Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Heart Wants What it Wants

Today I'm going to start running again, after three weeks of not running. I expect it will be painful. Yay. Several of the people who love me best have asked why I'm pressing myself in this particular way. If it is so difficult, why do it? And I've pondered that. Because I want to, that's the best answer I have. It has me thinking, though.

The heart wants what it wants, and will not be denied.

I don't know the origin of this phrase, and I despise Woody Allen for using it to defend his attraction to his step-daughter, because I think the phrase is not about taking what you want, but about acknowledging your desire, and to my ear it also implies that pretending you do not desire something does not change what you feel in your heart, or your gut. I believe in desire, in the hunger for something outside ourselves to feel pleasure, or to connect with a piece of art, or to meet some other soul in this big universe who for some shiny brief moment of perfection feels what you feel. That spark of connection sustains. It is the moment of sexual spark, certainly. But it is also the moment when you exchange glances with a person who is looking at an ocean vista, or a child who is perfectly joyful, or a painting - and knowing instantly that they see what you see. It is the moment, as a writer, when a reader feels the world on your page and is moved by it.

To me, the exquisite pleasure of desire is not always about desire fulfilled. I am, after all, a recovering Catholic. Maybe it is because I know and love people who have faced struggles to find their happiness. Or, as my friend Ms. Mo often says, we are governed by our Calvinist impulses in a world that has gone mad for cheaper pleasures. In any case, to me the sharp pleasure of desire is about the cleansing, clarifying and sense-honing experience of wanting something. Appreciating the object of my desire, be it person, place, object or experience. Desire is one of the truest, most pure expressions of life. Breath-catching, heart-pounding, pulse-raising desire. Or, more simply, the hunger for a lovely meal, the energy that fuels us up a long hill so that we can see the view awaiting our efforts. I want. I want, want, want. I want is the opposite of bored disinterest, or of depression. It is part of what makes the knocked-down person stand right the hell up again and shake it off. I want.

Clinical depression robs a person of desire. I see commercials for the drugs to combat depression and hear their voiceover script "...who does depression hurt? Everyone." I hate those commercials, too. Fearmongering. Bah. But it is true that the reach of depression, the circle of it, is bigger than the person who is depressed. "Can't care..." that is the phrase that I "hear" in the voices and thoughts of those I love who fight depression. It's that loss of vital hunger for experience that, to me, makes it difficult for those who are defined by fiery desire and those who struggle with depression to remain connected to one another. When we can keep that in mind, it is easier to separate the person from the condition. It is not that Johnny can't care, it is that the depression makes him think he can't care. Depression is a soul-robbing, joy-stealing thing. I hate it, and I fight to understand it, and I want badly to wave my princessy wand and banish it from my world.

But I can't find the princessy wand. I think it is behind my bookcase.

Thus, in the absence of the wand, I'm guarding all my desires with huge energy. I want to dance in the dark. I want to read and write stories and essays and books that connect me to the world I know. I want to see new sights, and taste new things, and drink wine in places I've never been. I want to meet people I don't yet know, and spend moments with people I know and love. I want to not take dreams off my list.

So, fueled by my delightful breakfast smoothy and coated in sunblock, I'm off to revisit week three or four of the C25K plan, and get back on track with it.

Be well!


Wednesday, July 1, 2009

No Surprise

Sometimes I am amazed by how easily we let things that matter to us slip through our fingers, lose priority. This is not a revelation. It is not even the first time I've written about it here. Yet there are moments when the realization is so bright and sharp that it feels new, and surprising, and cutting. I've not been writing. It's not a surprise. One can't work 80 hours a week, manage to do any sort of self care AND write well. Or at all. I'm sick to death of the reasons why, though. It's simple - I am just not making it a priority. I'm in a pact with a coworker to try to work less, to stake out a few nights a week where we do not work, and to try and free time for other things. The things that matter.

My trip to see my family was filled with lots of good moments. I met my grand-nephew (CUTE, and a teensy bit spoiled!), hugged everyone, laughed a lot, floated in the surf and generally enjoyed myself beach-style. When you show up, you're in the moment. That was my big learning. I didn't miss the announcement of the newest addition to the family - Becky and Luke are going to have a baby! I didn't miss the rap-star showdown between Sexy Mike and J-man. I didn't miss the chance to teach Drew how to cut an onion. I didn't miss a bunch of moments I'd otherwise have missed...and that makes me happy.

Airports can be fun. My flight home was marked by a 5 hour layover in Atlanta, where I met servicemen just home from Iraq, and talked with them about their families and a teeny bit about their experiences. I met a couple on their way to adopt a baby in Guatemala and shared their excitement over carryons crammed with baby stuff. And I watched goodbyes - some tearful, some quick and quiet. I've never been any good at goodbye. I avoid the wrench of emotion whenever I can. And as I get older, I realize that this is something I'm getting worse at. I'm ever more aware, as I go in for the goodbye clinch, of how long it will likely be before I see this person I love again. But I'm also more grateful for moments shared, and for the love that abides across long distances.

This week I've been thinking about the lives we imagine for ourselves, and the lives we lead, and how often those lives do not really resemble one another. It's my firm belief that happiness comes from loving the life you are in, and not mourning the imagined life you did not have. Sometimes that is damned difficult. Often it is. It is sometimes easier to give up the big dreams than the small ones, the ones you hold tightest. But this week I've also been thinking about the love of parents for children - and have been considering how much more difficult it seems to be to give up the dreamed-of life for a child and celebrate the life they actually have. But you can't do both - you can't celebrate the moment that is and mourn the moment that is not without sacrificing some joy. I often think of what my parents would see in my life, and what they would either celebrate, scold or mourn in my choices. Not in a maudlin or sad way, simply in a way to connect with their memories (and sometimes to motivate myself to make a damned decision!). I can't know yet whether my life will remain childless, but I know that my wisdom about parenting is deepened by watching the difficult choices of the parents I know. My wisdom about the human heart, and what keeps me believing in people is deepened, too.

The sun is setting in a colorful show on the other side of "my" golf course, and the air is cooling in our city on the edge of the desert. I'm going to have a glass of wine on my deck, and maybe dance in the grass to my iPod.

Celebrate something small this week. Please.

~ patti