Finding Contentment in the Rhythms of an Everyday Life

Finding Contentment in the Rhythms of an Everyday Life
Photo by Noelle Pawlowski

The simple things are also the most extraordinary things, and only the wise can see them.

~Paulo Coelho

My only daughter turned two in March.  And as she grows and learns and astonishes us with each new milestone, I have noticed myself reflecting more and more on the first few months of her life.

She arrived on a Sunday morning as winter gave way to spring, full of life and ready to embrace her humanness as only a brand new human can. There was snow lingering on the ground, and the sunrise that day was full of anticipation and the unknowing that comes along with waiting for something that is impossible to predict.

We brought her home a few days later, unsure and anxious as so many new parents are, and settled into a rhythm that was punctuated with nursing, changing diapers, washing diapers, bouncing the baby to sleep, and waiting for her to cry so the pattern could continue.

It was a rhythm of trial and melancholy and immeasurable joy, somehow all rolled into one. As the cliché goes, having a baby changes everything.  

I remember the first day I left the house alone to walk around a nearby lake. I remember feeling anxious that she would need to nurse while I was gone and that my husband would have to deal with a screeching infant until my return.

I remember stepping around melting piles of grey snow and skirting mud puddles as I made my way down the driveway, out to the gravel road. I remember feeling the sun on my face and how good it felt to reclaim the use of my physical body.

I remember feeling like that walk—even with the mud puddles and drab weather—was enough to satisfy my need to feel alive and in my own skin, one human embracing her humanness, for the rest of the day.

I remember coming back into the house and melting back into the rhythm. I remember feeling like just being part of that rhythm was enough.

That feeling of contentment from having just one half hour alone, outside, moving over the earth on foot lasted for several months. I felt a sense of peace after coming in from a run, or time spent in the garden, or the occasional longer hike in the woods.

I went back to work full-time and started running or gardening in the morning as the sun came up.

Despite the extra demands that came with adding work to the rhythm of the days, that sense of peace—the sense that the ordinary rhythm of ‘life with baby’ was enough—lingered. For a while. 

A few months after the baby marked her first birthday, I noticed that sense of peace slipping. I found myself wanting more time, more resources, and more flexibility to do what I wanted to do.

I found myself wanting to feel like I was making a difference, like I mattered enough, like I was enjoying enough. I found myself wanting to feel content with life and wanting to feel satisfied with the everyday.  But I wasn’t.

Somewhere in the space between my daughter’s birth and her twenty month birthday, that sense of peace got stuck behind a different rhythm that felt busy and lacking and not enough.

A half-hour walk outside wasn’t doing it for me anymore. After coming inside, I wanted another half hour, and then another, and then another. Sometimes all the time in the world, all the recognition in the world, all the happiness in the world… it didn’t feel like enough.

I can’t say that I have completely regained that feeling of complete contentment. But as I reflect on the months just after my daughter’s birth, I reclaim some of that peace.

In acknowledging that feeling of lack, of discontent, and of happiness that comes and goes, I am inviting that peace to return to the rhythm. 

It will undoubtedly still be a rhythm of trial, of melancholy, and of immeasurable joy, because that is what being human is about. It is about celebrating the mountaintops and accepting the valleys and their shadows.

It is about remembering that joy and peace remain present even when they seem buried beneath wanting, discontent and overwhelming schedules.

It is about seeing the extraordinary in something as mundane as a walk around a frozen lake on a muddy gravel road. It is about remembering that we are all full of life and have the capacity to fully embrace our humanness.

It is about recognizing the instinct to do something to change a feeling or the persistent need to address our desire for more—and letting it be there. Sometimes there’s simply nothing to do but accept that being human means letting all feelings speak, and then letting them pass when they no longer serve.

Perhaps embracing our humanness and the life that comes with it means celebrating the anticipation and the unknowing that comes with waiting for something that is impossible to predict.


This post first appeared at Tiny Buddha.