"When you are discontent, you always want more, more, more. Your desire can never be satisfied. But when you practice contentment, you can say to yourself, 'Oh yes - I already have everything that I really need.'" — Dalai Lama
Like some of the things we registered for when we got married. Would I still register for fine china and crystal if I were to get married today? I don't know. I do know that I don't worry about breaking my glasses from Ikea or my nearly unbreakable-and-cheap-to-replace-even-if-they-do-break Corelle dinner dishes. I don't think I sold any of my wedding gifts in our yard sales, but someday I probably will. I know my parents did when the divested themselves of decades of stuff and moved to Florida.
I have had many tragic cases of the "I-Wants" in my life: that expensive SLR camera I wanted (and never got) as a teen; that 1972 convertible VW bug that I regretted buying almost the minute I pulled it into the driveway; countless fashion faux pas too numerous and embarrassing to list here.
There is certainly a level of peace in giving up many of the greedy "I-Wants" of youth and young adulthood. Aging parents, stiff joints, and vulnerable babies help us trade in some of the tangible things we wanted for the intangible and infinitely more important "I-Wants" of health and happiness. You kind of know that you've grown up when most of your "I-Wants" are for the people you love rather than for yourself.
But is the Dalai Lama right? Do we already have everything that we really need?
I used to think so. I used to think that not wanting was the key to happiness, but I'm not so sure anymore. I still want. Some of my wants are selfish (like a new kitchen, for which I have even created an Dream-Kitchen Pinterest Board). Career success is a big want. And I have all kinds of wants for my kids. There are things I wish I could give them, sure, but more important than things, I wish I could give them peace of mind from some of the stresses in our lives that are not of their doing.
I guess I think that it's not such a bad thing to want. Wanting keeps us busy. Wanting keeps us trying. Wanting keeps us doing the things we have to do, even if we don't necessarily want to do them. But most important, wanting keeps us alive.
My parents are not that old (mid-seventies)—I hope they have many good years ahead of them. Since they left Michigan about eight years ago, I can't tell you how many times I've heard them say "We don't need anything. We don't want anything." Sounds good, right? Not so much.
Some health issues have begun robbing them of the ability to experience joy in life that they used to find in little and big things alike. To enjoy life, you have to want—you have to want to go places and do things and see people. I never in my life struggled to find a gift for my mother that I knew she would like (until recently). She loved presents, and it was a blast to give them to her. Now, she doesn't want anything. For holidays to be fun, you have to want to shop for gifts that your children or grandchildren will love and to love the gifts they have bought or made for you. I see the want slipping away from them and it scares me.
So, I'm going to keep wanting. I want to get healthier and skinnier, so I'm going to keep walking. I want to be more financially secure, so I'm going to keep working. And I want my parents to rediscover that life is worth wanting, so I'm going to be patient, and continue to love them and the life they have given me.