The opposite of contentment is not misery, it is dissatisfaction. Dissatisfaction can make us miserable. It is not however, the misery of poverty, hunger or isolation. We can be hungry and still be content. We can be isolated and still be content.
It is dissatisfaction that gets me started on the vicious cycle of wanting things. I say me, but let’s be honest, the advertising industry exists to cultivate in each of us just enough dissatisfaction to get us started on the hamster wheel of wanting.
Toy Catalogs are Eeeeeevil
This can be most easily illustrated with my scalawags. Those boys are not miserable. They have lots of toys, plenty of clothes, free time to play, parents and family that dote on them. They are, however, often dissatisfied.
It started in October two years ago when the toys stores (bless their hearts) sent out their Christmas catalogs. Our family has a “no advertisements please” sticker on our mailbox in the lobby of our building, so while in theory we should be safe from the wily world of commercialism, in practice it is not so.
The mailman, who probably got a financial incentive for delivering the catalogs, left a stack of at least ten of them right on a little ledge by the mailboxes. So no, we didn’t get a catalog. We got two. Each scalawag took one. They pored over them, fought over them, circled things they thought they wanted. (They wanted everything.)
They wanted things of which, until that day in October 2019, they did not suspect the existence. This was a Pandora’s Box on which we all would have better off not breaking the seal.
Side note, my husband happened to have come home just after the mailman passed with the toy catalogs in 2020. He took the armload of them and took them directly to the recycling bin. May the Earth and the toy stores forgive us our glee for outwitting the scalawags.
What is patently obvious for toddlers is far less flattering when applied to ourselves.
During my thus far twelve-day long attempt to stop coveting things that aren’t mine, I have discovered that on the days I work at home and only take the boys to school, I limit my exposure to things that tickle my coveting bone. I have less to report on my daily review.
On the other hand, my coveting is through the roof when I venture out into the world. I cannot cut myself off from the world, but my first lesson is clear: Don’t put yourself in situations where you will be tempted,
Window shopping is not inherently evil. But “knowing what is out there” makes me want what I don’t have. Wanting what I don’t have makes me dissatisfied with what I do have. Dissatisfaction is the core of what I need to nip in the bud in my life.
Stop the Madness
Now that I am intentionally considering these covetous thoughts–the “oooh, I love your mask!” or the “where did you get those shoes? I want the same!” or the “that jerk just ate the cookie I wanted”–and am flabbergasted by the sheer number of them that pass through my head every day, I recognize that I need to shift the thoughts.
I am going to start by attempting to shift the thoughts away from what I do not have to what I do have. I know it is going to be awkward and clunky, like thanking items that I am about to discard. But I know that good things sometimes come in awkward and clunky packages.