Tuesday, May 31, 2011

What do you really really really want?

Last week, when chatting with my roommates, one of them shared how she has started to recognize the things that she wants, and her tendency to avoid those things when there wasn't a guarantee of success in order to avoid being disappointed.  Looking at my own life, I saw that this is true for me as well.  I always go for the things that I'm relatively sure will work out.  But are those the things I want?  How do I even learn to see the things I truly want?  I've always tried not to want the things I want, because the more I want them the more I'll be disappointed, so I tell myself that I don't need anything and that I can be happy with whatever.

You see, this has been a question God has been asking me a lot lately.  "What do you want?"  And most of the time my answer is, "I don't know."  And when I do decide I want something, how do I know whether this is a desire of my heart according to how I have been made, or merely a product of fear or selfishness?  

Regardless, any revelation is only information unless it is transformed into action in one's life.  So I decided to start with something small.  I want a cat.  I've wanted a cat of my own ever since I moved away from home 10 years ago.  Somehow, circumstances were always against me, and I kept putting it off.  But now, newly determined to chase after this dream, I set to work.

I was actually very surprised at how easily my roommates agreed to this plan.  My landlord was not enthusiastic about the idea, but seemed as though she could be convinced.  I decided that an adult cat would be best, and scoured craigslist to find a suitable kitty.

Before I knew it, I was driving home with Kitty, complete with her food, toys, and automated self-cleaning litterbox.  All free to a good home where kitty would be loved.  The owners and I agreed on a one week trial period, since there were a few potential obstacles to Kitty being happy here.  The first being this:

Meet Chopper, my roommate's Boston Terrier.  He's a cheery little guy who is content as long as he can be around his people.  We weren't sure how Kitty would react to him, and at the beginning it was all growls and hisses from her, and whimpering and shaking from him.  However, after a while they seemed to become somewhat indifferent to each other.  First hurdle passed!

The second trial was that of allergies.  Would Kitty prove too allergen-producing for another of my roommates who has a mild cat allergy?  After a few days of watching, it seemed she was fine.  Second hurdle passed!

The third trial was that of Kitty's consideration of the property.  Would she pull up the carpet, scratch the hardwood floors, or pee outside her litterbox?  Because that would give her an immediate eviction from the landlord.  Once again, Kitty passes with flying colours.

Fourth hurdle is that of the unknown.  That which cannot be predicted.  Kitty developed an obsession with the outdoors.  She meows at both the front and back door when anyone is nearby there, and tries to sneak out at every opportunity.  Last night she succeeded and disappeared, frolicking in her freedom for a good two hours before coming back home.  This, unfortunately, is a deal-breaker.  My house is on a very busy intersection with heavy traffic at all times of day.  It wouldn't be long before Kitty's carcass would turn up on the side of the road.  So, she shall now be returned to her owners, who will continue to search for a loving home for her.

There was a day where I was getting depressed and thinking that I shouldn't have gone ahead with this idea in the first place, that it was a stupid idea that was doomed to failure, and that I could have saved myself the disappointment if I'd never gotten my hopes up in the first place.  But, I felt like God was saying that He could handle my disappointment.  That even if things go terribly awry, He still works all those things together for my good.  Typically, in this kind of situation I'd try to convince myself that I hadn't really wanted a cat that much in the first place, so it didn't matter if it didn't get to stay.  And in denying my disappointment, I'd deny God the chance to comfort and heal in this situation.  So I let myself be disappointed.  And I gave that disappointment up to my loving Father, and He in turn gave me peace enough to cover the whole situation.

There's another lesson I've taken away from this experience.  One night at the kitchen table, Zana asked me, "Why do you love cats so much?" There's all the typical answers one might give that I rattled off - they're clean, cute, independent, fuzzy, companionable - but the question stuck with me over the next few days.  In observing Kitty around my roommates, I finally put my finger on the answer.  One of the biggest reasons I love cats is because my family loves them too, and growing up that was something we shared together.  Anytime the cats did something cute or funny, we'd run to tell each other, and laugh about it together.  It brought us closer together, and joy shared is joy magnified.

I have decided to abandon the quest for a kitty at this juncture.  Not because of logistics, but because my roommates are just not really into cats.  They tolerated Kitty just fine, but in the words of Pastor Steve, "Toleration is a passive form of rejection."  It was a little bit painful to me to see Kitty being rejected by my roommates whom I love.  My happiness is having Kitty here was only the small happiness of my own self, lacking the magnification of having others to share it with.  Kitty has helped me to see that the true origin of my desire for a cat lies in the desire for greater connection with those I share my home with.  

I'm glad I had Kitty for this week.  I'm glad I took the risk to go for what I wanted, despite the fact that it didn't work out.  I learned a lot that I never would have known otherwise.  And I think this is just a small object lesson for me, that I can now apply to other areas of my life.  I don't want to just take the cautious route of guaranteed success anymore.  Perhaps there's no way to find out exactly what I really want until I just go for something that I think I want, and chase it until the things I truly want become clear. 

So how about you?  What do you really really really want?


Zana said...

Oh Boo! I can't look at your post and comment at the same time :P Oh well ^^ This way will probably keep it succinct.. You know what I really really really want already cause I told you Beloved Sarah, but perhaps I will not announce it to the internet world... I am learning discretion! ^^ I'm sorry it didn't work out with kitty, but we can still grow closer as a community!!! ^^ We can talk to each other about each other more, instead of talking about the kitty! BEhehe ^^ :D <3 \o/

kjlutz said...

Great post Sarah, you always give me so much to think about.
As to what I really really really want, I'm not sure. It's soemthing I have been realizing I need to think about for awhile, I just haven't had the time or headspace to figure it out, and I don't know about you but I often find it hard to seperate other people's desires from my own. I also have trouble being self assured enough to be confident when what I want is different from what others want (either for themselves or what they want from me). How's that for a convoluted answer.

tracy said...

AMAZING ... totally spoke to me... i'm totally like that...avoiding disappointment by not voicing my desires..but wow.. what revelations!!!keep em coming :)

underconstruction said...

I like this post. I think fear of disappointment holds a lot of people back (I know it has for me). As for what I really, etc. want, I've been working on it for the last three years. A better job. Long story short, got my B.S., went for a PhD (afraid to find career), hated that and quit, did very little except drink too much, got a job to pay bills, hated that and quit to go back and get M.S., graduated and now looking for a career in my field. i would say congratulations on trying to realize your dream (big or small) and don't get discouraged by negative results. Continue to take calculated risks and eventually you will find yourself with unforseen dividends. Einstein said "It wouldn't be research if we new what we were doing."

astarcafe@blogspot.com said...

Thank you for your post. I am a total stranger but your post speaks to me of the courage found in everyday life that has us going out to meet life on even terms rather than waiting to see what life will dole out to us. Thank you.