Women and Happiness Part 3 — That Insatiable Want
I wonder if, at the center of a woman’s unhappiness, there isn’t an insatiable Want: to be accepted, to be known, to be loved.
In fairness, I don’t think this is exclusively a “woman” problem. I’m certain men experience similar longings. More likely, this is a human problem — perhaps among the most fundamental of our uniquely human urges. But I’ve never been a man, so I can only speak to my experience as a woman; and from what I’ve observed both in my own life and in my interaction with other women, it seems to be a core component of our collective discontent.
We seek to fill the Want in a variety of ways: relationships, hobbies, careers, motherhood, sex, power, chemicals, causes, shopping, interpersonal drama, food, entertainment.
Depending on the fill, it might work for a while — some more convincingly than others. The stomach-tingling excitement of new romance has filled me for weeks, even months. A good conversation for a day. A Jack-in-the-Box chocolate shake for a solid half-hour.
Eventually, though, the satiation fades and the Want returns — often much stronger than before.
The next step is to suppress it. I’m sure I’ve told myself literally thousands of times: “It isn’t right to want that. You shouldn’t feel so lonely or unsatisfied or needy. Just ignore the pain and focus on your duties.”
The end result is that the Want rules you, so that one minute you’re feeding it and the next minute you’re starving it, but no matter what you do, you never eliminate it — not quite.
For a long time I regarded the Want as the enemy, that deep, desperate part of me that embarrassed me whenever someone caught a glimpse of it, or prevented me from ever feeling truly content with who I am.
But recently I had another thought:
What if the Want is there…by design?
What if God Himself put it there, because He knew it was the only way He would get me to turn to Him? That when I finally realized that everything else I’d attempted — the relationships, the “stuff,” the achievements, the paychecks — could never fill me in a lasting and meaningful way…
…I would finally give Him a try?
Perhaps the Want is my soul crying out, reminding me that I was not built for this world, but for Another — that I have a spark of divinity within me, and that as a result I can never be fully satisfied by another person, object, or activity this side of heaven.
What if the Want is my longing for home?
When I think of it this way, a third option emerges: I don’t have to fill it or suppress it. I can sit with it. Accept it. Let it be. Becuase it’s not the enemy; it’s a gift. A poignant reminder of who I really am.
What’s more, permitting the Want to exist without resistance, without fear, has a profound impact on the way I relate to my day-to-day duties, relationships, and passions. No longer must I struggle so hard to make them the “solution” to my emptiness. Instead, I can engage them on their own terms and for their own sake. I enjoy what I do and the people I do it with, not because I’m trying to eliminate pain, but because I recognize this simple truth: all these things are graces.
The result is less disappointment, panic, and shame — and more charity, loyalty, and radical acceptance of life just the way it is.
My favorite band, The Avett Brothers, has a gorgeous song about this very topic. I hope you enjoy it (the video [NOT produced by them] is a little corny, but the music is to die for):
What about you? Have you noticed the Want? Do you agree that it impacts men as well as women? What do you think about the idea that it is God-given, and not an indication that there’s something “wrong” with you? Any other thoughts or insights on this topic?
This post is one in a series. Get the rest of the series here.
Posted on October 10, 2010, in Mental Health, Personal, Thoughts on God, Women and Happiness and tagged desire, God, greed, happiness, pain, the avett brothers, want. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.