When I saw this week's theme, I tried to come up with something funny to say about it, because I always try to be funny around here. I'm the official Pain In The Ass for OGG, remember? But instead of funny, I kept coming back to the same thing over and over and over. And that is...
This may sound strange coming from an erotica writer, but I have never gotten any joy out of lust. I have wanted things so badly it hurt, and ended up feeling inadequate, hollow, even worthless. Lust is just not a feeling that works well for me.
As a teen, I can recall going shopping and lusting after fashionable but over-priced clothing that I couldn't afford. There was nothing wrong with the clothing I had; it just wasn't the latest fashion. But because I wanted those Izod shirts or Gloria Vanderbilt jeans so badly, I felt dowdy when I went to school and saw others wearing them. Pretty stupid, huh? But it gets worse. I'd see girls with boyfriends I wanted, guys on the football team who were hot and popular and would never give me a second glance, let alone treat me nice if they did notice me. I'd see kids with fancy new cars I wanted and I'd look at my trusty old VW bus with absolute disdain. Worst of all, I'd read tabloid magazines and lust for the lives that celebrities lead, and I'd be left feeling absolutely miserable because I wasn't a famous pop star or teen actor.
My teen years were consumed with lust for things that I could never have, and as I result I had a miserable time. Unfortunately, this lust for things that would always be out of my reach lasted well into my twenties. And those lusts became more ridiculous and more frustrating as I got older. Because I always wanted things so badly, I had to have them right now! I wanted to be famous -- TODAY! I wanted to be runway model thin -- IMMEDIATELY! I wanted to have written the breakout novel -- YESTERDAY!! I couldn't wait to accomplish something, thus I never put together a plan to make something happen because planning took too long to do, and forget about even trying to follow a plan.
Sad to say, if I had planned, if I had worked on some of those goals a little at a time, I could have accomplished some amazing things. Instead, I just chased after a lot of ambitious wet dreams haphazardly and got nowhere in the process. I lusted... and I lost out.
It's not all bad though. Over the years, I came to realize what was going on. Because I hated the way I felt when I lusted and obsessed over things, I started to avoid the things I lusted and obsessed over. I could never have the celebrity lifestyle, so I quit wasting money on tabloid magazines (it was amazing how much money I saved). I could have the overpriced designer clothing, so I concentrated on buying what I could afford and over time developed my very own unique sense of style. You will never mistake me for a runway model, but you won't want to gouge out your eyes when you see me either.
Perhaps most importantly, I quit lusting after guys who would never give me a second glance, and if they did, would never treat me right. After a string of lousy boyfriends and even worse unrequited crushes, I gave up on dating entirely and focused on spending time with friends I enjoyed.
And miracle of miracles, about a year after I did that, I met my husband.
I don't think I would have met Michael if I had still been busy chasing after all that stuff I lusted after. I had to stand still for a while, and just learn to be happy with what I had. I had to learn to be happy with me. By standing still, I was finally able to open my eyes and see what I actually had, and realize that my life was pretty good, even if I wasn't a celebrity with an overpriced wardrobe and a super-famous boyfriend. I was able to see what was right in front of me, easily within reach and ready for me to enjoy.
In Buddhism, there is a concept known as 'the hungry ghost.' The hungry ghost is one of the six realms on the wheel of life, a state of being that people may go through in life. The hungry ghosts are presented as creatures with huge, bloated stomachs but incredibly small mouths and necks. They can never eat enough to fill their enormous bellies, and thus walk around in a constant state of craving, unable to find contentment. This happens in real life when people get into the habit of wanting and craving that which they either can't have or don't need. It's a state that describes many years of my life perfectly.
Contentment is often undervalued, yet I've found contentment to be by far preferable to lust. It took me a while to get to this point, to realize that I don't need to look beyond my own backyard for what I need to be happy. These days, I crave a hot cup of tea, a good book, and a comfy chair to curl up in. I long for evenings alone with my staid, engineer husband (who is also comfy and fun to curl up with). I revel in the small things, and I've never felt better.
I've also never been more productive. I write a story a week, I've published two books, I get invited to participate in anthologies, I'm asked to be a guest at conventions. It's all because I finally quit wanting things right here, right now, and started working on stuff a little bit at a time. The novel doesn't have to be written all in one day. I can write 500 words now, and 500 words tomorrow, and in a year it'll be done. Same with everything else. I can take my time, I can follow a plan, I can wait. Eventually, I'll be a success.
And I'll be happier along the way.