Oh there it is, that sweet and delicious feeling!
That fantasy person or place or thing that sits just beyond our reach.
We want it (them) so badly. We want this thing to be our reality now.
This sense of urgency can feel like some sort of wonderous torture, a source of confusion, of fear, excitement all at once.
Artists have written about that (romantic) thing for centuries, that longing. Leonard Cohen begs for someone to just take it.
“Oh take this longing from my tongue
Whatever useless things these hands have done
Let me see your beauty broken down
Like you would do for one you love.”
It can feel as though the world will end if we can’t have the thing that we desire. This is because we humans are mostly naturally pleasure-seeking hedonists.
That space between what we want and actually have, that bittersweet spot: why does it feel so difficult sometimes?
What is it about the place of wanting that can make us feel this restlessness?
In our goal-oriented society we are taught to focus on the end, rather than the process of getting there. We are taught that there is a finite end or result.
But if thought of in a broader, more abstract context, usually there is more to it. For instance, we might save up enough for our dream vacation, but part of the process is the saving, dreaming, planning. Even afterwards, part of the process might be sharing photos and enjoying the memories, maybe connecting with some others we met on the trip.
The trip itself might ‘end’ and then we may even become sad but the experience can continue in different forms.
In this capacity to focus on a goal or experience, we tend to lose sight of the beauty in the before and after, and how these things are not really separate from the experience themselves. Particularly in wanting, in desire, in anticipation we can become impatient, even when the upcoming event is expected to be very positive.
We can apply this concept to pretty much anything, but I have to admit that (as usual) I’m alluding primarily to the heart-tugging kind of feelings that are tied to love and romance, about how easy it is to become anxious when we face (or imagine) uncertainty in relationships.
We can drown in these feelings surrounding desire if we are insecure or clinging. Sometimes this feeling is so strong that it can carry us away from our exact object of our desire. If we let it get to us, it can bog us down. If it takes hold of us, we can (appear to) impede on the other person’s freedom of choice.
The most intense relationships usually begin with a delicately delicious dance. But at some point they can begin to feel more like a game of push-pull, a wrestling match, a power struggle.
“I wasn’t born of a whistle or nook from a thistle at twilight
No I was all horns and thorns, sprung out fully formed knock-kneed and all bright
So enough of this terror, we deserve to know light
And grow evermore lighter and lighter
You would’ve seen me through but I could not undo that desire.”
These moments of real, genuine longing, this sweet sadness, the kind that romance movies like to highlight, maybe those ones where lovers are separated for a long time and all they can think of is each other. Or perhaps it’s about something unrequited.
Romance is based on this sense of getting swept up in the longing, almost as if the level of drama has to match or show the strength of the love itself.
But is this really what romance is about, or is all that drama more about us placing undue suffering on ourselves? New relationship energy is sweet, but is it about genuine love or about (temporarily) attaining some object of desire, only to create more drama when we are separated (again) from said object, or when it’s sheen fades?
Do we see it as an experience to carry through our lifetime, or is it more about a short-lived lust?
The ego holds the tangible end result so tightly in it’s grip that we sometimes are blinded. We can taste it, touch it, feel it. We see it on ourselves, hold it in our hands.
But what if it were possible to sit and enjoy the space between wanting something and not having it? Or, to just enjoy the possibility of having it, the anticipation leading up to it, without stressing out?
This space might manifest as time between seeing someone, or even (my favourite thing) that lovely pre-kiss pause. Or maybe it’s about that easy space you feel when you walk side by side.
We might think that we need a future dream to live for, to work towards—but really we need to be in it. So instead of torturing ourselves by focussing on what may lie ahead, why not just learn to rest gently in that feeling of desire or wanting, know that it is a nice thing while focussing on our own presence, our own ‘big picture’?
From that vantage point, we can also observe whether the thing is truly something that our hearts want. If we are able to be gentle about the wanting, the thing will probably come to us more freely, more organically.
We don’t have to struggle. We can work for it, ask for it, find it in ourselves. But if it’s not coming to us we have to give up the chase.
If we’ve chased (and I’m sure we all have, in one way or another), and we feel we’ve failed, we can just settle back into our own space, simplify, remember our own gentle presence. We can flip the focus back around to our hearts, figure out what desires might fit us better, and see if we can rest in that knowing.
There is such beauty in this space between. The gap of wanting can be just as delicious as the thing itself.
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Editor: Bryonie Wise
Photo: Elephant Archives