I Want: The Birth of Desire
Dear Friends and Family,
I hope you and yours are doing well. Spring is in the air now, I think. We’ve been teased a bit here in WNC with dramatic swings in temperatures, but the flowers are waking up and reminding us it’s time for us to do the same :)
So, in case you hadn’t heard, our little Adorabella is almost two years old (hard to believe I know), and is learning the ropes of being a human. She is talking up a storm and it’s so much fun to listen to her pronounce things. It’s like she has a foreign accent that you can put your finger on, but she picks up on words so quickly. She’s a happy little sponge and loves to have fun singing, dancing, smiling, making funny noises, laughing, and let’s not forget crying. Despite what a happy toddler she is, she has her moments of frustration. The underlying cause seems to be the “desire” for something other than what’s happening at a given moment.
As best as I can tell, desire is born very early and just gets stronger and more well refined. At first it’s just preferences (i.e. I like this, not so much that). Then, entertaining activities enter the picture, like things that she seemingly can’t get enough of. For example, after we had our first big snow (which she loved), all she could say was, “I want walk snow all day.” She said this for weeks despite the disappearance of the snow. She would wake up and look out the window and say, “Hi snow,” even after it had all melted. It was sooo cute. She seemed okay with the snow leaving because we didn’t make a big deal out of it.
However, at a certain point desire brings on some attitude. “I want...” is the way our little girl begins most of her sentences these days. In some cases, if the want isn’t satisfied, screaming and crying can occur. That’s never fun, but it comes with the territory, and we’re all learning how to cope with a life that doesn’t always give us what we want. The only difference is that most adults don’t scream and cry if they can’t go watch DeeDee (Daniel Tiger) with Uncle NoNo (Shelby’s brother Norn).
It’s interesting to see the development of desire through an infant’s eyes. There can be such great intensity behind not getting what they want, and it’s just a magnified version of the human adult’s reaction. By the time we’re older, we’ve mostly toned it down a bit because we learn that we don’t get what we want by screaming and crying about it. In general, we’re taught to ask nicely for things and learn new ways of getting what we want (maybe even by being manipulative). Ultimately we become more civilized, but we are still adversely affected when all of our efforts fail to bring about the desired outcome.
Maybe I’m naive, but I think humankind has become worn down enough by not getting what we want for so long that we’re ready to be done with the pain that that causes. That readiness, that ripeness, is where real change can happen. When we run out of answers, when nothing we do seems to do any good, we may decide to open ourselves up to the unthinkable – give up on desires. We’ve been crafting them since we were knee high to a grasshopper, so that’s a tough pill to swallow. Our desires have become ingrained in who we think we are, so you may need to be at the end of your rope before you even consider giving up. Plus, once you’re ready to give up, it may be too scary or you may not even know how.
Here is what I can offer if you are up to the challenge. Things are not as bad as you think. Not getting what you want is more important than getting what you want. You are not being mistreated or punished by anyone other than yourself. Take a close look at a desire that seems out of reach and see if it’s actually a need or just a want. What’s the worst thing that could happen if a desire is not met? How would you feel if you wanted what you already had? How would you feel if you didn’t want anything other than what you have right now? Would you feel complete? Pick a desire and take a deep look at this.
The mind’s job is to step in here and say, “Without desire I wouldn’t have anything to work toward. I wouldn’t get anything done. I’d be stuck, complacent, etc.” What if your mind is completely wrong about all of this stuff? Have you ever been wrong about anything? Be honest now. What if Life has your best interest at heart and will not steer you wrong? What if you can’t steer at all? Can you trust Life enough to let it do the steering? It already is, afterall.
There is nothing wrong with desire, but if you get too attached to the outcome it can lead to stress and suffering when things don’t work out. Desires come and go whether you like it or not, so let a desire serve as a sign post and watch to see if it was meant to be attained or not. If not, no big deal. You’ve just gained more insight by not getting what you want, and Life may have created a new direction for you, which has it’s own sense of desire. Life’s desire for you is for you to stop making your happiness contingent on attaining some future goal and to be happy Now. Everything else will fall into place just as it should and when it should. Trust me ;)