Cultivating Contentment

Life has loops. Recurring dreams. Déjà vu. The Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon.(1) The record player needle hits the dust spot and skips back a second; it happens again and again and again. Loops, loops, and more loops—this is the way of conversation for me these days.

In the last two weeks, I’ve had a recurring conversation, a conversation on repeat. I’ve had this looped conversation with a businessmen, a housewife, a part-time spiritual director, and a few folks on social media, and each time, it started with the same way; they asked this question: How did you give up your day-to-day job to pursue something you love? (In my case, the day-to-day job was lawyering and the thing I love is writing, editing, and working with words.) They lean in after asking the question as if I might whisper the same secret life whispered to me just before I left my 12-year career. The question behind the question, the one they weren’t asking, was more akin to this: How did you get the gumption to leave the daily grind, the nine-to-five, The Man?

The question kept coming, and coming, and coming, until I could almost predict where it would come next. Recurring. Recurring. Recurring. And each time, I fumbled out some incomplete, perhaps incoherent answer about guts, or open doors, or courage. Each time, my answer rang hollow as an echo.

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  • Ian

    Seth, great word. I’m a few (maybe a lot) years older than you but it’s only in the last couple of years that I’ve come to understand this contentment and the identity trap the world/enemy raises us to believe.

  • Kelly Hausknecht Chripczuk

    I did not read the rest (yet) and I never stayed with The Man long enough to leave him, but I always come back to something Parker Palmer says, something along the lines of, ‘Vocation is what you can’t not do.’ Every time The Man points to a golden door behind which are promises of more gold and glitter (income, security, importance, etc.) (which is pretty seldom, if I’m honest) I find myself thinking – yeah, but I can’t not do THIS (writing, painting, spiritual direction, etc.). It’s sort of a backing into vocation (or skittering along sideways like a crab as Palmer puts it) but it’s the best I have most days and especially when The Man comes knocking.