Learning to Want What I Can’t Have

There was no greater source of anticipation for me as a child than the days leading up to Christmas.  I eagerly awaited the arrival of the Sears Wish Book and JC Penney Christmas catalogs that were delivered in the mail.  These publications provided hours of daydreaming to me as a young lad. But one year, something came along that changed my anticipation and took it to a new level.

The F.A.O. Schwartz catalog. 

For the uninitiated, F.A.O. Schwartz is a massive toy store in New York City.  It’s the stuff of dreams for a little boy. And for whatever reason, their Christmas catalog made it to our mailbox one year. It was a game-changer.

There were toys I had never even imagined. Motorized toy cars that you could ride in along giant race tracks that wouldn’t fit in my little room.  There were magic sets where you could pull a real, live rabbit out of a hat. Not to mention the play forts the size of my house and rocket kits that would reach to the moon.  Or so it seemed to the mind of a 9 year old.

That year, I ditched the Wish Book.  This new catalog was the good stuff. I was ready to start dreaming big.

Sure enough, Christmas came and went that year.  I never got the race car and track. Never shot the moon rocket into outer space. And there was another “never.”

I never blamed my mom and dad for not getting those things for me.

There was a quality about my ability to want something I couldn’t have. I didn’t demand those things, but I didn’t shy away from yearning for them either.  I would dog-ear the pages of my favorite toys and sit in dad’s lap for a nightly review.

When I was about 19, and there were no little kids around on Christmas Day, I understand now why dad said, “we need a nine-year old around here.”

Children bring a perspective on life that grownups need.  Kids see life in simplicity. So what changed?

Today, I’m taking a lesson from my 9 year old self.  In my grief, how can I be like that little boy? How can I return to wanting something I can’t have?

What changed in my heart that caused me to resent my longings? When did I decide it was a good idea to stop wanting things I can’t have?

The little boy didn’t turn angry.  Never once did I fall into depression because I wasn’t going to get what I wanted for Christmas.  Instead, I recall his sense of wonder. The boy understood that dreaming was a natural part of the experience.  He didn’t have think about it. He did it instinctively.

I can’t get her back. But I can choose the focus of my mind.  Will I fixate on what I can no longer have and submit to its detention, or will I go to a higher place where Desire is my guide that leads me into a spacious realm of liberty, joy and imagination?

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