This article originally appeared on Graeme Seabrook’s website.
“You can pay now, or you can pay later,” my therapist says that to me. A LOT. I’m the type of person who sees my needs as inconveniences, and my wants as things I must earn. And so I push, and hustle, and push some more until eventually I break.
Because I’m human and—as much as I’d like to—I can’t just push past the things I need without eventually paying for it.
And so I’ve been working, for years, simply on noticing the things I need and saying them out loud. Sometimes that’s all the impetus it takes for me to actually fulfill my needs. When you hear yourself saying, “I need to eat lunch” over and over, eventually you open the fridge.
But what about the things I want?
That word is so loaded for me. WANT. It’s frivolous. Selfish. Decadent and wrong and illicit. It’s for other people. It’s for children.
I think it might be my next tattoo.
There are things that moms are supposed to want: for our children to be happy and healthy, to get good grades, to be good friends, and for them to ever, EVER actually listen to a word we say.
What if I want rest and peace and soft blankets and dark rooms and quiet music and deep baths?
But what if I want to sleep in? And not just to sleep in, but to sleep all day? What if I want a day off? Or a day off REGULARLY? What if I want rest and peace and soft blankets and dark rooms and quiet music and deep baths?
What if I want to read a book for fun and not to learn anything?
What if I want to have a sleepover with my friends and eat chocolate chip cookie dough and pizza and watch a ridiculous movie and giggle like we haven’t since we were young?
There’s the rub, for me. Wanting is scandalous enough, but wanting something freely, wanting without offering anything in return, wanting without achievement first – that is sacrilege.
I have been in a battle with my hormones ever since I turned forty earlier this year and the progesterone in my system decided to pack up and walk off the job. For me this has meant near-crippling anxiety, daily panic attacks, insomnia, and nightmares. I have a fantastic doctor who has been helping me regulate this, but it’s a process. Most of the time, now, I’m good. But last week was a shit-show.
I had night after night of nightmares, which led to insomnia, which led to panic attacks and highly anxious days. Sunday night was more painful than I can explain here. On Monday morning when I saw how full my calendar was for Tuesday through Saturday, I made a radical decision. I took the day off. Totally and completely off.
I got back in bed, watched Netflix, dozed. When the nightmares came back I took a THC/CBD gummy in the hopes that I could sleep through them or just not have them. Every decision I made was in the interest of my own comfort.
“Every decision I made was in the interest of my own comfort.”
As I started to feel better, the guilt and shame crept in. How dare I enjoy any of this? I beat it back by reminding myself that I was doing this today so that I could work for the rest of the week. And then I paused and wondered – what the hell is so wrong with just wanting things?
Yes, I needed to get my sleep back on track and my anxiety under control so that I could work the rest of the week. And also – why did I feel the need to rationalize wanting a break? Why did I have to justify wanting to spend a day in bed with things that make me feel good?
Isn’t is human to want comfort? If so, why does shame lie?
Isn’t it human to want? So why is shame telling me otherwise?
My son is six and he struggles with anxiety. Part of how it manifests is in him hinting about the things he wants instead of asking. I remind him daily, “Ask for what you want, kiddo, just ask”.
I never, ever shame him for wanting. So why do I shame myself?
“Maybe I should offer myself the same compassion and grace I offer my children.”
My daughter will be four next month. When she wants something and we say no she’ll reply with, “But pweeeeease! I WANT IT!” – as if the problem lies in us not understanding the depth of her desire. I usually reply with, “I know that you want ________, but my answer is no because ___________”. I know that acknowledging her wants is so important. A few weeks ago she broke down crying because she’s three and can’t understand that simply wanting isn’t enough to change my mind about whether or not it’s safe for her to climb to the top of the refrigerator. I held her while she raged at me and cried and I said, “It’s hard to want things, huh? I’m so sorry it hurts”.
I really should stop making tiny copies of myself.
Or maybe I should offer myself the same compassion and grace I offer my children. I give them the things and experiences that they want when I can. I don’t ask them to justify their desires.
Isn’t it human to want?
My wants and desires are valid no matter how frivolous they may seem.
My wants and desires are valid even if they cannot be fulfilled now (or ever).
My wants and desires are valid.
I AM ALLOWED TO WANT THINGS.
And so are you.