Officially the most beautiful Hawaii morning since we moved here, and that’s not even a distinction I thought possible. I saw a reasonably exotic bird floating through the canopy of trees that surround our house, palms and not-palms. So much birdsong, and the surround-sound roosters seemed to have calmed their ta-ta’s one or two degrees. The best sunlight, bluest ocean, freshest air, so quiet otherwise.
I’m still mostly forgetting but sometimes remembering to ask myself, at junctures throughout the day, “What would someone who loves herself do?,” as per my Teal Swan 28 Day Self-Love challenge, and the answer has often been, to just be more intentionally kind, interested, pleased, and curious in my day-to-day dealings with everyone, while also taking less-to-no responsibility for what they’re feeling. You’d think a person would go around feeling over-extended, then ask what one who loved themselves would do, then remember to retract energy resources to one’s self, and I’m sure that’s applicable. For me it’s been more like — oh yeah: I love myself, nothing else needs to happen internally in this moment, so I can be more present and clear as a result.
I think “high-contrast” situations are spiritually interesting because they’re like training simulations — no plan survives first contact, everyone gets bitchy and starts competing for resources per their various childhood trauma patterns, xyz. And I’ve had a lot of those in my life. A lotta lotta lotta those :). They’re like brutal workouts — you make your gains in the aftermath, not in the moment.
But “low-contrast” situations, like my life in Hawaii in a household with my three favorite people and two favorite little dogs on earth (dad, brother, boyfriend, Buffy, Milo) can be surprisingly challenging too. For a lot of people, having free time, solitude, quiet, or all three can be the most challenging of all.
I was emailing with my friend the other day and we’ve been talking about desires. I seem to have achieved, especially in leaps and bounds lately, huge armfuls of desire-fulfillment, and he’s got a good life on the face of it, but feels dissatisfied.
One way to look at it is, luck of the draw. That’s not the way I choose to look at it because I don’t think it’s true and I know it’s not helpful. I like the way Jordan Peterson put it, in a video I can’t even begin to find right now (and he’s not a spiritual-paradigm guy at all to my knowledge): we can’t help the hand we’re dealt, in life, but we can be very serious about playing that hand well.
Anyway, whether we’re talking about lives going wrong or lives going right, one thing I think we consistently get wrong is the impossible-to-overstate specificity of our desires. We all want, action verb, so very differently, as well we should, but we tend to behave as if we’re all reaching for the same golden ring on the same carousel. And then we cry foul because there aren’t enough golden rings to go around.
And I’ll tell you what — identity politics ain’t helping that one bit. Oh, I’m a hetero cisgendered white chick of mid-to-low nuclear family socioeconomic status so I should want abc but I should not want xyz, and if I do want xyz it means internalized misogyny? Or, infinitely worse — internalized femininity? Fuck all that. I mean, those lenses have their place but you can get yourself barked ALL the way up the wrong tree, with that approach. Going back to Jordan Peterson’s cards analogy, it’s kind of like saying, ‘play the hand you were dealt the same way an average group of people, dealt that hand, would play it — or else you’re denying your identity’. No thanks.
The most liberating paradigm shift of my life, and one which I think put me firmly on track for the frankly outrageous abundance I enjoy now, was when I finally gave myself full permission to WANT differently from those around me. This was entirely disconnected from knowing if I could ever receive my desires, okay? I just finally got to this point where it was no longer possible to pretend the things that made others happy would ever make me happy, and vice versa. And I don’t even mean in these overarching ways, I just mean from my ant’s eye view, even; one want at a time.
Like, pattern recognition is a big deal for our brains, for they ways they’ve evolved to help keep us alive, avoiding threats etc. The problem is, most of our pattern templates are assigned at childhood. And so when we desire, as we constantly do, we mostly interpret our desires as “landing” either inside, or outside, the pattern. So we feed the good wolf and starve the bad wolf, right?
The reframe I’m arguing for, here, is to attempt to turn the contrast down on the assigned pattern and turn the contrast up on the actual desire pattern.
What if there were enough gold rings for everyone? What if there were enough carousels for everyone? But instead of going out and riding the carousel with our name on it, we’re all standing in line for one big generic carousel, fighting and struggling, so absorbed in the conflict it doesn’t even occur to us to wander off and find the one made for us?
If this analogy triggers your scarcity rage or along those lines, then make it about something else, but the point is, I don’t remember a lot of emphasis on wanting uniquely, growing up. There was a lot of emphasis on BEING unique, which sounds more helpful than it is.
Lest my message get lost in space entirely, here, maybe some more info about my decision to desire more specifically will be helpful. It happened about ten years ago, which is interesting — I just ran across a Tweet the other day, from a sort of philosophical account I like, saying that we’re living the results of our decisions ten years ago, now.
So, ten years and some change ago, I was living a generic dream life but not my dream life. I was married to a handsome and successful man who owned his own profitable business. He was just the right amount of years older than me, and women were generally jealous of me for nabbing him. When anyone asked me who my husband was, and I said, they would go, “Omgggg he is AMAZING.” And he was, I’m not knocking the guy. We lived in a highly desirable town, and I can’t overstate this. Everywhere I’d go, I’d meet people who asked, “Where are you from?,” and I’d say the name of the town, and 100% of them, all over the nation, would say, “Ooooohhhhhh, I *LOVE* [name of town], luckyyyyyyyyy!” 100%. I had recently completed my Master’s and had been accepted to several PhD programs in my field, creative writing. (I’m actually kind of good when I’m not in blogging mode: blogs are not art, they’re survival.) We had two cars, one dog, a nice house, enough money to eat well, live well, and invest, and a handful of generically desirable friends. The whole thing had a very high Yelp rating, let’s just say.
So why did I break us up and go drive trucks in the North Dakota oil field instead of getting my PhD, and run a trucking school campus, and find a little dog in the road, and start driving for wildland fires, and date but not escalate, and become almost entirely nomadic, and accumulate a bunch of pretty long dresses and tall boots, and put out some original music, and experiment with blogs and vlogs, and become someone others didn’t know how to interpret, socially, and then throw in hard with a guy 13 years younger than me that I met at a gym after being single for ten years, and move to a new state together, and then all the things that have happened since, resulting most recently in a move to literal paradise, etc?
I can’t tell you I was “happier”, through all of that, than I was in my more generic dream life. I’ve had some bad fuckin days, y’all. I’ve had some BAD days. Frankly “happy” is a red herring, imo. I know that sounds like something a chronically unhappy person would say, but I’m chronically quite happy. I just don’t think that a focus on being happy is the path of least resistance, necessarily, because “happy” is one of those words, like “God” or “love”, that we’ve infused with so much psychological baggage it’s nearly worthless.
I would rather fail at living my dream than succeed at living a generic dream, I’ll just put it that way. And sometimes you don’t know that until you’ve nabbed a few generic gold rings of your own. That guy I was married to? We’re much better as friends, and props to him forever, for putting up with me those years. That highly desirable town we used to live in? One word: cold. Another word: woke. If you want to try to drink a coffee at an outdoor table and have some clearly economically advantaged ragamuffin give you an unsolicited lecture about how it’s selfish to have a house AND a car, everyone should have to choose one — then that’s your town. Academic stuff? Come the fuck on. I’m glad I woke up to the degree hyper-inflation when I did. In high school, it was enough to get an Associate’s, or Bachelor’s if you were a real nerd. In college, it was like “Masters or McDonalds”. In grad school, it became so clear that we were all in so much debt and had no real good prospects that PhD was just the most obvious solution to the problem, in the sense of delaying the inevitable. And now everything’s shifted so much to a gig economy, and then that shifted to being arrested and in some cases beaten for trying to keep your business open, that…ah…I’m just gonna say, the ROI on a bunch of higher education just ain’t there, and that’s even discounting the Marxist brainwashing aspect.
Everyone in the oil field was like WHY ARE YOU HERE. Like, it was so obvious I could be doing not-that. And I was like, That’s what I’m trying to figure out. I’m trying to find the edges and contours of myself, and for some reason this feels good, this feels aligned, this feels like the next outwardly illogical, inwardly logical thing.
I suffered a lot, in the last ten years, in the course of extricating my authentic desires from my generic desires, and it’s only served to reinforce my understanding of the one for-sure true spiritual soundbite: the purpose of suffering is to realize suffering is unnecessary.
What I’m saying is, ten years ago, if you had shown me a life path resulting in warm weather, lovely beaches, working from home, narrating audiobooks, with my family, co-piloting life with a gorgeous, fascinating man who’s even more beautiful on the inside, working out daily, wearing pretty dresses like it’s my full time job, and planning a fire season business venture which will take me back into that bohemian-paramilitary world on an annual basis, I would have hit the big red subscribe button so hard and fast, I’d have broken my hand, and the button, and the table, and the surface of the earth’s crust right there. Like, none of what I’m living now is “surprising”, in that sense. What’s surprising is that I allowed myself to manifest what I deserve.
And if you’re someone who can simply allow the things you deserve, then you’re ahead of everyone on the planet, so just do that. The only course that I’ve been able to successfully chart, from Point A of what I’ll allow myself, to the eternally evolving Point B of what I deserve, is to desire less generically and more specifically. There isn’t a lot of competition for my golden rings because they’re mine, they have my name on them. I don’t want your golden rings; YOU want your golden rings, and that’s everything. If you wake up into your life happy and grateful to have another day in that life, then you’re on the right carousel at least, reaching for the right golden ring. If not?
And that’s what this interesting email exchange with my friend as been about.
Frankly I think cancel culture has made the contrast even more obvious, in a way that’s helpful for people with functioning cajones, and oppressive for anyone without. Before, in those rare moments when I could detect the scent of an authentic desire, I would receive, let’s say, tactful and ambient feedback about that, often resistance, from my social environment. Now, it’s like an electric fence. You fucking know when you wandered off course by accident — off the course of generic, lowest-common-denominator approval. Thanks, sheeple!
The final, but most active, ingredient, in this recipe for desiring more authentically (and therefore creating more satisfyingly) is — and this is the liberal kryptonite incidentally — God.
Now, I already said, “God” is a useless concept, practically speaking, just like “love” and “happy”. Here’s how I think about it, to defuse my own conditioning there: dogs, who are love embodied, are happiest with their alpha. They don’t want to be in charge, and they do really neurotic things when they feel abandoned to be in charge. It’s not their strong suit, let’s say. We’re actually the same way! We are love embodied also, believe it or not, and we have a master. We have an alpha. And we’re happiest when we surrender to that alpha, who knows infinitely more than us when it’s time to go walk and when it’s time to chill at home. Our alpha communicates with us telepathically, through our emotions and and desires, and so we’re at our best and most aligned when we’re in a listening mindset. No one would say dogs who don’t listen are happier. They’re yappier, certainly, more chaotic and stressed, but not happier.
So for me, surrendering to a higher power is not so much a thought like, “Hey, I’ve totally got this and can do a great job, but go ahead and take the reins and let’s see how it goes.” It’s more a concept of recognizing I was never made to be in charge. That was never my destiny, and the most stressful, suffering times of my life have been when I felt I had to be in charge, and there was no recourse. I mean, if not me then who else, right?
So I experience it as a relief, every time I remember that I’m not, actually, in charge of anything, nor was I ever supposed to be. And it’s exactly when I’m running around and barking the most that I’m listening the least — and my alpha is over there with a pocket full of treats, waiting for me to wear my dumb self out.
We get scared, I think, that we’ll listen and not hear anything. No guidance, no input, just the void. But it doesn’t actually matter what we hear, if anything — the magic lies in reconceptualizing ourselves as conduits, not hermetically sealed containers. The magic of conversation lies in remembering to just relax and listen. It’s not our job to “make” the conversation “good”, it’s our job to listen for whatever it actually is. Which, ironically, makes it good.
So yeah — “God” is about the least helpful and most cluttered mental construct ever; “dog” is about the most helpful and least cluttered mental construct ever. So just god but backwards, is my advice.
Dogs are also excellent, you’ll notice, at wanting specific things, and feeling they deserve the specific things they’ve gotten, and otherwise ignoring matters of color, size, and pedigree.
So, if you’ve made it this far in my big ole ramble, why don’t you test drive this today? Imagine yourself as nothing more serious than a big silly dog who “sits like people”, and is infinitely loved and cherished by a mysterious alpha master thing who has a way longer lifespan, and a lot more opposable thumbs, and it’s your job to stop barking and listen for the plastic rustling of treats.
Allowing desire to flow towards things we can’t explain, even to ourselves, is an especially good thing. You know why? The things we CAN explain are dead dogma. Still good — I can definitely explain wanting vegan carrot cake, in a straightforward manner, to almost anyone — but the desires I can’t explain have heralded the mostly blind, closely listening, eventual manifestation to some of my greatest, FOR ME, accomplishments and satisfactions, most of which would not even blip on the radar of the Approved List of Things to Want.
Also, sorry I keep trying to wrap this up, but this is important: a lot of our desires involve other people acting different ways lol. Desire must always be personal, for its forward momentum to proceed unimpeded. That feels tough if you’re, like, married, or with children, or otherwise definitely and legally tied to the people who refuse to act different ways. If there’s one thing people as a whole can be trusted to do, it’s consistently not act right.
If your desire involves someone acting differently and they won’t, then you just don’t get to have that desire. Sorry.
Ha, that cracked me up. I had to put it down, in black and white, because that’s what our brains want us to believe, and when we believe it on the inside, unspoken, it feels so real. But if you write it out and externalize it like I just did, you can see how patently ridiculous it is. Kind of like the rhetorical thought experiment of defunding the police versus the reality of defunding the police. Side note: thank you, thank you, thank you to the law enforcement officers and first responders out there in all the blizzards and interstate pile-ups right now, and last couple days, helping people who are shell shocked and injured. What a blessing they are, when we need them.
Long story short, your relationship to God is the only one to whom your allegiance is owed. You can go to the dog park and play with your friends but there’s only one alpha, and that’s your alpha. It’s not even a question. Your alpha, ie God, is never going to give you a desire without the circumstances of your life being able to match it, but the circumstances of your life may need to change in order to allow that desire through — and maybe that’s the whole point of the desire. You’re the conduit for your desires, not anyone else. They’re the conduit for their own desires, not you. It’s all very, very personal, intensely specific. And our desires, in their truest form, will not ever be “against” someone else. Our desires are for us, in every sense.
There’s a certain ruthlessness in surrender to higher authority, I’ll tell you that. ‘Sorry, I’ve got my orders. I’d love to stay here and play heehaw with the fuckaround gang, but the Boss is waiting.’
Anyone who read all that shit deserves some pictures!!