(story by Mir, from WouldaCouldaShoulda, a Chestist)
I grew up making a wish on my birthday candles every year. I grew up searching the sky at dusk for the first star, then breathlessly reciting "Star light, star bright / First star I see tonight / I wish I may, I wish I might / Have this wish I wish tonight" to myself before wishing for whatever it was I wanted.
The things I wished for varied, of course. I wished for friends. I wished for particular toys. Once I became a young teen, I wished for designer jeans and for that boy I swore up and down I absolutely was NOT interested in to look my way and smile. As an older teen, I wished to get out, get away, go to college, start over, remake myself into someone more whole, more lovable.
In my first marriage, we wanted babies—lots and lots of babies—and it became clear that wasn't in the cards for us. I wished to get pregnant, constantly. Then I did and I miscarried and I wished never to go through that again. Eventually, I wished for pregnancy again, then wished for the pregnancy not to end early. Once my daughter was born, it seemed greedy to want more, but we did; I wished for luck a second time and, impossibly, along came my son.
When things got bad and the marriage fell apart, I wished mostly for the kids to be okay. I wished for life to be peaceful again. I wished not to hurt all the time. I wished for a way to support my family both financially and emotionally, which for a long time seemed impossible. I wished for stability and calm and the knowledge that we would be okay. It was a long time before I even dared to wish for happiness. It seemed too big and too selfish. In the beginning I could only frame it in terms of what it would mean for my children, how much better off they would be if I was happier.
Life is complicated, of course. Anyone who tells you otherwise is trying to put one over on you. Now that I'm older and hopefully wiser, I realize that the elusive "happiness" we all strive towards is a moving, amorphous target. It's not something you achieve, like climbing Mount Everest, and then you're done and get to claim it for the rest of your life. So if someone asks me, now, if I'm happy, I say yes. Does that mean I'm chirpy-happy-smiling every minute of the day, or that I don't worry about stuff, or that I'm not stressed out? No. But I am blessed in many ways, and I totally believe that, even on the hard days. I have a family I love, a career I enjoy, a roof over my head, food on the table, and yes, I consider myself lucky.
Here's where the (possible) weirdness comes in: I have all but stopped wishing. You know how the big thing these days is to have a Life List or a Bucket List—things you want to accomplish because you'll find them inherently fulfilling? I don't have one of those. I never have, actually. And while Oprah and the Internet and everyone else is talking about how it's a growth experience and totally transformative, all I can think is…
… but I already have so much.
(And then, the silent corollary: The things I would still wish for aren't things I can put on a list and later check off. They will either happen or they won't, as most of my unfulfilled desires at this point hinge on other people's behavior. And years of therapy have taught me that I don't get to control that, no matter how right I think I am. Ha!)
For a while I thought my aversion to wishing was me being my typical Eeyore-esque self—no, no, that's fine, I don't need anything, life is so very depressing—but recently I've come to believe that whatever challenges come my way really do serve to highlight how extraordinarily lucky I truly am. And wishing, when I already have so much, feels… wrong. Unappreciative, and selfish. Trite, even, in the face of all I already have.
I'm genuinely curious how other people handle this. Do you have one of those Lists? Do you find yourself wanting for things as much as you used to? (I figure I'm either more spiritually evolved than I realize or possibly more depressed than I realize. It's a little unsettling that I'm not sure which one.) I need to know if the whole world is on this "make a list of the things you want" bandwagon and I'm the only one over here going, "Actually, I'm good, thanks."
(read more Mir here)