd had they'd ask me when we would move back near them. At one point, my mom gave up and said she would be content if I just moved back to the continent.
But on this particular visit, of no particular importance (no holidays, nothing going on, just a visit), something in me changed.
I saw that shimmering sky that, quite frankly, I had never seen anywhere else in all my travels, in the whole world. I saw this beauty that I had never noticed before. I smelled this aroma that is a mixture of damp vegetation, sweet clean air, dirt and rain that I haven't smelled anywhere else in the world.
I saw an energy in my son that seemed more vibrant in this saturated countryside than anywhere else I'd ever seen. He was catching bullfrogs in the frog pond. He was being Indiana Jones in the tree house. He was driving the tractor on his grandpa's lap and doing work in the countryside with his 'worker man gloves.' He was sweating and getting tan and filling out in his rib cage. He was playing with his cousins who were teaching him to read.
After those two weeks ended and I began the long and solitude drive back home (by this time, we lived in Texas), I was longing to go back with every mile that passed under my tires, and dreading going home.
This surprised me. And by the time I got home and saw my husband, I had lost something.
'How was your trip?' he asked.
All composure escaped me and I burst into tears at the sight of him. 'I don't belong here anymore,' I said. 'I don't even know who I am anymore. I don't know who you are anymore.' This was not the first time we had danced around the idea of a divorce - it had been lurking for quite some time. We had grown apart, and I'm pretty sure my expectations of him to fulfill my life didn't help. He would tell me later that he never felt that I approved of him, and I'm pretty sure that helped destroy my marriage.
But now, standing in my living room surrounded by memories of everything I thought would fulfill me, I realized that I had to go. We had a long conversation and I told him I was leaving. He thought I was just tired from my trip. Maybe he was right.
A little time passed and I realized it wasn't that I was tired from my trip. I had been tired of the life I had built up, with all these high expectations of everything and everyone to make me happy.
I had failed. That's not easy for a perfectionist to admit.
After another long talk (surprisingly empty of anger, bitterness or resentment from either party) I packed up enough stuff to fill my car ,and my son and I headed back to my parent's house. With little notice that any of this was coming their way, and facing their own gamut of emotions about my marital fallout, being unemployed, moving in with them for an unknown amount of time, they welcomed me with open arms and support that only a parent can give.
The day I physically left my husband was the hardest day of my life. I had explained to our son that mommy and daddy weren't going to be married anymore, but that we both still loved him very much, that daddy would always be his daddy, that I would always be his mommy and that we were going to stay with Granny and Papa (that's what he calls my parents) for a while.
He cried of course, which I told him it was okay to do. I held him and soon, he looked at me with a brave smile that broke my heart as he nodded.
The day we drove away, he didn't cry. But I did. I tried not to, but sometimes trying to not do something just makes it happen more.
My brave little man said, 'Don't cry Mom. I'm not crying.'
'Oh but sweetie, you are so much braver than me,' I said.
I wept on my Mom's lap that night when we arrived while my dad took my son out to catch fireflies. She held me just like I had held my child when he wept on me. I guess some things never change about being a parent. After that day, things got more stable.
I began looking for jobs, but there were no government public relations jobs open at the time. So, I took a job at Target and Noah and I moved into my parent's recreational vehicle. It had a full kitchen, full bath, master bedroom, kid's bunk room and two TVs.
I traded in our car for a more economical one.
Trading in my car soon had a much more symbolic meaning. I got a bright yellow Chevy Cobalt. I picked it because is was fun yet practical and bright. I named it Sunshine before I even drove it off the lot. If I was a car, this was the one I wanted to be.
And this is where I have contentment, but not the way I thought I would. I have found peace, relief, and sense of self. I have days of sadness, stress, anxiety as I am coping with my departure but still trying to maintain a good relationship with my son's father. We both agreed that, with his schedule and upcoming deployment, I should have full custody, but he can visit anytime he wants.
I still have many goals I hope to achieve in the next year, including a good government job that I once took for granted, much like this peaceful plot of land that backs up to a lake. I hope to buy a house, become more healthy, watch my son blossom as he goes to kindergarten.
My goals are much simpler now, and the purpose of them is to augment my life, not complete it, not fulfill it. There is enormous relief in the realization that you have nothing to prove. By social standards, I suppose I have gone steadily backward right to where I began. But there is great relief in starting all over too.
Submitted by Anonymous
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