How Does it Feel to Want?

This is a question I’ve been asked many times, usually by someone punishing me by withholding affection or for seeking it from someone else. It’s easy to shrug off as merely a cruel jab, a rhetorical question not worthy of response. But it’s not that simple.

Because wanting can actually feel pretty good. It gives you energy. It’s motivating. It makes you feel alive. Certainly, it’s better than having and not wanting, which can inculcate ennui and a kind of deadness, the dreaded “sad satiety.” A sense of being trapped by what you thought you wanted, but which weighs on you once you have it.

“The honey doesn’t taste so good once it has been eaten; the goal doesn’t mean so much once it has been reached; the reward is not so rewarding once it has been given… What could we call the moment before we eat the honey? Some call it anticipation, but we think it’s more than that. We could call it awareness. It is when we become happy and realize it, if only for an instant.”

—From “The Tao of Pooh,” by Benjamin Hoff

Wanting but not having vs. having but not wanting: yeah, it’s a little abstract. A better subject for beer talk than charting a life course. But what of love? [Insert screech of tires under hard cornering.] Is it better to love (to want), or to be loved (to have)? We all want to be loved. It’s safe and easy. It feels good, if you don’t think too hard about it. But you don’t have to read the Bible to know that it’s better to give than to receive. To love another is to get beyond yourself.

How does it feel to love? Electric, scary, intoxicating. Love persists, requited or not. Love is risky and it can hurt; it can list to one side or the other, but it tends to right itself. It can waver, but if it turns to hate, it was never love in the first place.

All well and good, but the cruel irony is this: to love may be better, but you can’t make it happen. It comes to you, as a gift. You can’t choose who to love. You can, however, choose who to leave, when having becomes a burden you no longer want to bear.

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