The Cycle of the Imperfect Life

I mentioned here the vicious cycle of dissatisfaction. I want to take a deeper dive into that cycle, because it is at the root of so much of my discontent.

The cycle looks like this:

1. See thing, love thing, want thing
2. Connive to obtain thing
3. Anticipate how thing will make life perfect
4. Become inevitably disappointed when thing does not make life perfect
5. Develop self-contempt/buyer’s remorse when thing does not make life perfect.
6. Start seeking new thing to make life perfect. (Rinse repeat)

This cycle is born in the desire to have a perfect life, which is, on its face, a laudable desire. Who doesn’t want a perfect life, right?

The problem is twofold: Firstly, living, as we do, on Earth 1, there is no such thing as a perfect life. Secondly, most of the time we don’t have enough foresight to know what would make our life perfect at any given phase of it, and even then, it will be perfect for only a moment. We really only know what was perfect once it is gone.

For someone extremely in-tune to the desire for contentment, I sure let myself get caught up in the hurricane of wanting stuff.

Case in point: I had bought myself a pair of leggings in November because I wanted to be able to wear my collection of pretty dresses in the colder weather. (Reserve judgment please, I am not a legging kind of girl, so yes, this was a first for me.) I included them with an online order from a sporting goods store that included some shoes for the boys.

Apparently I over-estimated my size (good problem to have, amiright?) but I still liked the feel of the leggings and since I was able to wear them with dresses that didn’t show of the saggy baggy elephantish knees, I decided to hang on to them. These things did genuinely make me happy: now I could wear my dresses that I love so much instead of just being a winter slouch in jeans.

However, I started thinking that having a pair that actually fit, that didn’t bag at the knees might make me happier. I started thinking about how I would get to the sporting good store and purchase a pair in the right size. I started conniving to obtain the thing.

Although I desperately wanted to stop buying clothes, I started thinking about how this new pair of leggings would make all my problems go away. Now I could wear skirts that were above the knee in the middle of winter! Now I could feel super cute! My life was going to be so much better!

Well. Now I was on the lookout for excuses to go to the sporting goods store. Turns out I got the excuse-we needed a needle for our pump so that our sad deflated collection of balls could get inflated. Perfect!

But guess what? They didn’t have the leggings I wanted at that store. Nope. But what they did have was a more expensive, extremely beautiful pair of leggings that looked like they were make of lace but were actually sturdy workout leggings. If I just had these leggings, then I could look super dressed up and cute and warm…

But they were expensive. Definitely more money than I would spend on myself.

So I returned home empty-handed, but had opened Pandora’s Box.

Now I was conniving to get something else. Now, I had found the very thing, the thing that I knew would make my life absolutely perfect, that would tie together every item in my wardrobe. And since I knew I was intending to attack a buy-no-clothes resolution for the new year, having something to tie it all together would be very useful.

With a sum he had received for Christmas, my indulgent husband decided he wanted to buy some new running shoes. He really did need the shoes, but his desire to go into a store to buy them did not register on the most sensitive of scales. So I offered to order them from the sporting goods store. (Aren’t I thoughtful?)

Oh, and I threw in the leggings, both pairs, into the basket, too. Finally I was complete.

Except that not an hour after I placed the order I already had buyer’s remorse.

Here I was, fresh off of Step Five in the Cycle of the Imperfect Life. If I wasn’t careful, I would arrive at Step Six in very short order.

It has become urgent to me to stop this cycle and get off the hamster wheel. I don’t like feeling incapable of dismissing these urges. It feels helpless and hopeless. By setting myself a rule for the year, I find that while I have coveted a little here and there, I have not experienced the urge to possess.

I call this a win.

Published by Lily Fields

I am passionate about contentment. This is a challenge, because I am equally passionate about progress. I get up at 4:00AM to chip away at a solution to this monolithic problem: how to make progress on my contentment. Born and raised in the USA, I married a French philosophy teacher in 1999. We have lived in France since 2007. We stayed young and carefree until life threw us two curveballs in the form of little humans one after another in 2015 and 2017 respectively. Now I am a slightly older, slightly more exhausted version of myself, but with mystery stains on my walls and a never-ending pile of laundry.

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