Wanting what you have IS getting what you need

Wanting and needing, getting and having. It seems that our thirst is never quenched. Why do we always want more?

I felt small as a child and wanted to be big — worth-noticing “big.” I wanted to be wanted. I wanted to belong. I wanted to play. I wanted to learn. I wanted to see new things and try new things. I wanted to have someone to call my best friend. I wanted to be invited to birthday parties. I wanted my mom and dad to love me. I wanted people to recognize that I was remarkable. I wanted someone to know that I had something to say that might be worth listening to. I wanted to feel comfortable in my own skin. I wanted to know that the path I was on was leading somewhere great. I wanted to trust. I wanted to believe. I wanted to have hope.

I think you know the glimmers I speak of out there in the world, in places, words, and in the depths of someone’s eyes.

Did you ever write down a quote that made you ache somewhere? Ever watch a movie and realize that you are tingling, cheering wildly on the inside, as a character speaks what you’ve been dying to say, but haven’t said (yet)? Ever wish a person on a television show was talking to you? Or did you feel like they were talking only to you, straight to your soul, and you could hardly suppress the smile or the tears? Have you heard a song that was the one you want to sing, or have sung to you? Ever gotten lost in a piece of art because it felt like home? Ever see someone give a speech with deep meaning and they start to crack as emotion overtakes them, and you aren’t sure if you should look at them because it will make you cry too, because you ache for their humanity? For me, those are the glimmers of hope.

I was recently guided to the 1976 movie Network, where Mr. Beale has one of the best monologues of all time. You can see it on youtube at http://www.youtube.com/watch? v=9 0ELleCQvew&feature=related. He is awake, fiery, and screams: “I’m a human being goddamn it. My life has value . . . I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore, things have got to change.” Mr. Beale, I’m up. I’m yelling out the window. I want more from myself and more of the world around me.

I woke up and noticed the glass of water beside my bed was at the midpoint of the glass. If I subscribe to positive thinking, I’m supposed to say, “Yippeee, my glass is half full,” and rejoice. If I look at the glass in a global context, I should be happy that I have clean water that runs from a tap; that I don’t have to walk miles to get it, and that it won’t make me sick or kill me.

But, what if I’m really thirsty and want a full glass of water? The Rolling Stones lyric says, “You can’t always get what you want . . . but if you try sometimes you just might find you get what you need.”

Research on psychological happiness (Myers and Diener, 1995) suggests that satisfaction is less a matter of getting what you want, but wanting what you have.

Perhaps if Mick and Myers crossed paths the song would have reflected “wanting what you have IS getting what you need.”

It is clear that I need and want, but I am thirsty. My mouth is dry at the thought of just half a glass. Lucky for me there is Texas Tech University psychologist Jeff Larsen and Amie McKibban of Wichita State University, who concluded that people who want more of what they have tend to be happier than those who want less of what they have.

I still want all of the things I wanted as a small child, except that I don’t need the invitations to birthday parties. Oddly enough, after all these years I’ve realized I much prefer being alone, perhaps acknowledging that a search for humanity can be exhausting, and there is nothing worse than feeling alone in a room full of people.

Not much else has changed over the years, other than acquiring more stories to tell in the silver twilight about the notches on my belt as my body grew, peaked and began to decline, and about the glimmers I saw along the way.

Bottom-line, I know that to be truly, honestly happy, I need and want water; I need and want to feel connected to this universe through the nature and people that surround me; I need and want to witness spectacular sunsets and awesome moments of humanity. I need and want to be raw, deep, real, and true — and I dare to do this. To me, anything less in life would simply be a series of motions.

I’m off to get a full glass of water now. When I’m done that one, I’m going to remember that thing about eight glasses of water a day. Is anyone else out there looking for a glimmer of hope and humanity? Is anyone else out there thirsty? Things have got to change.

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