Since I announced my *new program* last week, I've been having loads of conversation about desire.
Side note: Desire is a word that actually makes me cringe. In my brain, which admittedly is a strange and oft-broken place, "desire" implies stilettos and breathy voices and lace, but that's not what I mean. I'm trying hard to interrupt that bizarre pattern, to ease the cringing, because I think desire is an essential concept to happiness and I'm damn well going to talk about happiness.
It has rarely been part of my vocabulary. I've spent a large part of my life not wanting much.
In elementary school, I wanted a pet bunny, neon green socks to match my neon green hair scrunchy (yes, in the 80's), and to win the Silent Sustained Reading contest by out-reading a kid named Owen. In middle school I upgraded to wanting straight As, contact lenses, and a bike helmet that didn't mess up my bangs (which of course was impossible). In high school I continued wanting excellent grades, better clothes, and a cuddly pet. Nothing too surprising, nothing dangerous - all pretty ordinary, non-threatening stuff.
By the time I got to UC Davis, I could barely choose which cereal I wanted for breakfast without turning a hair prematurely grey. Picking classes for the following quarter gave me hives. I didn't know what clothes to wear, I didn't know what to eat for dinner, I didn't know what job to prepare for prior to graduation, I didn't know what would be fun to do with friends. Essentially I was the color beige, personified.
This beige-ness can be directly traced back to not knowing what I wanted. This is why I say that I've spent much of my life not wanting much.
However, I'll correct that statement: it's more accurate to say that I've spent much of my life not allowing myself to want much.
Know what I mean?
Perhaps I didn't want to be disappointed. Maybe this pattern was a form of self-protection, a way of ensuring my psychological safety. Possibly. I don't know.
But I do know now that I had lost a sense of connection to my desires.
The thing about desire, fortunately, is that it's always there. It can sit quite patiently and unobtrusively, like a cat resting noiselessly underneath a bed while the handyman fixes the water heater. Even if we don't see it immediately, it's still there.
We're actually born with innate, fully intact desires. In that sense, we're fully cooked when we arrive. We are born with a sacred map of our most uniquely right life, however weird and wonderful and perfect. Nothing can change that.
(Unless of course a catastrophic brain injury occurs, as was the case with a man I read about who completely lost his ability to make choices. This man could think clearly and solve complex problems and even speak two languages, but he couldn't make a decision - not even a simple one, like which cereal to eat. He could only list pros and cons, on and on, endlessly. The scientists and doctors working with him eventually concluded that decision-making links inextricably to desire. This man couldn't ever decide because he had literally lost contact with the physiological mechanisms of desire. So this is a clear exception.)
Mostly, though, our maps live inside us until we shuffle off our mortal coil. We can't actually lose these parts of ourselves - at least, not permanently. That's the great news! We just forget, or - as in my case - we focus so intently on running down our goals and doing the right thing and achieving that we lose touch with our internal world.
For us lucky ones with intact physiological access to desire, all we need to do is tune in. I know, I know - it's easy to say, and much harder to do. You're right. But the solution itself can be this simple: it's to know what we want.
That is how we fight the beige.
Deep self-knowledge is sacred. It generates confidence and clarity and living a life that feels like it truly matches your insides.
Don't believe me? Check this out.
You might want to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro or wear purple suede Birkenstocks to your in-law's home or speak fluent Dutch. You might want to paint in watercolor or do a triathlon or birth the next hot start-up. You might want to win a golf tournament or marry your dentist or save a patch of rainforest. To all that I say: Congratulations! You go! I want none of those things, personally. (Except maybe for the rainforest bit.) So more power to you!
You just have to know that about yourself first. You've got to read your own sacred map. That's the actual starting place.
Luckily, I've discovered that teaching beloveds how to read their own maps features prominently in my own sacred map. It's one of my truly favorite things and I want to do more. So I'm here!
P.S. For those of you who are new this week, WELCOME! The aforementioned *new program* is called Know What You Really Want, and I've got two more spaces available for a free Breakthrough Session. Book yours here, or see here for more.
P.P.S. And, as far as out-reading Owen in fifth grade? Mission accomplished, baby.