Tell Me What You Want, What You Really Really Want

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I’VE BEEN THINKING A LOT ABOUT WHAT WE ASK FOR LATELY — and what we get. As in, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7). Or as in, “you asked for it,” which apparently is a common theme of many a Sunday sermon. (Thanks Google). It turns out we really do get a lot of what we ask for. So maybe a useful perspective on that would be that reflecting upon what we get — and why — could help us understand what it is we really, really want in the first place. As the Spice Girls said so well, “I’ll tell you what I want, what I really, really want/So tell me what you want, what you really, really want.”

I don’t know about you, but when I’m at a restaurant, for example, looking at a menu, I imagine some of the dishes that I’m considering having already arrived before me. How would I really feel being faced with a medium rare steak, asparagus, and red potatoes? Is that what I really, really want? I then imagine starting in on the meal, does it taste good, does it satisfy? Was that what I was looking for? Sometimes, the answer is yes. And I order the steak. But other times, in this somewhat elaborate process (it goes faster in real life, of course; I’m not trying to make my dinner partner sit through all this) I realize that my imaginary steak isn’t fitting the bill at the moment, and what I really, really want is the mushroom risotto with shallots. So I order the risotto.

Life isn’t quite as orderly as a menu. (Order-ly? Hmmm). As in, one cannot simply place an order in life. Order: the arrangement or disposition of people or things in relation to each other according to a particular sequence, pattern, or method (Google again. Whatever did those of us who love rabbit holes do before the Google)? Anyway, sometimes we are not even aware that we are asking for — ordering — things in the first place. It’s like dialing the wrong phone number. After the fact, though, we might just realize we had actually envisioned that particular scenario or situation that we eventually find ourselves in. Sometimes that can be a great surprise. Like my apartment in LA. I literally imagined, over and again, standing at the back door of a modest house, looking out upon a modest backyard. When I finally looked out the back door on my first day here, in a place I moved to sight-unseen, I realized it was that which I had been picturing all along. Order up!

Other times, however, we find ourselves very clear about what we want. Dead certain, no question. (Which can be a red flag when it comes to us humans). For example, I thought I wanted a companion to fill some of the hours I have in the evenings. I have finally settled into life on the west coast such that I have arrived at some sort of routine. And on any given day, once I am done with exercise, work of various sorts, some volunteering perhaps, I close my laptop and think, “I wouldn’t mind someone taking me out to dinner right about now.” To that end, I reluctantly signed up with an online dating site. Starting with truly positive energy and hopefulness, I quickly wearied of the parade of men who looked old enough to be my grandfather; or were searching for lifetime partners only; men still married who had “agreements” with their wives; and especially those who refused to engage in a bit of written correspondence prior to getting together IRL.

I went on two uneventful dates. And then came a third date, at the very end of my subscription period (how I couldn’t wait to bow out). It was a nice date. We both liked eating at bars – a funny commonality, but it said a lot to me about shared sensibilities. The guy was cute, fun, smart, adventurous, and complimentary. Quite a contrast from the last two guys, so I thought perhaps there was something there. There was. Sort of. I had found someone to fill those hours I was looking to fill. Kind of. I mean, not reliably. Not the way I would have liked, by him asking ahead of time, suggesting a plan, that sort of thing. But I told myself to be more open; just because I favored a more traditional (old?!) style of dating, didn’t mean I should cancel someone just because they did life differently. After all, I liked his spontaneity, right? Well, there’s spontaneity and then there’s just plain flakiness. And immaturity. And I really just expect grown folk to do life in a bit more orderly fashion than he did. (His bedroom was messy – messy like my daughter’s in junior high). So, it was a whatever and we mutually stopped communicating. (Officially, I sent the last text, but I’m not calling it “ghosting” because his non-response felt consistent with the rest of our short-lived relationship).

Anyway, I say that all to say that as soon as this guy and I started seeing each other I started feeling a little uneasy — restless about things. And God said to me, “You asked for this.” Now this isn’t the mighty, booming voice God used on Moses at Mt. Sinai, it’s more a little quiet spirit voice that comes from inside. But that spirit can be quite pointed in its declarations. “Yup,” I responded to God, “you got me on that one.” It turns out that I didn’t really, really want someone to take up space in my days, but instead space in my heart. I had ordered the steak when the risotto is what I truly desired.

The cool thing about life (and let’s just take a moment and acknowledge that this is coming from a place of high privilege and cannot be applied to all the shattering situations people find themselves in – like my friend who I just learned has been living in his truck for the last two years) is that you can often send your order back. Or at least push it to the side, and then go ahead and re-order. Like the tale of Goldilocks and the Three Bears (which I referenced to a 20-something the other day and received a blank look in return), we can try all the porridges, and take our time doing so, as long as we are not afraid. Certainly there could be bears lurking (and we shouldn’t be partaking of others’ resources if they don’t have it to spare), but the fact is that life can be one big feast where we learn what we like, and what we need, along the way.

I’ll leave you with this blast from the past, when a car company decided that “you asked for it, you got it,” would make a terrific commercial campaign. So many metaphors, so little time! Enjoy the feast.

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