I want what I want when I want it. When this refrain buzzes in my mind, I quickly walk to the other side of the street to avoid it. This kind of contemplation is bad for the soul and dangerous for the psyche. Why dangerous? Because many of us only think we know what we want, and the rest of us have no bloody clue. But we won’t admit that we don’t know, not even to ourselves, and thus we pursue our “dreams” to extremes, convinced we must attain them or be miserable and unfulfilled. What a sad mess.
Why am I thinking about these potential tragedies? Because, as I discussed in my last post, I’ve been contemplating the content of my favorite paranormal HEAs. And I think I’ve discovered a common theme among them: every one of my favorite female characters ends up with an HEA that is significantly different from what she thought she wanted. Mac Lane begins her story hoping for a white picket fence and a genteel southern life complete with a husband and children. Sookie Stackhouse thinks she wants a nice Civil War vampire to have and to hold. Pia Giovanni just wants to hide and live out her life as anonymously as possible. Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. But in each of these cases, the authors—Karen Marie Moning, Charlaine Harris, and Thea Harrison, respectively, take their heroines on a journey of discovery about what they truly desire. Turns out, the truth does not match the fantasy for any of these fictional heroines.
I’m convinced that life imitates art in this instance: I’m predictably similar as so many of us when I say that the pursuit of what I thought I wanted didn’t get me where I truly longed to be. In the end, I spent too much time listening to what my parents told me I wanted, what the media told me I needed for fulfillment and what Madison Avenue insisted I needed to be happy. I think most of us let others dictate our desires, and then we are lost and confused when we’re not as content as we were assured we’d be, if only we could get all those things we’re told to seek.
It’s quite the letdown when all that we ever thought we wanted is finally in our grasp and we still feel flat and numb—like someone spiked our celebratory champagne with Novocaine. We got the big diamond, large house, and the impressive title while maintaining a small waist, maybe even after a pregnancy or two. We worked and we schemed and we prayed and we bargained. And we made it, by God, we made it.
So now what? Nirvana, bliss, the Golden Ticket, you name it, it’s ours for the taking. Except it’s not.
What happens when all of that fails to fulfill? Then what? Some of us refuse to acknowledge our empty reality and pretend to be satisfied with the trappings of ostensible happiness. We become plastic people with rictus smiles, reflecting the dead feelings inside us. Others among us decide that we need to fix ourselves, and quickly, because the only explanation for not being happy with what is certainly making everyone else envious is that we are majorly damaged and in need of some serious psychological counseling. Misguided thinking for sure, but it keeps the therapists in business.
And then there are those poor souls who somehow don’t get what they thought they wanted, and so spend their precious time pining for things that are not to be. I know a woman who wanted children desperately, but married too late to have them and then could not get past it, despite valiant efforts to convince herself and others to the contrary. She reveres all mothers, and is convinced her life is just not what it could have been. This is true. But it’s also true that she could have given birth to a child with developmental challenges, like one of my friends, or lost a child like another. These two mothers might sometimes envy my bereft, childless acquaintance.
We use the failure to acquire that which we think we desire as an excuse for compulsions, mediocrity, underachievement, loveless marriages, immoral and unethical behavior, sloth and procrastination. When we don’t get the clothes, or the guy, or the kids, or the looks, the wealth or the health, then we can absolve ourselves of responsibility for our misery and justify our wallowing in it. I hate when I see that in others. I despair when I realize I’ve done it myself.
So who are the lucky ones in this dismal picture I’ve painted? Well, we have our favorite fictional friends, of course. We have Mac, Sookie and Pia, all of whom are young but wise. They are able to adjust their perceived desires to accommodate the reality that all but bites them in the face. They each realize—over the course of many delicious novels, thankfully—that what they thought they wanted didn’t fit the bill at all. And they were able to shift their perceptions to recognize their dreams and embrace them, finding their HEAs in the process. We can learn a lot from these paranormal people.
As soon as we even suspect that we’ve been chasing the wrong dream, it’s time to make a course correction. Similarly, when it becomes painfully clear that whatever we thought we wanted is definitely beyond our reach, we need to let go of that fantasy and adopt objectives that are more realistic. If we must let go of a dream, by all means, mourn. But then move on. We also need to tune out the cacophony of voices telling us what we want and what we don’t want. Plug your ears and just say “no.” We must take the time to discern what we, ourselves, actually want, no matter that it’s not what others think we should desire or seek to attain. Our true desires are rarely reflected by the two-year-old screeching in our heads, “I want it now!” We need to go below that insatiable inner child to the essential part of ourselves that speaks more softly. She knows what she wants and she knows how to get it – maybe not right now but usually when it’s right.