Saturday, July 17, 2010

Wanting to Not Want

This post is inspired by This Is Not the Story You Think It Is... by Laura Munson, the choice-of-the-month of new online book club, From Left to Write.

Laura Munson begins her 335-page Summer of Discontent, This Is Not the Story You Think It Is..., with the declaration that, although her husband left the previous night to go to the dump after announcing that he no longer loved her and that he hasn’t returned or called since, she’s “choosing not to suffer.”

She claims epiphany…the end of wanting: “That’s how it finally happens—in a blink.” It is a brave proclamation. A brilliant discovery: one’s happiness should not depend on things beyond one’s control. Only it’s fleeting. Munson suffers throughout the book. She ruminates. She reminisces. She moons. She waits. And she wants.

Freedom from wanting. I have felt the switch—brief moments of transcendence when my perspective has shifted. When I say to myself, I could be triggered by this or I could choose to not feel (responsible, defensive, resentful, etc., etc.). These moments are liberating. But they are ephemeral.

Freedom from wanting is a constant practice of drawing attention to the wanting, the emotion, the things we hold dear and noticing our deep, tortured investment without judgment. Taking the “how interesting” stance. It's at once unbelievably simple and impossibly hard. Particularly when it comes to my daughter, Sophia.

There are so many things I want for her. Safety. Kindness. Joy. Health. Intelligence. Friendship. Most of these things are beyond my control. I can create the conditions but I cannot determine the outcome.

When she trips on bump in the hardwood floor between the kitchen and the living room, falls and bleeds, I suffer . When she is restless with fever and barfs in her crib, I suffer. When she runs up to another child on the playground, asks to play and is rebuffed I suffer. Another parent said to me the other day that she must have these experiences, as we all have had, in order to learn caution, appreciate wellness, understand the distinction between right and wrong.

Ugh. Really? Isn’t there some other way?

But I recognize that torturing myself doesn’t do anyone any good. It doesn’t make her better, less clumsy, more likeable. It doesn’t bring me satisfaction. It is a trap that keeps me from being happy, and may even stand in the way of Sophia’s resilience.

My own, internal dialogue around this is tedious. It does not make for good literature, or even a good essay. It is rumination, not revelation.

I long for a quiet mind. One in which I am not judging/kicking/fighting myself. Wanting not to want. I read something extraordinarily helpful in this pursuit. Change the have to’s to get to’s. I get to soothe my sick child (read: I have a child to care for).

I do not claim to do this well. Or to be able to help others attain personal freedom. But, hey, it’s a start.

Ooops. I did it again.

The book, This Is Not the Story You Think It Is…, was provided to me free of charge by the publisher as part of the former Silicon Valley Moms Group and the new From Left to Write Book Club. I was not paid for this review. See how other moms were inspired by this book here.


Anonymous said...

Not wanting...I was reading another book recently that talked about craving and aversion. It is part of the way we are built to want/to crave and, on the other side, to be averse to negative things. We have to fully experience our cravings in order to view them objectively and, maybe, someday to not crave. To experience the craving in your mind and then not to act, reducing the craving over time.

I know what you mean about wanting not to want, especially for your kids. How can we not want? But it is nice to just let go and just enjoy and just be. Sometimes, when we can.

Sky Princess said...

I don't think we stop wanting even when we tell ourselves we will or we have. The wanting remains in our subconsciousness, begging for attention.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for reading my book! There is great freedom in letting go of wanting. Yrs, Laura