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!



Anonymous said...

You cover a lot of territory in these posts. I like it.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for writing this.

j-man said...

This is beautiful. I've lived with people who fight depression for a long time. This captures the disconnect I often felt. It was a relief to read.