Woman who has it all

Red rose spiral

The woman who has it all

Some years ago, I invited a couple of friends for dinner at the family cabin in the mountains. One of the friends, upon arrival, told me he couldn’t figure out what to bring for “the woman who has everything.” Some time later, I posted in a gardening forum that I wished I had a yard where I could garden, since I lived in a tiny apartment with no yard of my own. The response I received to that post was something to the effect of “you have that incredible family property, why do you need garden space?” These are examples of things I commonly hear from friends and acquaintances.

Consciously or unconsciously implied in these statements is the sentiment “you have so much, how could you possibly want more?”

Ask anyone who knows me and you’ll hear how much I love the family cabin and property, how much time I spend there when it is accessible, and how much it is part of my life. I moved to this town to be near it. I have immense appreciation and gratitude for this place my brothers and I inherited from my parents several decades ago, and willingly do the maintenance and upkeep and management, even navigate the family debates.

And – I have a list of wants, including, but not limited to, a house with garden space, windows on all four sides, and without the smell of stale tobacco smoke; a partner to share it with after being single for too many years; and a number of other things, material and non-material. Moreover, when I receive something I want, there is generally something else on the list, no matter how perfect and appreciated the thing I’ve received.

Life is not static, and is unfolding in every moment. Even a relationship with a well-loved and appreciated partner changes over time. Wanting is part of the process of co-creating. Without desire and want, there is no direction to change. Without want and desire, nothing new is created. Every creation – musical composition, painting, machine, chair, book, or child is an end product of somebody’s – or many somebodies’ – desires.

Desire makes the world go around.

Unfortunately, most of us have been taught that desire is selfish, creates suffering, and we need to eschew it. This is a distortion of the teachings of the wisdom traditions. The root of the teaching is that attachment to the object of our desire is what creates suffering. Getting what we want is not necessarily the point. Wanting is different than having. Owning our wanting is a celebration of life; fully receiving it when it comes to us; and fully appreciating what we have are part of the art of desire. But attaching our happiness or lack thereof to the getting of what we want is what creates suffering. The desire is the first true gift.

Being clear about what we desire, what we want, is a form of truthfulness. As Kasia Urbaniak says, “you have no say in what you want”. We want what we want, and desire comes from the Soul, the Divine, from Life itself, and is to be honored. Life, itself, wants. One cosmological story is that life – or God, Source, the One – longs to experience itself, and that longing is what brings the world into being. 

The disparagement of wanting and desire, the twisted teaching that “it is better to give than to receive” has made it difficult for many people to admit to – or even know – their desires. Many of us experience shame for wanting – or even having – something others don’t have. Or we project that shame onto others for having what we don’t have and are afraid – or ashamed – to admit we desire. How many times do we see wealthy people portrayed as evil, selfish and greedy? 

In these ways, we keep our lives and our selves small, pretend to be satisfied when we are not, and channel our unmanifested creative energy into gratitude practices and ‘selflessness’, and believe those qualities are incompatible with desire. We label ourselves as ‘living simply’, or ‘not materialistic’, whether those things are true or not for us. Some people truly desire mansions; others truly desire tiny houses. Some people want many partners; others want monogamous commitment. What is true for you?

By pretending not to want, we dishonor ourselves. And by judging others for having more (or less) than we do, we perpetuate a limitation on life that is not natural. 

What kind of world would we have if we each lived truthfully, and joyfully expressed and embraced our desires? How much more content would we be if we appreciated both what we have and what we want? What if desire is a fundamental energy of the cosmos and we are willing to experience it?

What if my having more means the whole world has more, rather than less?

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