By Gwenn Voelckers
Merriam-Webster defines contentment as “the state of being happy and satisfied.”
This dictionary definition sounds like a nice way to feel, doesn’t it? Oh, if we could just snap our fingers and be happy with who we are and what we have. Wouldn’t life be grand?
I’ve had the privilege of meeting and talking with a lot of women and men who live alone, and our conversations often turn to the subject of contentment: how to find it, how to keep it and how to find it again once it has been lost.
Those on their own often feel a lack of something in their lives, and many have trouble letting go of a craving for things to be different.
I know. I’ve been there.
For years after my divorce, I had trouble seeing the good in myself and in my life. But with time, intention and practice, I was able to stop yearning for what I didn’t have and start appreciating what existed right in front of me.
It all began with an important first step — taking a hard look at myself.
While I’m no expert in survey design, I created the simple quiz below to help you assess where you are on the road to contentment.
Your results may light a new and hopeful way forward.
How Content Are You?
Circle the choice that best answers the questions below:
1. If asked, how many positive personal qualities come immediately to mind?
A. 5 or more
B. 1 to 4
C. Nothing really comes to mind
2. How would you describe your home?
A. Very “me” — I’ve made it my own!
B. It’s fine. I keep meaning to redecorate, but just haven’t gotten around to it
C. It’s a place to sleep
3. How would you describe your success in letting go of old ways of thinking and of negative thoughts or behaviors that keep you anchored in the past?
A. I live in the present; it’s full steam ahead!
B. I still go “back there” from time to time
C. I can’t let go, I obsess about the past
4. Could you imagine planning a trip by yourself and traveling alone to a favorite destination?
A. In a heartbeat!
B. Maybe someday
C. I can’t imagine that
5. Does the thought of going alone to a cafe for a cup of coffee, or grabbing a bite to eat in a local restaurant, feel perfectly comfortable — even enjoyable?
A. I do it all the time
B. Occasionally, but I’m not at ease
C. I’m just not ready
6. Do you exercise, get enough sleep, and stay on top of health screenings?
A. Of course
B. I know I should, but I don’t always take care of myself
C. I’m too preoccupied to think about my health
7. How often do you pamper or reward yourself by taking some time just for you or by purchasing that little something special you’ve had your eye on?
A. As often as I can!
B. More often than not, I put others’ needs first
C. I can’t remember the last time I pampered myself
8. Can you imagine your life without a special someone on your arm?
A. I would enjoy sharing my life with someone special, but could also find contentment with my “family of friends”
B. Maybe, but not for long; I feel incomplete without a “one and only”
C. Life doesn’t feel worth living when I’m not in love
Calculate your total points using this scale:
3 points for each A answer
2 points for each B answer
1 point for each C answer
8 points: Contentment may feel elusive at the moment — beyond your grasp. But it can be found. You may benefit from talking with a professional or your pastor. Help and encouragement might also be found in grief support groups and other gatherings that offer emotional support.
9-15 points: You experience feelings of contentment, but you know there’s more to be found. Continue to stretch yourself. Reach out to others. And “try on” healthy pursuits outside your comfort zone. Success and achievement breed contentment. You might also find inspiration and a needed jump-start in workshops, classes, and lectures devoted to personal growth and development.
16 points: Good for you — what you have is precious. Being content with yourself opens up all kinds of possibilities. It enables you to feel peace and joy, whether you are alone or with others. It is an invaluable inner springboard on which you can launch all things imaginable!
Gwenn Voelckers is the founder and facilitator of Live Alone and Thrive, empowerment workshops for women held throughout the year in Mendon. She is also the author of “Alone and Content: Inspiring, empowering essays to help divorced and widowed women feel whole and complete on their own.” To purchase her book, learn about workshops, or invite her to speak call 585-624-7887, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.aloneandcontent.com.