What do you want? Why do you want what you want? If you get it, what will that mean?
If one answers the “why” and one finds the reason silly or unhealthy, perhaps that desire can be released, making room for deeper or beneficial desires. For example, I would secretly love to get a lot more attention than I do. Why would I love that? Well, it would feel good. It might make me feel more loved and lovable than I do. I know myself, though, and I would wind up feeling very uncomfortable being treated as a person who is more inherently “special” than other people because the TRUTH is, I am not. Since I live in my own skin, it’s hard enough not to consider myself the center of the universe without other people fawning all over me. We all know that people who indulge themselves in thoughts of actually being a social solar equivalent, and they’re usually obnoxious. So, to be a person I can like, I ultimately don’t want more attention than I get.
I want to make a lot of paintings. I want to be a mother. Neither of these fail the silly/unhealthy test. In my heart, they feel similar. When I die, I want to leave something of myself behind- that is part of my answer to the “why”. Nothing unique; people find hundreds of ways to do this. Looking at the root of my desires shows me that I don’t have to paint a thousand paintings or have a child to get what I want. In fact, paintings can be destroyed. If I have a child, there is no guarantee that I will outlive him or her, or that he or she will even appreciate who I am enough to remember and honor me by the way they live. Perhaps the surest way for a plain old person like me (not a brilliant athlete, politician, actress, business person, etc.) to leave something behind is simply to love well and be as non-damaging to the world as possible.
Okay, great, but I still want to make a bunch of what I think are beautiful paintings, and I still want a child, whether or not they outlast me. Making art is satisfying to me, and sometimes my pieces create wonderful feelings inside of me by transporting me to other places. If they can sometimes do that for other people as well, that would bring me deep joy. I want to share life with a child. I want my husband and I to share the challenge and experience of making a family. I want to add love to our lives and the world.
What happens if I don’t get what I want? THAT is the question I want to answer. Some thoughts:
1) I should do all I can to get what I want within the boundaries of my value system and the legal system, and should continue to do so until I either get what I want or can honestly and peacefully decide to put my energies elsewhere.
2) It is important to acknowledge the amount of control that I have in the pursuit of desires, to be fair and reasonable with myself in regards to the effort expended. This requires a good deal of self-knowledge, not to mention wise restraint when tempted to compare myself to others.
3) I would do my best to consider my response to delays or denials against the background of the type of person I wish to be. I should give myself room to have fits and be sad, but keep my sense of perspective. Not abandoning perspective can help avoid embarassing, hurtful, or downright horrid behavior. speaking of…
4) I have years of experience behaving gracefully that benefit me. How often do I really get what I want? Every day it is necessary to cope with annoyances, disappointments, and frustrations. Do I respond to all of those by collapsing on to the floor and pounding my fists and flailing my legs? No, I usually take a deep breath and plug along, as most people do. Dealing with long lines, rude people, or high prices is not the same thing as coping with profound existential issues, but the choices made when reacting are basically the same. I should give myself credit for not behaving like a spoiled brat every day. And I should know that the practice of not habitually behaving like a spoiled brat helps me (and others) in moments when I am deeply disappointed.
5) I can have a “cigar” or two, or nineteen.
I happen to be reading The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway and I loved the following line:
“I may not be as strong as I think,” the old man said. “But I know many tricks and I have resolution.”