The moment I wake, wanting starts. I want the sun, not snow. I want a more comfy mattress, or a different bed. I run my fingers across my scalp and lust for thicker hair. I regret not buying oats for the breakfast for which I hunger. I covet my daughter’s teal sweater. When I lift the shades, I’d rather look into open ocean. I crave more sleep. I wish my walking buddy weren’t in Florida. Before I even glance at my watch, I wallow in —what we called when our kids wanted, wanted, wanted— “the gimmies.”
I used to blame all this wanting for things to be different on my extraversion. Could I be everywhere and do everything all at once? Could I have added moments with that friend? I want more time outside. I want to see my four grandkids more. With their babysitter, they built a house of sticks for ants “because these teeny animals need shelter from the rain.”
The kiddos added leaves for a living room, took pictures and sent me a video. They sing-songed, “Susu, you’d love this.”
My whole being reaches to play in Massachusetts with them, and paradoxically, to rest here, snuggled on the soft sofa, watching mindless TV. And, besides mindless TV, I’d like more meaningful activities. I want to read alone, I want to hang out with pals and I want to build habitats for insects.
Maybe desire doesn’t spring from extraversion. Maybe yearning lives in the universal mind jumping like a monkey from one thought branch to another, as in, “I have a good life and sometimes I wish it were different.” Or maybe we all seek that perfect thing to make us happy.
Let’s be clear: the gimmies can’t make us happy. There is no perfect thing. Yet leaning in for more seems pervasive, human, normal, and often harmful. We choose more heat in our homes, bigger cars and handy, packaged food. Thus we storm straight into climate change.
The holidays seem to grow greed. By now I own too much stuff, yet I scratch a holiday wish list. I write down a must-have book even as I step over ten partially-read books piled around my desk. So I put down the pen to grapple with this human condition of craving, and I realize I can’t ponder my way out of wanting. I can’t mentally maneuver out of the gimmies. But how?
Then the phone rings. “Hi, Susu, it’s Taylor.”
My 8-year-old grandson has a second-grade project. He needs to interview “an old person about the olden days.”
I want to hug him. He chose me for “back when you were a kid my age.”
Taylor poses questions about my childhood, what I wore, where I played, when I got to school. He also asks, “how did you stay in touch with your friends?”
I say, “Here’s one fun way. I had a rope scheme with my neighbor Janet which we rigged between our two bedroom windows, our houses so close and next to each other. We fixed an old coffee bean can to a clothesline and put a pad of paper and pencil in the can. We wrote and pulley-ed notes back and forth until we had to go to bed.”
Taylor says, “Wow. Cool.” Then he asks, “Did you ever write, ‘Do you want to sneak out tonight while our parents sleep?'”
My heart melts at his imagination. I crack up over his young wild mind. I adore this child. I want this: close bonds, giggles, fun. Researchers say happiness comes not from wanting what we don’t have but from wanting what we do have. For a heart free of the gimmies, I will tell Santa that I already have enough: connection, creativity, love, laughter. And enough is a happy place.