Chronic satisfaction

2012 - it has a nice ring to it

It’s been a while since I’ve made New Year’s resolutions – and I’m not just talking about the last 12 months. I don’t think I’ve made any for a few years. I decided some time ago to lay off the ‘resolutions’ because mine were always so punishing.

They generally involved losing weight, improving my body shape and turning myself into an Elle Macpherson lookalike by my birthday in March. Needless to say, I never kept to that last one and I rarely kept to the others. Or they were about achieving this or that by a certain date – and I’d be very unforgiving if I failed. I guess my resolutions just weren’t very loving.

I also think that by focusing on my New Year plans, I can forget that every day is a new day and provides an opportunity to start afresh. I can start afresh on January 4th or 5th just as easily as on January 1st.

That said, I think having visions or goals and writing them down at the start of the year is a good thing. But I prefer to call them visions and goals, rather than resolutions. Resolutions to me sounds so harsh, so definitive. And as we know, we generally don’t keep them much beyond mid-January.

Visions sounds more gentle, and it leaves plenty of room for manoeuvre. Although I guess I don’t want to leave too much room for manoeuvre in case I get lost along the way. It comes down to finding the right balance – between setting my sights on what I’d like to happen this year and taking the steps to make it happen, but then relaxing once I’ve taken that action and surrendering the outcome. As I also wrote in my last post, it seems doors generally open where they’re supposed to and at the right time.

So what would I like to see happen? Well, this year – and this day for that matter – I’d like to take more risks, go easier on myself and worry a little less about what other people think. I’d also like to dance more – I’ve decided I don’t need to wait to get invited on Strictly Come Dancing to wear a sparkly dress and be whisked around a ballroom. I’m sure I can find somewhere in London to do that! And I’d like to continue with my singing lessons (I’ve only had one) and develop some form of regular meditation that works for me – my anxiety often keeps me awake at night and that’s something I’d love to change.

In my work, I’d like to build on what I’ve started, finding outlets to write honestly and from my heart about issues that affect women, and men of course, but mostly women. I’m dreaming of a column in a newspaper or magazine. I’d also like to put in place better boundaries around my work – so I make sure I have times when I switch off from emails or from generating story ideas and really put my feet up. I think those times are called holidays! I’ve found taking holidays quite tricky as a freelancer but I’d like to work on that this year.

And finally – I’m sure there’s a lot more I could think of but this is enough for now – I’d like to improve my satisfaction levels. I watched the Woody Allen film Vicky Cristina Barcelona the other day and really enjoyed it but there was one particular moment that really hit home. It was the bit when Maria Elena, played by Penelope Cruz, tells Cristina, played by Scarlett Johanssen, that she suffers from “chronic dissatisfaction”. Cristina has just decided to end her ménage à trois with Maria Elena and Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem) because she’s tired of it, or bored of it, or thinks there’s something else out there for her, something more exciting or fulfilling. Maria Elena yells at her and diagnoses her problem as chronic dissatisfaction, as never being content with her lot.

Now, I imagine Cristina maybe could find a more satisfying arrangement than sharing her fella with another woman but, putting that aside, I can definitely relate to the idea of chronic dissatisfaction and the sense there must always be something better out there. Whether it’s moving from one country to another or ending one relationship and starting another or going to one party or holiday destination and thinking I’d be better off at the other, I’ve often struggled to find peace where I am. Of course, I’m so much better than I was years ago but sometimes my restlessness or my disquiet returns. I’m constantly looking to the future for the next best thing or over my shoulder at whatever I’ve left behind.

So what I’m aiming for this year is chronic satisfaction. I’d like – as much as possible – to remember to be grateful for who I am, where I am or what I’m doing. I’d like to make decisions and choices without second-guessing them and without thinking about what I might be missing elsewhere. I’d like to say to myself more often, “In this moment, I have everything I need to be happy”, and really mean it. When my mind wanders off into some fantasy land, past or future, where everything is better than today, I’d like to remind it gently to come back and take a long, appreciative glance at the present moment.

For some reason, the image of a big oak tree comes to mind. It has long roots that keep it stable and stop it from swaying in the wind. Its trunk is planted firmly on the floor and is solid all the way through. I guess, for me, satisfaction comes from feeling grounded and feeling sure of who I am and where I’m heading, so I’m not tossed around in the wind of other people’s opinions or by the endless choices and possibilities that come my way.

Living in a state of chronic satisfaction, however, is not going to be easy. I’ve had many years of feeling the opposite and old habits die hard, but I think it’s a good vision for me to have for 2012 – there’s plenty of room for manoeuvre, but it’s something to aim for all the same.

About Katherine Baldwin

I am a writer, coach, midlife mentor, motivational speaker and the author of How to Fall in Love - A 10-Step Journey to the Heart. I specialise in coaching women and men to have healthy relationships with themselves so that they can form healthy and loving romantic relationships and lead authentic, fulfilling lives. I coach 1:1, lead workshops and host retreats.
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2 Responses to Chronic satisfaction

  1. roisin says:

    As usual Katherine you have hit the nail on the head with this post. I suspect if you were to conduct a straw poll of women late 30s to 40s single without children, chronic dissatisfaction would be prevalent, regardles of the actual quality of their lives, particularly as perceived by others who look at our successes and achievements and are puzzled by our constant unhappiness. The big difference, I believe, between women who settle down (or maybe just “settle”?) and those of us who dont, is this pervading idea that there might be something better, more suitable etc round the corner and what if we’re making a mistake in accepting whats on offer right now? And this is stopping us from achieving the one thing that we often really want at this stage – a long term stable relationship that might allow us to have a family.

    I wish I had the answer to this or even a sense of where it comes from in order to work with it. Ironically I feel it is more common in women who may come across as having a large ego or an over inflated sense of self worth (ie because no-one/nothing is good enough for them) but in reality they are women who actually are less secure and are often nursing damage that others don’t see. The more whole you are as a person, the more you can appreciate where you are right now and what you have, rather than constantly second guessing yourself.

  2. Hi Roisin,
    Thanks for reading and for your astute comment. You’ve hit the nail on the head too! I also think it gets harder for women in their late 30s or 40s to choose a relationship, with all the compromises that may bring, because often, by this stage, we’ve created a pretty good life for ourselves. We start thinking that someone very special will have to come along in order to make us want to give up the trappings of our single existence – even if it does come with times of loneliness. But then sometimes we hold out for someone so special that he doesn’t actually exist!
    I agree that what makes us so reluctant to choose or settle isn’t our uber confidence but rather our low self-esteem and our fear of making mistakes – I think that’s the case for me. If we work on that and become more sure of ourselves, maybe we’ll find some peace around our decisions.
    Best wishes and keep reading and commenting!

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