A friend recently asked me, “Have you ever wanted something that was impossible?”
She didn’t ask me to name that something. Phew! Who wants to reveal their deepest longings, fantasies or maybe that shiny thing tinged with the teeniest bit of greed?
“Yes, of course,” I answered simply. “It’s about loss, right?”
She smiled and shook her head, “Me too. Yes. Loss. Ugh!”
Don’t we all want, long for, desire? Since the knee-jerk reaction to reach into what we don’t have hits all of us, wishing and craving are not problems. Her next question pointed to the potential snag in human nature, our behavior, our actions. “What do you do about it?”
Great question. Big question.
I took a slow, easy, deep breath and wondered, “What DO I do in those situations?”
Without thinking, I said, “I take really deep breaths, the kind that make my insides bigger, the kind of breath that expands the rib cage, the kind of breath that reaches the sitz bones, the kind of breath that can remind us that we live in this moment, not in that coveted one, that here we are now.”
“Does the yearning go away?” she asked, posing another vast question.
“Sometimes,” I said, “not always.”
But by “being here now” we get to feel whatever shows up for us to feel instead of caving to the seductive and automatic reflex to fix it. Reach for 80% fair-traded organic dark chocolate, that’ll dull the ache. Get super busy; that’ll help us forget. Take a nap. Numb out with Netflix. Not that distraction is bad. It isn’t. Sometimes it’s needed.
But after the diversion, the hurt in the human heart hangs on. One friend says she wants what she can’t have, “I want my dad not to be dead. Everything is gray. I’m swimming in a sea of pain. I’m not sure I can function without him.”
Another says, “I can’t believe the love of my life broke up with me. My first love, twelve years together. Now he’ll marry HER?! There is a huge hole in my heart.”
Our best friend since first grade moves to Wisconsin; we want her back, can’t feel her hugs anymore. We want world peace; we can’t have it. We want to be youthing instead of aging; that’s impossible. I loved my friend’s question, so I asked her, “what do you do about it?”
“I let time take care of it.”
I wanted to ask, “how? What do you do in the meantime?” I didn’t because it seems pondering these enormous questions lets the answers come—yes—in their own time.
Now I do both; deep, easy, expansive breathing into those places of normal, natural impossible human heart hungers and letting the feelings rest in the container of time. It’s not easy because under “I want and can’t have” is grief. Perhaps we could feel into loss the way Serena Williams did as she announced her “evolving” out of tennis:
“I know it’s not the usual thing to say, but I feel a great deal of pain. It’s the hardest thing that I could ever imagine. I hate it. I hate that I have to be at this crossroads. I keep saying to myself, I wish it could be easy for me, but it’s not. I’m torn: I don’t want it to be over, but at the same time I’m ready for what’s next.”
Everyone lives with some deep sadness and with that grief, we cry. We grow. We evolve. Then a different future emerges.