Discontentment

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Monday, September 29th, 2014

“Do you find the tension between seeking contentment and desiring more, difficult? I do, certainly.”

Those were the closing lines of an email I received last week from a woman who has lived more life than I – and just like that, she so concisely distilled my entire life’s dilemma. Perhaps you relate?

Contentment in its truest form is a beautiful thing, and worth cultivating. But personally, I can easily confuse contentment with complacency – an artificial version of “satisfaction,” keeping my dreams and desires in the OFF position.

Contentment should never be at the risk of betraying one’s heart.

I used to feel a little sheepish that I (still) love the song “Part of Your World” from The Little Mermaid – but not anymore. Why shouldn’t I love it? The lyricist, Howard Ashman*, perfectly articulates the honest acknowledgement of restless desire, regardless of how much one has – which is actually quite profound.

I want more.

When’s it my turn?

Contentment and wanting more seem to be in direct opposition of each other – and like my friend Joey recently said, “I think that for some people, it’s honestly just harder to be happy.” And if it hadn’t been 10 in the morning, we would have clinked whiskey glasses.

The trouble with wanting more is that we’re never satisfied. The beauty of wanting more is that it cracks our lives wide open – for better and for worse, but ultimately for better. It’s like when you love someone. Loving makes you vulnerable to pain. Loving means there’s a lot to lose.

Loving can make you afraid. But being loved means you don’t have to be.

I don’t know that any of this makes much sense, and I don’t know if I even mean for it to. All I know is that I want MORE – and I’m not talking about the material things (although I’d definitely take another pair of Frye boots if you’re offering), but just… more. Life. Depth. Beauty. Freedom. I don’t want to play it safe – because this is what Mary Oliver calls my “one wild and precious life.”

What if there’s more for me? What if there’s more for you?

IMG_2720

(Once on a trip to Texas, I forgot pajamas. I raided the Target sale rack, and obviously chose this.)

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*From what I’ve learned about Howard Ashman (and trust me, I’ve obsessed over the man), I so wish I could have met him. His work on The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin is some of the best musical storytelling there’s ever been. Watch this short clip, and try not to fall in love with him. And then watch this longer clip and witness Jodi Benson sing like a laser beam.

Static

Friday, August 28th, 2009

If you happen to be one of the people who has attempted communication with me recently and heard nothing in reply, I AM SO SORRY.  I owe you a more personal apology at some point – but for now, I am just trying to dig myself out.

Sometimes, all we can do just has to be “good enough.”  I look forward to the day when I can do well again – when I have time to read and write and think and dream, when I can fill up my spirit, when I can work toward some things that I find important, when I can be witty and quick and heartfelt, when I can catch up with people.

But lately, all I can summon the brainpower to do is to sit staring at the dining room wall and spelling the word “queue” out loud.

Q-U-E-U-E.   Q-U-E-U-E.   Q-U-E-U-E.

Instead of reading my words, I highly recommend that you go read my friend Sarah’s story.  She has posted every day this week, and has kept me on the edge of my seat.  Start with Part 1, and then move to Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5.  I am flattened by her candor, and inspired by her courage.

The in-between stage

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

You don’t even have to say it.  I already know.

You are desperate for an update on the growth of my hair.

Ever since I cut off my hair over a year ago, I have been longing for it to grow out.  I have patiently not so patiently endured the days, the weeks, the months of the “in-between stage,” feeling dowdy and frumpy.  I have kept you up to date with the growth progress – all I can say is, lucky you.  It is now long enough to put in a ponytail without bobby pins, to French braid, to even do a fancy side knot thing when the occasion calls for it.

But I have a haircut appointment today during my lunch hour.  And – so help me – I am THIS CLOSE to chopping it again.  People, I do not have the PATIENCE for the in-between stage.  I remember back to this stage, and think, “That was cute!” even though we all know that at that point, I sure didn’t feel like it was cute.

But right now, my hair is an unruly mane of mediocrity.  It’s kudzu-gone-crazy.

I’m stuck.  I know that if I cut it off again, I’ll be starting back at the top of the downward helix of discontent.  If I just get a trim, and let it keep growing, I’ll continue being drab for a few months – but then again, maybe by the end of the summer, I’ll have flowing locks like Liv Tyler.

What should I do?

You have until noon, central time, to weigh in on the matter.  But then, it’s the moment of truth.

Out of the slumpy stagnation

Wednesday, January 21st, 2009

Some days, it’s easy to get stuck in the doldrums of life: wake up, brush teeth, go to work, email, lunch, email, home, run, shower, sleep. Rinse and repeat. That’s why last night it came as such a welcome surprise to be offered a ticket to the live show “Dancing With the Stars” – because anything out of the ordinary is exciting, especially when it involves sequins and a severely faux-hawked Lance Bass.

So yes, that is what I did last night. Andy Merrick and I sat in his company suite, and I had a free can of Michelob Ultra from the fridge, and we swung back and forth between conversation about life and conversation about the mambo. At one point, Toni Braxton sang “Un-break My Heart,” and I was informed that it was the second biggest selling single by a female of all time – right behind, as I guessed and then confirmed this morning online, “I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston. I’m only making a point of writing down this tidbit of information so that someday when I’m the real-life Slumdog Millionaire, I’ll remember back to this blog entry and know the answer.

But today, I am back to the slow and sapping work of being a temp-receptionist.

Sometimes, I think that my spiritual gift must be “discontentment” – it comes alarmingly naturally to me. There is always something more that I… want. Like purpose, or clout, or foxiness, or insurance, or a salary – because as much as I try to deny it, LORD HAVE MERCY, I am tempted by money.

But not today. I’m stomping that American-consumer-culture-devil down. And therefore, I now bring you “Things that AP is thankful for today”:

– A new president
– The return of “Lost” tonight
– Fingernail clippers
– Canned corn
– Windshield wipers
– My family (um, these are totally not in order – I do not value canned corn more than my family)
– Curbside recycle service
– Nordstrom’s generous return policy
Debbie Barnett’s cooking
– Indoor plumbing
– Legs that I can run on
– Friends who write me long emails and real letters
Aretha Franklin’s hat
– Edward Cullen
– The fact that vampires do not really exist (it’s the little things, these days, that I must cling to)

R is for Rest

Monday, November 24th, 2008

This weekend, I was overwhelmed with a wave of… I don’t know. Shame? Guilt? Regret? I was knocked off my feet a few days ago, and since then, it’s been a deluge of memories and hauntings and disappointments.

I don’t know why I was created the way that I was – wired to both express and share, even at the risk of rejection or judgment. A few people who are close to me have recently suggested that maybe I should be different. Maybe I shouldn’t share so much. Maybe I should present a different picture to those around me. Maybe I should keep a lid on the truth.

But I just don’t know how.

Throughout my life, I’ve struggled with trying to make people like me, to be something good, to convince others that I’m someone worth knowing – whether it be through acting a certain way, or looking a certain way, or doing something noteworthy, or being associated with All Things Awesome. We all want to be liked, right? But ultimately, it comes back to the fact that I just am who I am. It didn’t change when I moved 2,500 miles away. And no amount of finagling or maneuvering or tweaking of the Annie Parsons Package is going to change who I am – who I was created to be.

The people that I like the most are at rest with who they are. Contented, humble spirits. Quiet, unassuming souls who love easily. I want to be one of those people.

So. Stomping down insecurity. Being exactly who I am, and trusting that “Annie” is the best thing I could possibly be. Humbling myself. Praying for the grace to stand in truth, acceptance, and hope. And knowing that my ability to love others will be a direct overflow of the love and care lavished on me by a God who is always faithful. He’s ready and waiting to transform my heart, heal the things that I’m afraid are beyond healing, and give me rest.

Happy Happy :: Joy Joy

Tuesday, May 20th, 2008

I struggle with discontentment on a regular basis. Oh mercy, I fight it at every turn. I am convinced – convinced – that if I could do or get juuuust one more thing, then I would be happy.

Throughout the years, my “one more thing” has taken different forms. When I was little, I wanted a Popple. And then a Skip-It. And maybe a Teddy Ruxpin.* As I grew older, that desire turned into a kitten, and then a boom-box, and then a car, and then to move away from my hometown. Once I was established in Seattle, it became a cell phone, and then a boyfriend, and then to turn 21, and then an iPod, and then a job, and then that dress at Anthropologie, and then to lose 5 pounds, and then a Macbook, and then a plane ticket, and then a couch, and then freedom, and then a purpose… all the while, searching simply for contentment.

I want things. I want them my way. And I want them now.

I know in my head that more things and more achievements and more experiences will not make me happy – there will always be something next, something greater, something bigger and better. My head knows this. My heart, though, is harder to convince.

Now that I’m here in Nashville, stripped of a lot of the comforts that I had come to rely on in my former city, I am confronting my discontentment every single day. I don’t have the same level of security and resources and time-tested friendships that I had in Seattle. I find myself making suppositions – that I just need to find a fulfilling job, or be really popular, or write some awesome songs, or be skinnier, or do something extravagantly impressive, or maybe just buy that little shelf at T.J. Maxx for my bathroom – and then my time here will have some purpose.

But I’m convinced that there is a difference between happiness and joy. Happiness is an easy quick-fix, a circumstantial band-aid that covers up the real festering issue. Joy is authentic. Joy cannot be shaken by the everyday emotional rollercoaster. As I am tossed about by the winds and the waves, joy holds like an anchor.

And joy only comes from one place. And so these days, I am praying for joy.

*Let it be known that as a child, I never got a Popple, or a Skip-It, OR a Teddy Ruxpin. Maybe this is the root of my panic-driven, constant, grasping need for more and more?