I live in a constant state of longing, for safety and comfort, for love, for excitement, for satisfaction, for a lot of things. Longing is both the engine that keeps me going, and the pain that keeps me stuck. There are some things that help for a little while, like: chocolate frosting, puppy kisses, therapy. I keep thinking that a publishing contract would help a lot, because I want to know for sure that my books will be published, not to make a million dollars, just to be sure that people will get the chance to read my work. Because one of my biggest longings is to be heard, and understood.
I think that I use the word longing, rather than anticipation, though, because I don’t really believe these needs will ever be filled. I am afraid that I will never get what I want; but I’m also afraid that I will get what I want, and it will disappoint me, or overwhelm me. I’m often longing for things I’ve never had, rather than things I’ve had in the past, and maybe that’s why it feels like the longing is hopeless.
Longing for things is an intense feeling, it’s not like wanting, or appreciating, or expecting; it’s painful and has a doomed, melodramatic feel to it. There’s a push pull in longing, a sense of opposites fighting it out; I long for food and weight loss, companionship and time alone, work and rest. Longing feels like keening sounds, as if there’s a wounded animal trapped in my chest. Which, I guess, there is.
Longing isn’t like liking. I like Caesar salad, or PB&J sandwiches, or lentil soup, but I long for a chocolate sundae with whipped cream and chocolate fudge. Longing has a level of guilt to it as well, and density, and overwhelming-ness. Longing doesn’t really lend itself to a happy-go-lucky life where you can take or leave things and just accept your lot in life.
Longing implies that there is something so much better out there, so much more satisfying, and that it is worth trekking through mountains, and ice, and fire to get to it. It implies desperation. I feel like that describes me too well, because I don’t know how to seek and accept the B+ version of my life. I’d almost rather suffer, and fail to reach my goals, than accept a life I haven’t been longing for.
I’ve worked hard to change this; to accept that most experiences will be mixed, and that very few will feel wholly satisfying. But, sometimes, I think my longing acts as a safeguard, a way to keep me from accepting things that I won’t be able to live with long term. A voice in my head is always looking around and saying, I don’t know what I do want, but I know I don’t want that.
When I watch Cricket and Ellie’s excitement – at going out for a walk, eating chicken, playing with a toy – I want to feel like that. I like spending time with the dogs, I even love it, but I long to have Butterfly back. I like doing jigsaw puzzles, and eating cherries (though the season is clearly over and the crispy, sweet, juicy cherries have been replaced with zombie cherries, and the thrill is gone), but I long for the chance to feel healthy enough to go for a run, and actually run full out.
Maybe I just long to be Cricket, instead of just being around her. I long to feel joy with the intensity that she feels it: ears flying in the wind, every thought absent except, “I’m flying!!!!!”
(I wouldn’t want to eat chicken treats, though. They seem like they’d be very hard to chew.)