I’ve spent my entire life, since I admitted I like girls (pivoting from my original position of thinking they were gross), seeking the woman of my dreams. Maybe it’s because I’ve eaten and swallowed this western idea of romance, or maybe, it’s because I’m ridiculously sentimental, even though it stands in direct opposition to my Zen aspirations. But in either case, I’ve been on this quest to find a woman, who lifted me up, who challenged me, and with whom I could build a life.
Recently, I met this kind of woman. She’s breathtakingly beautiful, clever, ambitious, perceptive, powerful, kind, and the perfect mix of frustratingly and tantalizingly mysterious. In a word, she’s the woman I felt like I’ve spent my whole life searching for, and yet, here I am just a couple of months into our relationship, a relationship hard fought across distance and circumstance and I find myself forgetting.
I forget how unbelievably lucky I am to have found someone, who can play at the depths I love to call my home. I forget how lucky I am that a woman, as beautiful as her, would be attracted to a not bad looking, but handsome in kind of an ordinary way, man like me. I forget how lucky I am to find someone I can partner with, not just in romance, but business, spirituality, and creativity. Here I am, having finally stumbled across something I’ve sought for so long, and still, I can’t help but forget. I can’t help but get wrapped up in my own stories of how it should be or how I wish she were different, how I wish she came with leather seats and air conditioning, with a little bit easier to use control panel.
Now I could beat myself up about this. I certainly have in late night moments, after I’ve proclaimed my desires for her to change in a plaintive tone I know all too well. But the truth is, we all do this. We all forget. It doesn’t matter how high you go, how beautiful or amazing your partner is, how many books you’ve had published, or countries you conquer, forgetting is our nature.
As a species, we are driven to seek better. It’s what drove us from the safety of the jungle trees to the savannah, where our bi-pedal nature and insane levels of endurance gave us a distinct advantage over almost every other creature. Our desire constantly to improve is the reason we gained the ability to consider our own nature and because vessels that could inhabit and incubate amazing artistic and spiritual experiences. And it is also this desire to become more, that lies at the very heart of our suffering.
The reason you find yourself strangely unsatisfied in your home, your job, and your marriage isn’t because something is wrong with any of these things or even you. It’s simply because the desire that leads us to wake up to ourselves, is also the desire that lulls us into sleep. Desire is a universal adapter for progress, and it doesn’t care if that progress is towards the lofty aspirations of human rights or the worldly aspirations for a new pair of shoes. The problem isn’t that we have desire; the problem is that we forget how to apply it.
Instead of taming the beast and directing it towards the things that make us and the world better, we allow it to run roughshod over our lives. And soon, we wake up in a moment, complaining about how our beautiful one bedroom apartments don’t have enough a/c or that our partners are a little too much like the ones we fell in love with.
Luckily for you and for me, the solution to this problem is as simple as its cause. To escape the trap of desire and forgetfulness, we must simply accept and remember.
We must accept that desire has no bounds, and it will always seek the better, the cooler, the fancier. We must realize desire left unattended will uproot the most solid tree and undermine our most meaningful relationships. We must see this and learn to laugh at desire, to see the pure folly of its endless quest to improve upon the Sistine chapels of our lives.
Then, we must encourage it to look for the right places to do its work. For me, this is improving my ability for compassion, my deep feeling of wisdom, and my craft of helping others to wake up to the same sleepiness I nod off to every day.
After that, we must remember. We must remember how lucky we are. We need to stand at the doorway of our lover’s rooms in the morning, before they are awake to the world. We must look at them in their quiet sleeping beauty and love all the things that bother us. We must remember it is all of these little peculiarities, these little foibles, that made them so lovely in the first place. We must remember that these breathtaking creatures do the same for us all the time. We must remember how lucky we are to have found them in a vast ocean of people even worst suited to us. We must remember how impossible to live with we must seem, at times, and feel the deep gratitude of remembering how blessed we truly are.
And we can’t stop there. We must do the same with our children, our jobs, our writing, our parents, our homes, almost anything and everything we have.
Even if the things in our life must change, these things, as they are now, are a silent and subtle blessing. They are our teachers and temple.
Which is why we must remember that forgetting is normal. So normal, we must learn to laugh and love our nature to forget. And then, in the next breath, remember again all the love we’ve lost track of. This is the secret to lasting happiness and to the pursuit of what we already have.