You can’t always get what you want.
And, it seems to me, that even if you try, sometimes you can’t get what you need, Mick Jagger’s opinion not withstanding.
I found myself wanting chocolate ice cream last night. I could smell it. I could feel it’s creamy cold texture on my tongue. I wanted it, and I thought having a big bowl full was just exactly the thing that would make life just right, right that moment.
Earlier that day I wanted to take one of my difficult clients and, after performing atrocities on him suitable to every description of Comanche prisoner of war rituals I’ve ever heard of, I wanted to drop him into a shark-filled vat of acid.
But I knew I shouldn’t do that, so I didn’t. The consequences would be too severe.
Then I wanted to not have to even work for clients like that at all, and I wanted some knight in shining armor to swoop into my life and carry me off to some beautiful mansion in the mountains and bring me offerings of tender elk and succulent wild berries for my meals, leaving my days free to read great books and take French classes in my spare time.
But I knew I couldn’t make that happen so, I dismissed it as a hopeless fantasy.
Then I just wanted to get laid.
But for various personal reasons that option wasn’t available, either, unless I cared to hit the bar scene and not be too particular.
I didn’t have the energy to put on too much make-up and shave my legs, and besides, I knew I really shouldn’t do that either, so I didn’t. Again, in this day and age, the consequences might be too severe.
I wanted my house to be clean and my ironing done, but I didn’t want to have to do them myself.
But I can’t afford household help, and my teenage son will do just so many chores before he begins to view it as enslavement on my part, so my house stayed dirty and only a few pieces got ironed.
I wanted all those things. Some of them were unreasonable desires; some of them weren’t. But for a variety reasons I couldn’t have any of them. I sighed and had a bubble bath instead. That helped until the phone rang and got me out of the tub.
An hour later I wanted the chocolate ice cream.
Now, before everyone sends in various low carb chocolate ice cream recipes, I should add that both dairy and chocolate have turned out to be problematic foods for me. They aggravate my sinuses and create cravings for weeks afterward. I’m better off without any kind of chocolate ice cream, real or ersatz.
But I still wanted some, and I could afford it, and the grocery store is only 5 minutes away and open 24 hours a day. This was one thing I could have. Sure, there would be consequences, but they would be less awful than the consequences for engaging in the ritualistic and fatal torture of disagreeable clients. All that would happen would be that I would feel a little sick and gain a little weight.
That’s when I figured out what was happening. I couldn’t have what I really wanted most that day, which was a stress-free way to earn a living. So my psyche started going through the list of things I wanted until it settled on something I was truly tempted to act on: food, bad for me food, delicious food. Some part of me simply wasn’t accepting that “you can’t always get what you want.” In fact I was simply not accepting the fact that some days we barely even get what we need.
Unfulfilled desire is a fact of life. Everyone experiences it. No one has everything they want every time they want it.
What I have found is that over time I have developed a pattern of trying to compensate when I don’t get what I want when I want it. When I am frustrated, wanting something I cannot attain that day, or week, or year, I begin to sublimate those unattainable desires into achievable desires. And, in modern society, in the Western free world, any taste or flavor we want is as close as our nearest supermarket and easily affordable.
To succeed in losing weight and maintaining that weight loss, I need to break that pattern. I need to accept the obvious fact that I cannot and will not get what I want. Not every day, not every time, not everything. The earlier in my day’s chain of unfulfilled desires I catch myself thinking that I should be able to get what I want when I want it, and force myself to view of life more realistically, the less likely it is that I will be diving into a bag of potato chips.
Of course, we all deserve many good things in our lives. And, of course, we can choose to conduct our lives in such a way as to maximize the possibility of getting those good things. We can and should do that for ourselves. I’m all for achieving the objects of our desire.
But for me, it’s going to be just as important to truly accept that it is the nature of life to want more than we have, no matter how blessed we are. There will simply never be a day in which I get absolutely everything that I want. And if some days I feel that I am not even getting my fair share, then I am going to have to remember those days when simply wonderful things happened to me unexpectedly. I’m going to have to remember those times and savor them.
But I’m not going to delude myself into thinking I should always be able to have what I want.
And I’m not going to have the chocolate ice cream, either.