Excerpt from Exhilarated Life: Discovering Inner Happiness
I Wanted a Flower but Desired a Fruit
Whenever I hear the phrase, “You reap what you sow,” I picture my Aunt Myrtle’s piercing brown-black eyes and her mouth clamped shut in final punctuation. The meaning was unmistakable. It was all about punishment for misdeeds. And, man—I was guilty all day long!
I didn’t say thank you. I didn’t smooth the pleats in my kilt before I sat down. I cried when she made me cut my hair in a “pixie” style. I refused to eat her lumpy, burned gravy and it was decades before I ate parsnips again (who boils them?). I was ungrateful, unmanageable, and “too moody for my own good.”
It hardly matters now when I reflect that she was probably flung into
an emergency, looking after her brother’s three children when their
mom lost her grip and ended up in a psychiatric hospital. Aunt Myrtle
died many years later but before I was old enough to understand her
or begin to forgive her. Instead she just lodged herself as my inner
voice of critical reason, caution, and propriety. She doesn’t always ask
permission to opine, but I have gotten firmer in telling her to button
it. Before you think I am hearing voices and am ready for the bin
myself, let me just say that Aunt Myrtle is merely a handy reference for
the unexamined script that ran my life for decades.
We often don’t know where we got this sense of unworthiness. We
might blame our genes—but this is not in our physical cells. This
current runs through our emotions—the electrical charges. Can you
feel it? I know I can right now as I remember. It reaches right across
my chest and grips my shoulders. I’m sure this is the path it took in
my little body before it reached up my neck into my face as a blush.
Then the tears of anger and humiliation. Potent mix! I was so often
embarrassed or ashamed for just being me. I was never even really
naughty. What a waste!
So what happened then? My mother came home (after five years) and
we cobbled our broken family back together with the tacks of blunted
emotions. Were we different from other families? Only by degree or
circumstance. I grew up in a neighborhood where the parents of my
friends had been in concentration camps and lost entire families. There’s
another thing—I didn’t deserve to be upset or petulant in the face of real
tragedy. But that’s the point, isn’t it? Gilda Radner’s wonderful character,
Roseanne Roseannadanna, said it best: “It’s always something!”
It really doesn’t matter what “something” hems us in, be it horrendous
circumstances or misguided goodness. If the bird of our soul is caged
then it cannot fly. Often, long after the captors of our spirit are gone,
we hobble along like the ladies of ancient China on their tiny bound
feet. We have embraced our own crippled nature as if, in its familiarity,
it is who we really are. The tether, long since severed in the physical,
continues to bind us emotionally. The result is we transfer the power of
the captors of our spirit onto other external “authority.”
That could continue to be our parents: “Forget being a musician—get
a proper job.” Our teachers: “You’ll never be a painter if you don’t
paint this way.” Our religion: “You’ll never get to heaven if you do
that.” Our lovers: “You sound so lame when you sing!” So we cut and
prune ourselves and launch into the grown-up world—right into the
hands of the media. Too old! Too fat! Too bald! This car! That house!
Our beer! We are so out of touch with who we really are, we grasp at
anything that makes us believe we might fly. Viagra. Botox. Zoloft.
Hummer. Versace. Smirnoff.
So. We plant a flower. Flowers are good. Everybody likes them. Can’t
go wrong with that. Except, as beautiful as they are, and as sweet as
they smell, it is not what we really want. Flowers stand apart from us
in a vase. To be observed and admired
It is not a flower that can satisfy our longing. Our desire is for deeper
sustenance. What our soul craves is a ripe fruit. Split open. Seeds and
juice spilling into our mouth and overflowing down our chin. Messy
but nourishing. Satisfying. Pleasurable. Succulent. Oh, but isn’t it a little
embarrassing to be so outspoken about such sensuality? Isn’t it wrong or
impolite to say what we really desire? How we desire to feel? How we
desire to be loved? Haven’t we been taught that what we really desire—our scruffy sweater, our ten-year-old car, our familiar and cozy house, a simple job that leaves our mind free, whatever—is not what we should want?
Hmm. It’s all a little confusing isn’t it? Lately there are more books,
movies, CDs and seminars about the Law of Attraction. It’s absolutely
true. But the problem is we are attracting from the want and not the
desire. Big difference! We want to fit in. We want to achieve. We want
a yacht. We want a Mercedes. We want a villa on the beach. We want
to win the lottery. We want a flower. The trouble with wants is their
satisfaction is fleeting. They fill us up but we are soon hungering again.
Wants are the constant distractors from our soul’s desires. Wants always
lie on the horizon of life. In the distance. As the want—the car, the
house, the lover—comes closer, we pluck it up and see that the horizon
is ever before us. And what is on the far horizon, beckoning? A faster
car. A bigger house. A younger lover.
What then? Well, back to Aunt Myrtle, fruit and purple velvet shoes.
Oh, didn’t I tell you about the purple velvet shoes? They had straps
that could slip down behind the heel and big purple jewels on the
front. They also had a gold lining. I loved them! I’m sure they were
pronounced gaudy and unsuitable. Anyway, I got saddle shoes instead
and, at five, had to learn to color white shoe polish inside the lines
with that blunt little dauber thing—without spilling the whole bottle
all over the newspaper—oh yeah, I did. Inevitably there were unsightly
smears on the navy bits; testament to my clumsiness. That alone has
stunted me in ways I fear to think! In rebelliousness, I would scuff my
toes all the way to school. What a terror!
Forgive me: I digress. Back to desires. What are they and how do we know one from a want? Well, desires are yearnings of the soul for expression.
Yearnings to connect with others who share similar desires. Even the
simplest stroking of a desire has it purring in the heart as contentment. Desires are born of love and thrive in love. Our heart’s desires are
Life’s yearning to express itself through our own unique and particular
expression of it.
We pick up a brush, put it to canvas and feel the color even as we see it. We hum a tune we’ve never heard before and a song is born. We take off the suit of career and lie back to birth a child. We are released from an illness and devote our life to healing. We step out of the corporate harness and craft our own business. We sail around the world in a boat or on the Internet. What we do makes a difference because we do it from love. And the joy of it all? When we act from love we are free!
In expressing our heart’s desires, we draw in the very love of Self that
has been our nameless longing, forever. As we fill with self-love we
embody self-respect and self-esteem. With these qualities we will never
harm another or ourselves. We will grow in confidence, creativity, and
reverence for others and the world we live in. We will know peace
within because there will be no other voice of authority but Love.
That expression might be as an engineer or a dancer, a parent or a
Desires by nature are nurturing and when we fulfill our desires, we
nurture through our acts. A desire fulfilled is never wanting, cannot be criticized or judged and is always, forever our own. A desire fulfilled is a magnet and attracts more and more to itself until we shine in our own light. A light that can never be dimmed or tarnished. We become alive because we are an expression of Life in its fullest—happiness, peace, beauty, joy, vitality!
Life (big ‘L’ Life) desires to evolve through us. When we sow from the
heart. We reap Love.
“Four Fat Figs” by one of my favourite and newly discovered artists, Tim Gustard. I found Tim’s remarkable work when looking for images of olives and olive oil for my other writing and my book What is High Phenolic Olive Oil? (pending) Here is a link to Tim’s marvelous Facebook Page. Go visit and enjoy a cruise through his brilliant work!
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