Sunday, October 25, 2009

Another post about Desire (The Joy Diet)

When I first started reading the chapter about Desire, I immediately thought about my childhood...

When I was a little girl, I was very free - free to be emotional, to be creative, to want things, to say things, to draw, to dance, to sing.  As most children do, I experienced lots of little things that I interpreted as disapproval or disdain. Sometimes, the reactions I got WERE disapproval and disdain.  My father HATED it when we would sing in the car, so over time, singing became a solitary activity.

Related to desire - when I was a kid, my parents would ask us for a Christmas list.  It was usually pretty early on as my parents did all their shopping on Columbus Day (my dad was off from work, kids still in school). As soon as the Sears Wishbook came out, I would pour over it, writing down nearly everything I saw. I asked for cars and Barbies and pogo sticks and hula hoops and those giant size dolls.  It wasn't so much that I wanted all of it, but that it all seemed so magical to me, I loved to write things down, and I was always happy with what I got.  

I'm pretty sure that my sister (and maybe others) thought I was just a greedy little kid, writing down the entire kids section of the catalog. But a curious thing happened - every year, I was thrilled with the gifts I received, the toys I had, but my sister would never get "THE THING" that she wanted. One time I asked her if she had written a list and she scoffed at me, "I'm not going to write a list of things that I want someone to give me." My young self wondered, "Well, if they don't know what you want, how can they get it for you?"  This question was not met with a happy face.

One year, my sister opened the edge of all of her presents and so she KNEW that she hadn't gotten the thing that she wanted and she couldn't say anything about it because then, not only would she be upset that she didn't get what she wanted, but she would be in trouble for snooping.  I never snooped. I'm not sure I knew that the gifts were there to snoop for until that year. Ironically, that year, my sister got an art project with a bullring and you colored it with these colored rocks (I can't really explain it here) and I was JEALOUS. I thought that was the coolest gift ever. She was just upset because she didn't get THE THING.

I spent a lot of years feeling guilty/greedy for writing those lists - feeling like maybe there was something wrong with me. Then, I just let it go. I was just a little kid and someone ASKED me what I wanted, and I told them. I certainly didn't expect to get the entire Sears catalog, but I was happy with the gifts I did get. I can't remember a year when I didn't get something special. (This was before the retailers and media created the "ONE TOY YOU MUST HAVE" phenomenon, so maybe things would have been different if I had fallen prey to the "Cabbage Patch Doll" craze or something.)

I'm not even sure what my point is in this post...maybe just reflecting on the fact that we are a certain way as children and that uniqueness, that freedom is slowly squashed or restrained by experiences and other people's perceptions and behavior and we spend the rest of our lives reading books like "The Joy Diet" trying to figure out what our REAL desires are, what really brings us joy.  Kids just are - they have desires and express them, they feel joy and they enjoy it.  We have a lot to learn from the kiddos.

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