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  • Writer's pictureDr. Deborah Vinall

“Contentment and Complacency”

Contentment and Complacency.


I wrote these two words on a sticky note four years ago and it’s still hanging on my desk. A testament to the miracle of sticky notes!


Beyond the powers of physical adhesion, this testifies to the significance this question has played in my thinking as I’ve mulled it over.


I have a lovely friend named Shannon. We met years ago in the same mega-church and when, short years later, we both found ourselves on paths of spiritual deconstruction, we supported one another through long, deep talks over coffees and hikes in the beautiful California sunshine, through foothills and botanical gardens and collegiate libraries.


image of Shannon and I at a thrift store

Shannon is an adventurer. She embodies “wild at heart.” We share a passion for travel and exploration, but unlike me, Shannon is a tumbleweed, always searching for new meadows to dance through. Like her, I thirst to drink in all the diversity of cultures and nations that my one limited life will afford, but I ache for a grounded sense of home, and in that, my friend and I differ. But diversity is what makes friendship interesting, and I love this for her.


When Shannon decided to use the online-nature of the pandemic-era world as an opportunity to try life in a new state, these words of complacency or contentment began to whisper in my mind. “Don’t you ever think of leaving the U.S.?” she’d ask me. Of course I do. There are so many amazing, developed countries I love, and many things here that frighten me – issues we’d wrestle with together in depth. And unlike her, I have greater ease of freedom to leave with my dual citizenship. See, living in California was never complacency for me; it was my chosen adventure.


But now, in this phase of my life, the roots that have begun to extend outward from me have found a way to survive in this desert, reaching out beneath the rocky soil in their mutual extension of community to other trees, other beautiful friends. And more than anything in this life, relationships are my truest treasure.


And so I ask myself: am I being complacent? Or content?

Is it possible to be both?

As I practice gratitude with mindful intention each day, contentment grows, seeding inner peace with each tiny grain.

Gratitude for the sunshine.

Gratitude for a walkable community.

Gratitude for my bicycle and the bike trail that winds past my home.

Gratitude for that home, and the two dear souls I share it with.

Gratitude for meaningful work.

Gratitude for travel to foreign and familiar places.

Gratitude for dear friends.


Am I complacent here and now? I don’t think I’ve found a hard answer to that. But I am content, even as I strive – without the urgency that stems from desperation, need, or insecurity – toward new goals.

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