Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Winter of our Discontent

Discontent is a Pacific Northwest winter—grey and chill. The sun barely rises over the horizon. On dark and gloomy days, it seems to never appear at all. Those days are without hope of light and warmth. I have often felt my life would lie in that dank fog forever, moss covered and mildew ravaged.

If you Google the word discontent there is a picture of me. My mother said I could always find the fly in the ointment. Therapists have said I have low grade depression. I think of myself as the human equivalent of AA Milne’s Eeyore. I can always see the bad in any situation.

I have found happiness to be a fleeting thing. There is a chemical rush, a steady flow of serotonin and norepinephrin coursing through the brain making everything vividly colored and dazzling. A new love, a new possession, a trip to a new place, or a career change can do it, but when the rush is over there is nothing left in its place but discontent.

It is not like I enjoy my negativity. All my life I have been looking for something positive and uplifting. The problem is that I haven’t been able to pinpoint what that something is, so the search has been frustrating, leading to many deadends and disappointments. I have sought faith, only to become disenchanted with religion. I have sought my passion for medicine only to be stymied in my ability to provide it by bureaucracy. I have tried on relationships, only to find imperfections in the people I love.

Not that I have had many relationships. Men are visual creatures and I was not born possessed of beauty. I was teased and bullied over my lack of looks and my mother, the one person who should have thought me beautiful, found fault with me at every turn. Because I believed I was unattractive and unlovable, I made poor decisions. Instead of valuing my assets, I ignored them. I became a quiet, grey mouse relegated to lurking in corners and grabbing at whatever tidbits would fall within my reach. I was not content with the scraps, but I didn’t think myself worthy of better.

When I left for college I thought I would meet men who would value my brains since I was not disposed of beauty. By my senior year I was fast becoming an old maid. I hadn’t dated in four years of college. And then Tom came along.

My mother didn’t like him. One night she asked why I was wasting my time with him. I answered her honestly; there was no one else to waste time with. So in the end I married him. I was unhappy for over 30 years. The relationship was unrewarding. He took credit for everything I did, including going to medical school. I was supposed to make him look good, while in the privacy of our home he treated me as dispassionately as he did the furniture. I told myself to be content with the neglect of my husband because he was incapable of giving more. I subjected myself to a life of grey, dull discontent. For years I made excuses for him, while quietly hating him. Then one day I had enough. I could no longer be content with his coldness. I moved out.

I have a new home, which I chose, surrounded by my books and music. I have given up chasing after happiness. I no long desire its ups and downs. Today I am only seeking contentment. I want to be comfortable within my own skin.

I am still working on finding the positives in life rather than being overcome by the negatives. I may still be that quiet grey mouse but that is an asset rather than a liability. I do not have to settle for tidbits. I know I am capable of getting what I want. Someday I hope to be able to look in the mirror and see my true self. I my only desire is to move away from the cold, bleak winter of discontent. I want to see the beautiful reds and golds of the autumn of my life and enjoy their beauty in peace.

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