Chaos, Contentment & Christmas…REALLY???


by Kenneth Justice

~ “Kenneth, there are some days I wish I could just stay hidden in my bed and never come out to the world” said my coffee friend.

The single mid-50ish man had recently suffered a number of financial set backs and was forced to move back in with his 80 year old father and his older sister (who also moved back in recently), “When my mother was alive I never realized how much balance she brought to the household….but living with my dad and sister….well, to put it nicely; they are nuts!” he said

With Christmas coming up next week my friend and I had been talking about the holiday and he kept telling me, “How can I even think about Christmas when I’m living in a house of chaos! My sister yells at my dad, my dad yells at my sister….I feel like I’m living in a mental institution with a bunch of loony’s running around!”

Despite all the ‘chaos’ my friend is fortunate to have had a home to move back to….some people in his circumstances who suffered financial ruin have been left living in a homeless shelter, but he had a father and sister who opened back up the family home to him…and he’s going to make it over the long haul.

Talking to my friend though reminded me of chaotic moments in my past related to holidays. Its funny now that I think about it, because even though holidays are supposed to be ‘special’….more often-than-not I can remember crazy hectic moments that were anything but ‘content’;

—) stuck in a blizzard on the way home from seeing a Christmas play

—) relatives gossiping behind my back at Christmas

—) sick with the flu and suffering through a long Christmas church service

—) the car breaking down on the way home from church Christmas Eve

Yup, the Christmas holiday brings back a lot of chaotic memories….but that’s okay. One thing I’m learning as I get older is that in many ways this world around me is really chaotic; there’s a lot of things that don’t make any sense. But the question before me is whether or not I’m going to allow the chaos to overwhelm me or if I’m going to stand strong in the midst of the chaos.

I’m reminded of that verse, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want

Of course, learning to be content is easier to talk about than to do; especially when we live in a culture that in many ways is designed to tell us that we are not content;

—) Television commercials tell us that we need to purchase new shiny electronics this Christmas in order to be happy

—) Billboard advertisements tell us we really need a new car to find any serious contentment over the holiday

—) Magazine print adds flash shiny pictures of good looking people wearing designer labels that yell at us; “if you were wearing these clothes you’d be so much happier this holiday season!”

So much of Western Culture is designed to tell us that we are not happy and that we will only find true contentment if we purchase more consumer goods. Its a strange society we live in; many of us call it materialistic, fast-paced, stressful…but whatever adjective we want to use the simple fact of the matter is that Western Society is not the most ‘content’ place to live.

Life is strange, the other day I wrote about a homeless guy that I had coffee with who told me how happy he was living in a homeless shelter…..and now today I’m reminded of the conversation with my single friend who is totally stressed out from having to live with his father and sister……what is contentment?

Is contentment simply being at peace no matter how awful the situation? Aren’t there some situations that are simply too difficult to bear? Aren’t there some jobs and people that push us to our limit….aren’t there things in life that we need to avoid in order to not get to a breaking point?

My single friend told me he needs a vacation, “I need to get away from my father and sister for awhile…I’m thinking about leaving for the Christmas holiday and being by myself” he said

In the past life I might have criticized him for making that statement, “Dude, you can’t leave during the holiday! Holidays are meant to be spent with family” is what I might have said. But that is where I can see a little bit of growth in myself; because in the past I was always quick to judge and condemn others (I used to be such an a** hole)…..but now I’m trying to be more ‘content’ and at ‘peace’ with others and to try and understand where they are coming from…….and as I think about my friend’s situation, he may very well need some time to himself during the holiday.

As far as I go….I’m trying to learn how to be content also. For a long time I have had some very clear goals that I’ve been trying to achieve….and I’m simply not there yet……but ultimately; I need to learn how to be content with where I am at.

For now, I think I will have another cup of coffee,


Categories: Culture & Society

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86 replies

  1. Sometimes I wonder if Christmas can ever live up to the hype that surrounds it.

    • When I was a kid I would have emphatically said “yes!” to you…but now that I’m in my thirties….uh…I think I might say ‘no’ with a twinge of sadness in my voice

    • I’ve just refused to give in to the hype. You’d be amazed at how not having cable tv helps improve your outlook on your situation, especially the holidays.

    • After having cable my entire adult life….I got rid of it last year in favor of a Roku (which I love) which I watch Netflix and a couple other things on……I love it! As far as the hype though….I still feel pressured…its engrained within me from years and years of having to do Christmas a certain way….for me…the one time I always feel at peace during the holiday is going to midnight mass on Christmas eve..

    • We haven’t had cable TV for years, but ads and commercialism sneak into the house in other ways.

    • To be sure – there’s almost no avoiding it, but the no cable aspect helps diminish a good deal of it.

  2. Well said. Contentment is a state of mind– and our materialistic society is trying every minute to convince each of us that we are wrong to be happy with less. Love what you had to say here.

  3. All the “trappings” of you need this…or that…are pretty overwhelming these days. The more in your face they become, the less I spend. This year, I made gifts that were personalized or bought books. I admit on a few minor things like the snake that gets 10 times bigger when you put it in water…still gotta have fun ya know.

    Hubby and I moved in with his mother and adult son (jointly owned property) temporarily, then the economy tanked so we extended our stay. It was financially beneficial at the time. Now we stay because she could not afford to keep the household expenses up without us…leaving would be stressful to her survival and make her feel abandoned. The good thing is that we all respect the privacy of each other and pretty much keep to ourselves. The bad news is that it’s his mother and drives him crazy. You know, the things only a mother could do. It doesn’t bother me at all…I think it might if it might have been my dad, instead of his mom…I feel for him.

    I think being content, no matter what the situation is a beautiful thing, but many have a difficult time achieving that. I am one of those people…my husband is not…so we compromise and go away for a weekend to get island time…do the things WE want to do…unrestricted.

    • My heart goes out to your husband…..I know situations like that and know how trying they can be on the person’s patience…..but at least you guys are helping her out and that’s got to be worth something in the face of all things 🙂

    • That’s amazing, Mrs. P.

      I also suspect that there are many others with similar arrangements, with how housing is now. Cimmy and I are struggling a bit with a mortgage, but– zow, we couldn’t go back to renting now. Rental capacities have been over 95% for a long time, at least for apartments, so rates are high, even with a low cost of living in our area. (We couldn’t even have done rent without subsidized housing.)

  4. Yes, let’s be content and have coffee.

    There is too much right with your post today. I have a hard time singling one phrase out. The verse you are reminded of resonates with me as well, Kenneth.

    Being unhappy is so much harder to live with, but man it can be tough to see the beauty for all the thorns some days. Those days we lean in on God.

    One cup of coffee..most days is not enough. 🙂

    • Audrey….

      lol…well I used to drink a LOT of coffee….let me clarify; ALOT OF COFFEE….and a couple years ago I realized I just needed to drink a bit less… as much as it pained me to start doing it; I only drink one cup of regular coffee (black) in the morning, and if I drink any later in the day I’ll have a decaf soy latte 😦 ….I mean putting milk in my coffee is practically a sin to me…but I have to do it for my stomach cause all the coffee was ruining my digestive system (not to mention my skin…I have eczema and the caffeine wreaks havoc to my skin)….such is my wearisome life 😉

    • LOL…but…but. Oh man, now I need to reevaluate my coffee consumption. And so close to Christmas. 😆

    • Hi Kenneth,

      I was getting worried about your coffee intake too, as I have read that coffee destroys brain function over time. Your brain seems okay, I hasten to add, though. I am pleased to hear that you have cut it down. My elder son was drinking coffee, tea, beer, in fact anything, until his skin rebelled, and he can only take natural foods and water. He seems a lot better now.

      Personally, on another subject, I left home when I was 19 and it would have been horrible if I had had to return to my parents’ home to live. They were nice people, but I still wouldn’t have been able to stand it. So, I do sympathize with your friend.

      There’s nothing so funny as folk, Kenneth. Have a great day!


    • Alison, I was 19 when I was first on my own as well…….and as much as I love my mother it would seem weird to move back in for sure…..

  5. Contentment can be like boredom, as in peaceful, but dull. Or you may not be content in boredom without having been forced to another extreme, perhaps

  6. You are right. This nation is focused on not being content. We all need that house, that car, the newest gadget and fancy clothes. Let’s not forget that everyone must also be a size 0 (women) or buff (men) in order to truly succeed in life. Contentment is whatever works for us as individuals, not what society dictates.

    Also, I liked your comparison between your friend and the homeless man. What a contrast.

    • You mean to tell me that all women can’t be a size zero??? 😉 dude, it drives me nuts the way the fashion industry influences people to think that way….very sad

    • Not everyone wants to be that thin, but it’s an individual choice. Whatever a person a comfortable with. It is ridiculous that we are made to believe that we have to look a certain way.I just posted about fitness, but it’s focus is definitely not on being a size zero.

    • What bothers me the most about the whole weight issue is that it seems like the deck is stacked against many people; our culture here is designed to always be sitting in a car and its just so damn hard to keep weight off when we’re always sitting….

      but I agree with you; a size ‘zero’ is simply a ridiculous standard…and I lay the blame at both the fashion world and the print add world which is photo shopping everything and presenting a lie to young women.

  7. You know you might want to read the Hainrich Bell short story “Not only Christmas”. It reminds me how lucky we are even in our little swamp.

  8. I was on the phone with my friend that was hosting a La Posada. She told me that a little boy was going to play Joseph. That both his parents died this year. I went over to the house and there were 40 people in their living room and entryway. There was a church deacon in robes. After much singing I saw the little boy in the kitchen and sat next to him. We looked into each others eyes and talked awhile. I had to leave before the big feast afterwards. When I was hugging my friends the little boy said “Do you have to go?”. I told him that my dog was sick and needed me. We hugged. Grief, chaos, heart ache can only mend with lots of love. Noel.

  9. I too have been working a long time at being content. The best I can do right now is be content with not being content.

  10. You need to switch cafes I think! Too much doom and gloom recently. Eees Chreesmas Keneeeth! 🙂 My son-in-law has it banged to rights: “Whatever” (preferably with a shrug of the shoulders). Switch cafes and have a cucumber sandwich is my advice. Merry Christmas fella!

    • Lol I have a series of “happier” articles coming up…..I write these things in bunches so when I publish them they often run in to each other as far as themes go…..I’ve actually had some really funny/weird conversations lately but it’s a matter of getting them written down!

      I actually like cucumber sandwiches …maybe I really am British!

  11. I needed this today – thank you!

  12. Is contentment simply being at peace no matter how awful the situation? Yes, it is. What we all need to do, and it is very hard, is to not worry about what other’s think of us. That is a contentment killer. God brings contentment. Richard Wurmbrand proves it in his book Tortured For Christ. Google it and get a free copy. If you haven’t read it, I am sure you will enjoy it. Another great post!

  13. Christmas feels like a ticking clock, and a face of weakness in the mirror that’s getting older each year.. What’s happening to my Christmas.. Lost…

  14. This is why I think happiness is a choice. We have to choose to be happy with what we have and recognize the good in our lives.

    This man is in a more critical situation, but I’m going to compare it with a vacation. How lucky is the person who can afford to take a vacation and travel somewhere with their family? Yet, when people come home, they joke about needed a “vacation from the vacation.” Many elements of vacations can be stressful. A person can choose to focus on that, or they can choose to focus on the good aspects, like going to a place they’ve never been before.

    Any situation can be good or bad, depending on how the person chooses to look at it.

  15. I’m going to spend a shocking amount of time on my flight home tonight thinking about what being content really means. Interesting concept…

  16. After being homeless and living in a tent for a short time, my husband and I moved into a motel. Many of my friends would say, “How can you stand living in a motel like that?” I get the same reaction sometimes about the little house we now rent in a “dangerous” area of town….I just say, “I am happy to live anyplace that does not say “Coleman” across the ceiling. 🙂 It’s all about perspective.

  17. Your posts make me really curious about the coffee shop you visit that has such a variety of interesting customers. Have you written previously about the place? Maybe that would be a good topic someday.

    • Theres not really anything all that special about them…i mean, they seem like normal places to me…..I hang out at a number of different cafes and coffee shops 🙂 …perhaps I will post an article about the cafe experience that i wrote awhile back….in my mind it’s all about community and how much people long for it

  18. Think about why you are happy, not about want others need to make them happy….

  19. Since the death of my friends young boy (13) I have watched how his family search through their memories to find happy times past. This has made me so very aware that each day we live we are creating those memories for the future.
    This Christmas despite or maybe because of our sadness, we will enjoy spending time together and be happy for what we have.
    There is no use planning, this is it. Today is what matters.

    • Dude, death at age thirteen…that is tough….when I was twelve one of my closest friends died of leukemia….it was such a strange experience to deal with it myself and then to also watch how his parents dalt with it…..very sad to say the least

  20. We are so busy asking for more than we need, instead of appreciating what we have and by excepting the reality contentment comes along.
    I believe in my self, live with the crowd and that makes me content.
    Love to be with my family for holidays, but this year my parents wished to see their son in Italy and I’m happier I made it happen, after 3 years. We might be far apart, but always in my heart!

  21. I love coffee, but yesterday I didn’t drink coffee all day …… l think it must be why I slept for a full six hours last night…. the longest I have slept for months, and right now I feel great ……… so dare I say it…… sometimes, less is more…….

  22. Coming over to have coffee with you. We’re on the same vibe re Christmas.

  23. Love the way you take pictures! Using the black and white to enhance the picture! Really great! Very artistic

  24. Ps: contentment is not an easy subject. We learn as life pass, and we readjust ourself depending of what we are facing or getting from it!

    Pps: really like the way you put the action and attention in place in your pictures!

  25. Contentment for me is trying to find the joy in the situation I’ve been given. Does it mean I let the bad stagnate and not try to change it? No, but I try to not let it overwhelm me. It’s not always easy, but it’s worth it when I get it right 🙂

  26. Being content is like giving up. not caring. not wanting to improve. After all it is not about me. I am happy, but most of all I want other people to be happy. And as long as there is need or unhappiness I will keep improving.

  27. “It’s the thought that counts” will NEVER be trite for me.

    I can still think of gifts that were homemade, or perhaps bargain bin– and they were among the best gifts I ever received. This year, Cimmy and I, probably be doing homemade bread and cookie mixes, because that’s about what we can do, but I’m sure it’ll all be gratefully received.

    • It will definitely be gratefully received…….when it comes right down to it; I would much rather receive bread or cookies than to receive something bought from the store.

  28. Contentment is being at home wherever you find yourself and being at peace with whatever your life is offering (on any given day).

    I also think going about your day in a calm, relaxed manner (instead of rushing around trying to do too much and acquire too many material possessions) makes your feel more relaxed and content.

    It’s not until you find the perfect balance in life that you realise what true Happiness is.

    • “instead of rushing around trying to do too much and acquire too many material possessions”

      I used to rush around like crazy; the only speed I knew was full throttle……but in recent years I’ve been trying to chill out and go a little bit slower…..and it has been a major plus to my life because I don’t feel as stressed out anymore.

  29. I just remember speaking to a friend tonight who talked about hating the holidays and he mentioned the Lexus commercial that is shown on TV every day. Who gets Lexus for a christmas gift?

  30. contentment arrives on the coat tail of awareness . . . can’t imagine one without the other . . .

  31. “Each one of us is a little chaos”, Kenneth as Mircea Eliade said and as you write we shouldn’t try to understand what makes some one happy, whatever means happiness…

  32. I was home on a visit, many years ago. “You know, Paul,” my mother said, “you can always come home.” She died in 2002. There are days when my whole body aches to go back home. I cannot make it understand that she isn’t there any more. That my “home” isn’t there any more either. Bodies don’t get it. Kenneth, I have really enjoyed reading this superlative blog all year and I wish you and all your readers and contributors the very best of Christmases.

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