What is it with humans and our weird obsession with things we can’t have? Tell me that I am not allowed to eat raw moose testicles dipped in fat free bleu cheese dressing, and I’m pretty much guaranteed to be on the next flight to Yellowstone National Park with a bottle of Wish-Bone in tow. Honestly, the second something is off limits or out of reach, it becomes 150% more appealing. Maybe someone should tell me I can’t eat lettuce. That’d be good.
The principle of wanting what you can’t have applies to just about everything. I’ve experienced it in two really big ways during the last few weeks: 1) wine, 2) relationships.
To address #1, I decided not to drink any alcohol during the entire month of March since I failed miserably at No Drink January. I didn’t even try to stop drinking in January like I normally do, to be honest. Sometimes you’re just not ready to say goodbye. But by the end of February, I started sweating gin and bleeding wine, so I decided it was probably time to give my body a break. I was really excited to start my month-long cleanse, but we’re eight days in, and I’ve started eating grapes in bulk to ease the pain. There’s nothing I want more than that sweet, sweet taste of Cabernet on my lips. Wow, I sound like I have a real problem. Try not to worry. I’m good,
In all seriousness, as much as I love wine or a casual mixed drink, I don’t usually spend all day at work thinking about what kind of alcohol to put in my system come 5:00. Now that it’s off limits now, however, I find myself daydreaming about a good drink like a pregnant woman craving pickle-stuffed oreos. Side note: Pregnancy is crazy. I know like, 40 people who are currently pregnant– I’m almost afraid I’m going to catch it. What is in the water? Am I just getting old? What’s happening??
Let’s get this train back on track, re: wanting what we can’t have. In the same way I find myself fantasizing about a 12 6 oz. glass of red, I can’t seem to keep my mind off of guys who are not available– not as in ones with a ball and chain, but ones who make no effort to be with me. It’s not completely conscious or rational, so part of the reason I want them must be because I have psychological issues I can’t have them. Even if I do get them, time spent together is of higher value because they’re like bottles of Flowers Pinot Noir– a special treat I only taste once in a while since they’re
far too expensive just out of reach. The men who make themselves willingly available, however, I unfortunately view as Welch’s Grape Juice. Very sweet and a good thing to keep on the back shelf, but definitely not what gets me going. [How did the day when I compare relationships to wine not come sooner? Trust me, I’m just as surprised as you are.]
Let’s explore why we’re made this way. Maybe if we figure it out, we’ll stop wasting precious brain power daydreaming about the guacamole in Mexico, our 10th grade History teacher, and what it’d feel like to walk with a thigh gap. Instead, we could focus our energy on fully appreciating the things we do have, like Chick-fil-A, opposable thumbs, and Ryan Gosling gifs.
What’s that? You want more?
I think the reason we want what we can’t have is because this principle sums up the entire definition of “want.” To want something implies that you don’t already have it. Things we can’t have are just spotlighted versions of things we don’t have. I don’t find myself wanting a really awesome family, because I already have it. I don’t find myself wanting blue eyes. Or the ability to sing. When I step back and think about those things, I’m really happy to have them, but gratefulness is different than desire. I find myself wanting romance, hips that don’t lie, and one million dollars. This is because I don’t already have any of those things in my life (to be clear).
I don’t think it’s bad to want things. After all, a lot of what we want is attainable if we put our minds to it. How would we ever further our careers if we didn’t want it bad enough to work hard? How would we learn discipline and dedication if we didn’t want to become good at something? How would we end up in satisfying relationships if we just settled for whoever gave us easy attention? Wanting more leads to good things.
Though that may be the case, there are two tricks to wanting more without being a miserable crybaby. 1) Differentiate between things you want that are attainable and things you want that are completely out of your control. You can’t change your height or force someone to like you, so those are probably bad things to focus on. 2) Remember that once you get something, you won’t keep wanting it, so be mentally prepared to replace desire with gratefulness- and find excitement in that replacement. If you know you’ll want to leave a relationship once the chase is gone…you’re probably not ready
to grow up for a significant other. Or if you know that once you earn one million dollars, you’ll just want a million more…then wanting money is pointless, because it will never lead to contentment.
Here’s to hoping we all wake up tomorrow to find our soulmate on our doorstep, along with a ticket for a lifetime supply of Silver Oak Cab and a pre-trained teacup toy poodle puppy! If not, hopefully we can apply the two rules of not being a crybaby, while wanting enough for our lives to attack each day with enriching intention.