June 29, 2015

The Thing You Crave the Most

Cravings are strange. I'm sure there's probably lots of scientific research behind them, none of which I'm going to mention here, but if you Google "Science of cravings" you can find approximately 1,280,000 results on the subject. So there's that.

The other night my family went out to a restaurant where we've eaten for years. It's known for its seafood, but for some reason as I read over the menu, I felt like I was craving the vegetable lasagna. Even as I had the thought, another thought came to me that I probably shouldn't order lasagna at a restaurant known for its seafood...as if there were some sort of restaurant police that might not approve my decision.

Oh those darned shoulds and should nots. Why do they always rear their ugly heads? I'm not talking about a feeling in your heart that is leading you in one direction or another. I'm referring to those feelings that come based on nothing more than some abstract idea of "the right thing" to do. Why is it so hard to follow the truest desire of our heart (which seems like the most natural thing to do) and yet so easy to follow someone else's idea of what's right for us (often white knuckling our way through it, by gosh!)?

Math has never been my strong-suit, but one strategy I used as a kid to complete challenging math homework was to first think of the most basic thing I knew to be true and work my way forward from there.

Perhaps that same method could be applied in other areas of life?

When faced with a challenge where the answer doesn't seem clear, why not start at the very beginning and work your way forward from there?

What is the most basic thing you know to be true? That you're loved. That you have value. That how you feel matters. That your life has meaning, significance and purpose.

Brings a certain kind of peace, doesn't it? From this place, it's much easier to listen to your heart rather than force yourself kicking and screaming towards some reality that doesn't really serve you.

Sometimes the thing we think we crave isn't really what we want anyway. When my southern beau and I were engaged and preparing for our wedding, we created a gift registry at a local department store. As I walked around the store with that little scanner gun in my hands, I found myself scanning all sorts of things as he looked on in amusement. Finally, he asked "do we really need that many dishes?"

It wasn't until much later that I realized what I was doing. I was trying to satisfy a craving in the only way I knew how. But what exactly was I craving? Community. Somehow I believed that by having lots of dishes and serving pieces in my kitchen arsenal, I would naturally create a sense of community and a reason to invite others into our home. But all these years leading up to the wedding, I've had other dishes to speak of. And the number of times I've hosted parties or events at my home is disappointingly small. And yet my craving for community is no less great.

So where's the disconnect? Once again, all I can do is start at the beginning and think of the most basic thing I know to be true. I crave community. That place where true connection happens, where we can be our real selves, where burdens are shared and spirits are lifted just by being together.

Now, what can I do to create more of that? It's more of a rhetorical question I guess, but one I'm going to ponder and then act on.

That leaves me with this question for you. What do you crave most? What is the most basic thing you want out of this life? And what steps can you take to move toward that thing, rather than away from it? I don't have the answers, just like with all those math problems that stumped me from seventh grade pre-algebra. But I know what I know. And that's a pretty good place to start.