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Are You Wishing for the Wrong Things?

My mom recently heard about an organization that grants senior citizens' wishes, like those groups that send terminally ill children and their families to Disney World, but this was for regular seniors with no special issues. This led her to think about what she'd wish for, she told me.

 

Her first thought was a trip across the country to visit my aunt. Sadly, the wish-granting organization is bound by the laws of time and space, and she'd still have to undergo the actual travel, which is what's holding her back. She dislikes airplanes, and other methods would take too long (otherwise I, her daughter, could grant this wish). No tesseract, no travel.

So then she thought that she'd like to revisit our family vacations in Cape Cod. But again the organization lacked the capacity to take everyone back 20 years when the grandkids would be happy hunting hermit crabs and digging holes for hours on end while she doled out Twizzlers.

She decided she didn't really have a grant-able wish, so she would simply be happy with how things are. She's a wise woman.

Our conversation made me think, though, of how often our hopes and wishes and expectations -- conscious and especially unconscious -- would crumble under the light of awareness. Do we realize how much our good mood depends on the weather cooperating or our co-worker's mood or the arrival of an anticipated email? How much we expect consistency from our technology and environment and friends? How much we are thrown off balance when we don't get that?

We pin our happiness on achieving some ideal situation, big or small -- the dishwasher will be empty when we open it; we'll find a well-paying, fulfilling job that benefits society; the tomatoes will have ripened overnight. And if that doesn't happen, we're disgruntled at having to empty the dishwasher or answer phones cheerfully or eat plain salad.

We fail to see what we have, right now, because we thought it would be different.

But we can change that.

In IDP's ongoing online class about dealing with emotions, Ethan Nichtern and Sharon Salzberg talked about the desire to control the uncontrollable as a source of suffering. When we pin our hopes and happiness on grasping the ungraspable, on keeping the wave upon the sand, we're making ourselves miserable.

One way to work with that is to look at our desires closely: What do we want? Is it in the realm of possibility? Can we do anything to create the causes and conditions that would bring that result? Can we find anything in what we have now that brings us joy? Can we open to the possibility that joy is always there in some measure?

 

 

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