Cezanne's The Nature of Desire, still life with skull painting Writings

The Nature of Desire


Food does not taste so good if I am not hungry. Wanting is part of the delight of being alive. If I drop into my hunger enough to be able to envision what I am craving, I have a chance to feel satisfied and eat a memorable meal. Meat: I am hungry. I want the best meat I know of: Mickelthwaits. Close by, surprisingly affordable for the quality, but often sold out or closed. Available? Eat, feel satisfied for days, even though other sustenance meals are eaten. Not available? tacos, Fresas, perhaps less memorable, but good. That restaurant won’t be there forever, enjoy it. Even better? Eunice cooking wild hog in my kitchen. Even better? that meal in 2002 in France.

Desire is not random. Nothing worth having is random, though chance and showing up is a great part of discovering someone worth desiring. By showing up, I have the chance to connect if I am paying attention. There is a great amount of information about someone in his body language, in the language of his voice, his laughter. I learn what calls to me by feeling desire. I’ve learned that some tragedies are beautiful and I lean into the humanity of compassion, but the bloody aftermath drains my self love. Healing love is not satisfying like the bright light of shared laughter.

I can only heal myself. I can love anyone, everyone, by healing myself. If I am full, there is no limit of what I have to give. Love is regenerative. I heal myself by loving what is unique to me, finishing my thoughts by writing, creating an artwork that I have imagined. Showing up and working in my practice. Embracing what is unique to me without shame.

Here is something beautiful I read recently as the opening sentence in a letter to Dan Savage: “I have recently come into who I want to be in this life and that is myself.” The letter goes on to describe the 20 year-old writer’s heartache that the boy he loves has decided that being gay is not ok. That first sentence is so good. And it will be my daily mantra for a while until I absorb it and move on to some other that satisfies me. What I want is me, fully alive, paying attention, wanting. What is it that is so good that I want more? A glance, a conversation, a dance, kisses, skin, nakedness, intimacy. What leaves me with a memory of unique experience, quality? What was specific to our connection that is not found in another? What are the details that I can perceive at first glance about someone’s vulnerability and confidence that lead to fire, or trust?

As I was telling a friend recently, when I was a young woman I was hit on constantly by men. I had no trust that this was personal, that I was uniquely attractive to them, it felt like daily assault, not appreciation. I was simply petite and blonde and fit their projections. That is the purpose of romance: for a desirer to gain the trust of the desired, to make the sex urge into a song that will get a response. Young women have no reason to trust an impersonal swipe, nor should they. To learn the power of their own selves and beauty is to learn how to say no to anything less than what honors them. But it takes time to trust their own taste, to sample, to learn what songs uniquely satisfy, and what to listen for. And surely that is more satisfying to a man also, to feel desired in return?

But having lived through my raw youth, romance seems like another tv commercial to get me to buy something I don’t need. It is persuasion. I’d much rather ask in kindness for what I want and have another person enjoy that request, whether or not they can give it. I trust much more someone who speaks his truth without an attempt to please me, or pander. Let me decide if what he is offering is what I want. Let me have my own power in my response.

All the happiness studies find that it is married men who report the most overall happiness. If they are the provider of their families, they have the power. They have a wife to plan, nurture and care for them and their offspring. If it satisfied me to exploit someone, I would want a wife too. If it satisfied me to exploit a man for the pay of his labor, I would marry for money. Instead, I have friends. We mutually meet each others’ emotional needs, companionate needs, and need for shared resources. We operate on the barter system and the gift economy.

By loving myself without judgment and giving my best to my family and friends, I am free to enjoy my hungers, desires, and tastes that make daily life full of beautiful delicacies. The fatness of bacon at breakfast. My sweat on the dance floor to a brass band. A cold Topo Chico in hot Texas summer. The taste of lemon and salt on his skin. And then wanting it again, the desire for more of that. That specific thing, that perfection.

Mortality makes me urgent for these flavors. Time is marking our chances for experience. We will be dead soon enough. The angle of the sun hits us the same way only so many days in a row. Look up each night, the stars in the sky will seem in different places in relation to where we are standing on this moving planet. Paint a still life: it only will look that way so long before the shadows are in a different place, before the fruit rots.

Pay attention to time, to timing. What is in season right now in the place that I am? That peach at the farmer’s market will not be there next week. Eat, enjoy. Let it drip down your fingers. Give one away to a friend.