The Gift of Longing.

July 24, 2022

The Gift of Longing.

May 29, 2023

There was a time in my early forties when I once spent the better part of a day shopping for a soap dish and toothbrush holder that would perfectly match the brushed nickel faucets in my newly remodeled spa bathroom. Back then, I was extremely proud of my just-spicy-enough jambalaya and how well it paired with dry Gewurztraminer.

I loved, in no particular order, plug-in vanilla-scented room fresheners, colorful cookbooks with detailed instructions, and dimmer switches.

Cooking and home decor—these things mattered to me, and I compulsively pursued both activities because they resulted in visible proof my life was working. A woman with such perfect throw pillows must have it all together, right?

Oh, how I wish that had been the case.

At some point or another many of us are summoned to cast aside the things we thought were important in order to live a life filled with more meaning and purpose.

The summons, which typically comes after we’ve been a grown-up for a while, a long while in some cases, arrives in many forms. Depression. Rage. Boredom. Career angst. Compulsive decorating. The summons typically comes when we no longer have the energy to pretend our life is great -- Really! Thank you for asking! The summons typically comes when the pain of pretending our life is wonderful has grown larger than the fear of changing our life in an attempt to make it that way. The summons typically comes when the voices that have whispered in our ear for years about who we really are start commanding us to pay attention.

If not now, they insist, then when?

But it’s one thing to hear the summons.

It’s another thing entirely to begin to take full responsibility for all the stories we’ve been telling ourselves about who we are and what we need to feel fulfilled.

And by “we,” of course, I mean “me.”

Longing has been a frequent visitor in my life and often my first reaction to it has been shame. I believed wanting more meant something was wrong with me. That I was somehow deficient, spoiled, ungrateful and misguided. How could I possibly be dissatisfied? I had a nice house, a good education, physical strength, money in the bank.

Shouldn’t I just be grateful for what I’ve got and get over it?

Well, yes… and no.

Of course, I should be grateful. It’s an immense privilege to have the time, space, and security to be able to ask questions about my path in life. Expressing gratitude for that gift is essential, not only because I do live in relative prosperity, but also because gratitude is an effective antidote to pain and fear and rampant self-loathing.

But I’ve also come to realize that ignoring the longing and continuing to live in a way that doesn’t feed my soul would be turning away from the many gifts longing has to offer.

Longing, I’ve learned, compels us to seek an answer to the question, “What am I here for?”

Longing is an invitation to live a life of deeper meaning, passion, and purpose.

Longing is a summons to reconnect with the child within who knew what she wanted out of life.

Longing is not a sign anything is wrong with us, regardless of how we might originally spin it. It’s a not-so-subtle nudge that the life we’ve been living has reached its expiration date. It is a sign that the next chapter of life is ready to be written. Longing is the jumpstart, the motivation, the kick in the pants that will finally cause us to rise from the couch and advocate on behalf of ourselves.

Longing, simply put, is vital to our lives. It causes us to ask what if, why not, and how?

There is only one cure for longing I know of and that is to stop hiding in fear and choose to fully embrace the gifts and wisdom we’ve been given. Just as the cells in our body turn over regularly, there is turnover in the activities that bring us alive. Living a long life fueled by purpose will require all of us to reinvent ourselves periodically. And why shouldn’t we? Even our bones regenerate every ten years.

Shari Caudron is an author, memoir coach and grateful MEA graduate.

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