In Praise of Wanting

The smudged living room window is in desperate need of cleaning, but I ignore that and squint through a haze of thick smoke at a seemingly endless expanse of blue. I can not see a hint of my beloved mountain which I know lies just beyond the fog, my hand restlessly reaching for my iPhone, as I consider what cleaning supplies I want to order.

This wanting is a strange animal especially during times of isolation and uncertainty. It’s as if I could tame that which feels feral, captive, and inescapable within me with cleaning products?

If it’s not cleaning supplies, it’s a book, or blender, a hydrating facial mask, or that new Instant Pot everyone’s clamoring about.

I also want these ridiculously adorable Kate Spade sunglasses, an aromatherapy candle that smells like gardenias, and this totally bitchin dish rack that will be the defining element in my kitchen. I’m serious, it will elucidate the kitchen, and I’m lucid enough to know that’s what I secretly desire. Clarity.

With a click of a callused finger the coveted items land in my heavily laden cart, and for some reason this makes me giddy with excitement, it’s the “table runneth over” mentality. My finger has taken on a life of its own and her entire objective is to move so stealthy that I fail to notice how it’s changing the way I manage life.

The couch potato in me has emerged with a new ferocity as if she’s been validated in some way and now she brags to anyone who will listen, “I told you from the couch everything is within reach.” She’s right and oh so wrong.

Let me just add giddiness is as fickle as the estimated shipping dates. I’m giddy right up to the moment of delivery when this heady emotion is replaced by new wants as callous as my finger.

“What is so wrong? So much of what I’ve wanted, once gotten, has been replaced by other wantings. And thus no wanting has ever been a final getting.” Peggy Freydberg

What is it that I really want?

Oh that is such a leathery question, something I’ve been chewing on since I opened my first savings account.

I think all of us want to be good at what we do whether you’re a teacher, journalist, paralegal, painter, in sales, finance, or engineering. The odd thing about professional development is that it never ends. I can always be better, the training is infinite, and the actual bar levitates which is just annoying.

Do you ever wonder what would happen if you actually caught the bar, you’d arrive at your destiny, fame and fortune laid out before you as if a red carpet. Would that too be fleeting? The satisfaction I mean, as if my contentment is as fragile as the child blowing bubbles, and popping them with her pudgy finger.

When I consider my keen desire for education, to be a critical thinker, observant, and obedient to my proclivity to share. It reminds me that I never actually finish. There is more to learn, to observe, to write. The minute I post my thoughts I move on to the next one, a succession of never ending stories, and I have no idea for what I’ll go in search of next?

I was invited to dinner the other night at a neighbors, I’m up at the lake, alone, so by day three company seemed appealing. I ran a brush through my hair, managed to fit into my jeans, threw together a simple charcuterie tray, and headed over to their house (it’s only two blocks away but I drove because the couch potato in me was insistent).

As we sipped wine and snacked on cheese we discussed many things but one topic I distinctly remember wrestling with was this strange sense of wanting, both now and for the future, but as we dove deeper into the subject, we realized our most potent desires are really about sustaining hope, hope for a future that we are always in the process of creating.

If that seems grotesquely obvious that’s because it is true.

What is so wrong? Why is it that the more I get, the more I want? And that no getting satisfies, but is, instead, surrounded with a nimbus of bright gold, to glorify disappointment? Peggy Freydberg

It’s true, the more I get, the more I want. I’m never satisfied, look around, I’m surrounded by books that disappointed, candles that burnout, blenders that get dull. It as if I am the definition of insanity, doing that same thing over and over again, expecting a different result.

But not so fast buckaroo, what if we repurposed our insatiable desires? No I did not bump my head, I found a reason for my calloused finger, my laden cart, my “table runneth over” mentality.

But this is where it gets good, while I’m sheltering at the lake, searching my soul for what it actually desires, it’s as if someone cleaned the window, and I can finally see the majestic mountain waiting to be conquered.

Peggy Freydberg says (and this is why I love her), “find the part of wanting that is every person’s recognition of the endless possibilities of himself (used inclusively). We shape the world toward joy, with our dreams of it.”

We shape the world towards joy with our dreams of it,” she had me at “what is so wrong?” She says we are to find the part of wanting that is hoping and dare to give it praise.

I’m Living in the Gap, curious, what’s in your cart?

Anecdotes:

  • “Sometimes I think the difference between what we want and what we’re afraid of is about the width of an eyelash.” Jay McInerney
  • “I’ve come to know that what we want in life is the greatest indication of who we really are.” Richard Paul Evans
  • “Wanting something is one thing, but believing you could attain it is another. But in the game of success, nothing tangible ever happens without one believing in its possibility.” Edmond Mbiaka

18 Comments

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  1. Your post illustrates for me once again and with crystal clarity both the dilemma and the antidote, Cheryl. Now it’s up to me to put this wisdom into practice and it helps me to remember that if it’s gonna work, my hopes and dreams are gonna have to be at least as loud as those empty, beckoning carts which have been set to play in Dolby Surround Sound for some time now. As all great teachers do, you’ve given me much to think about with this one. p.s. Peggy Freydberg is a favorite of mine, too!

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    1. I love how you summarize so beautifully my intention Mary Ellen. Once I realized how my desires, wants, hopes so profoundly shaped my future I noticed being intentional worked to my favor. If the future is wide open why not go for it with our most heartfelt desires! In praise of wanting is a jewel I found embedded in Peggy’s poems! Love her! C

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  2. That’s funny because I have turned the opposite way, sort of, I rented a roll off, a HUGE roll off and threw away a lot of the 30 years (in November) of marriage junk we have collected. We could have sold stuff, donated stuff but no I needed it gone, all of it now! There still is more but that made a huge dent in things. Now my finger is clicking too but not on gadgets and things, but repairs. Since our trip to Hawaii (for our anniversary) was canceled I need something to make us feel happy. So everything I can think of is going to be redone, replaced, painted etc. What a great feeling! Have a great weekend!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Diane, I think I have a leg in both responses which is actually quite painful, I’m also cleaning out, and replacing, but also redoing, and painting. Crazy. Our anniversary is also in November and we had planned to walk the El Camino de Santiago this year, spend some time with my son in Portugal, and land in Italy were we where to share a villa with our dear friends also celebrating their 37th year of marriage. Well sadly all that got rescheduled or canceled. Instead we’re redoing the kitchen, it’s been 25 years, new counters and cupboards, redoing old wood floors, and painting! I’m so excited hence the new dish rack. I’ve been trying to rid myself of the things I no longer use or “bring me joy,” and either live with less or something more suited to my current needs. It’s been good. Thanks for the lovely note, C

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  3. Great post Cheryl,
    You got me thinking on many levels. I must confess that I am afflicted by a bad case of the wantsies. I want a nice glass of wine, a great dinner, and a fun trip. I don’t want a fancy hotel, but I want the rich experience obtained with travel. I wanted to ensure my offspring are well educated. Thinking about the endless cycle of wanting different materialistic things, makes me wonder how this impacts one’s life. The love of money is the root of all evil, but the pursuit of it is not. A friend’s son had no interest in work, or pretty much doing anything. I would ask him why he doesn’t work, and he would say I have everything I need (this is a problem primarily in affluent societies.) When I was growing up our scout troop went on a long bike ride. We stopped at a Burger King or some such place for a snack. I was starving. I got to the order counter and counted enough money to buy a small French fry (not enough for a burger.) I was so famished that I vowed to never let that happen again (hunger is a big motivator.) Does desire have a positive and negative role in life? And what about delayed gratification? And what is the point of delayed gratification, if one does not know their own expiration date?
    Clearly if channeled, as Peggy Freydberg said, toward maximizing your potential to increase joy in the world, then desire is good. I love this quote, “find the part of wanting that is every person’s recognition of the endless possibilities of himself.” Harness desire to unleash the potential to maximize your life. In your case, you put off going out with your friends and instead studied for that test to get that degree, so you can teach. And when your teaching time winds down, you will continue to maximize your potential to help by writing/publishing. As for me, I work hard so Gail can be free to make the world a better place (this is a characteristic she shares with her mom.) It is kind of pathetic, but I use the wantsies to help provide motivation for me to continue working. I could hang it up now (and I would probably enjoy that), but if I continue to spend a little money on that amazon cart, donate to whatever cause, take a trip to Cali, or wherever, then it forces me to keep working, which is undoubtedly a good thing. Work allows me to pursue whatever crazy thing I want to pursue.
    A final word about the wantsies:

    PS: Love the McInerny quote. I read a book by him years ago about wine (Bacchus and Me.) Wonder if that’s where or why you found the reference.
    PPS: We plan on being done with the virus by February, one way or another. Dying to visit you at the Lake, but will hold off for now in deference to the plague.

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    1. Thanks Mike! I enjoyed your response to this post! So much of what you want resonates with me, “I want a nice glass of wine, a great dinner, and a fun trip. I don’t want a fancy hotel, but I want the rich experience obtained with travel. I wanted to ensure my offspring are well educated.” I especially enjoyed your story of having only enough pocket change for a small fry, hunger is indeed a motivating source in life.

      I appreciate that you validate Gail and her quest to “make the world a better place,” she touches so many people in so many ways, her spiritual leadership, a passion for the plight of the bees, creating beautiful spaces for all to gather, gardening, nurturing, her devotion to family and friends, kindness in abundance, grandma extraordinaire, and she makes great beer! All this subtly changes our world in ways we may never fully realize. Let’s not forget your kindness and compassion with your patients who you heal, treat, and care for, while providing for a large family, protecting your loved ones, nurturing friendships, and ensuring their well being not to mention your passion for challenging hikes. You and Gail together are an amazing team.

      When I stumbled on Peggy’s quote, ““find the part of wanting that is every person’s recognition of the endless possibilities of himself,” (it’s part of a long poem) it just stayed with me and before I knew what was happening I was teasing it apart, trying to figure it out, playing with her ideas so as to understand them more fully. She is brilliant with words and I find myself turning to her wisdom again and again.

      Larry and I are also trying to discern our future in terms of work. How long? Why? What else? What’s next? This is difficult as the answers are never precise or clear. The one thing I have heard again and again is people usually wait too long to let go of their work as it changes their identity significantly and we’re comfortable with who we are as productive people not retirees? I’m very close to finding the courage to make this adjustment.

      The McInerny quote came from his book The Last Bachelor but I never read the book, this particular quote has become popular and I just stumbled on it. He’s an interesting dude, married like four times, he also says “Eat, drink and remarry is my motto.”

      If the doctor says the we are done with the virus by February that’s good enough for me! It’s a beautiful time to be at the lake, not too warm, no bugs, and the wineries are all open! We currently have no plans and all weekends are open. Pick one…hugs, Cheryl

      Liked by 1 person

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