Ode to Sinéad. Sort of.
Most days the mail routine at our house is on autopilot — pick up at mailbox, drop off at recycling bin — interrupted only to deposit the rare piece of real mail on the kitchen counter.
But last week was different. As I absentmindedly leafed through the back-to-school flyers headed for recycling, it occurred to me that for the first time in nearly 15 years I have no need for school supplies.
Out of nowhere, I am reduced to tears.
It wasn’t supposed to be like this. When I was 12, my friends and I would attach string to a pencil and hold it perfectly still over our wrists to predict the sexes of our unborn children. The pencil would eerily start to move – sideways for a girl; up and down for a boy.
No matter how many times I tried it, my results were the same: girl, boy, girl, boy, girl.
When I gave birth two days before turning 29, I didn’t know my baby’s gender. (Ultrasounds were hard to come by in Midland, Michigan in the early 90s.) I was thrilled to welcome my sweet baby boy, but the 12-year-old in me wondered what had happened to the girl the pencil had predicted. I mentally crossed her off the list. And over the course of several failed pregnancies, a divorce, and nearly 20 years, I crossed the others off the list, too.
I can still remember the first time I saw Sinéad O’Connor on MTV. She was mesmerizing — haunting voice, doe eyes, shaved head. I bought the album, in part because I was intrigued by its title. Although it’s been years since I’ve listened to it (mostly because it’s on cassette), for some reason the title came to mind last week as I stood crying by the recycling bin.
And I can’t stop thinking about what it means.
I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got…
…because I am grateful for what I have. I’ll admit there are times when I do want what I haven’t got. There are goals and dreams I can never accomplish now — and it’s honest and human to mourn them. However it’s also unproductive, and even ungrateful, for me to focus on what I will never have. Not just because I need to make peace with my reality, or because I know life goes so much better when I am grateful even for the hard things, but because I have so much goodness in my life. And it is enough.
…because in some cases, I really wouldn’t want it. A couple years ago, a friend about my age found out she was pregnant. After a difficult pregnancy, her baby was born with a condition that I suspect was already quite enough for her family to handle – and then a few weeks ago that little boy was diagnosed with cancer. My friend’s strength in the face of this adversity is both unwavering and inspiring, and has caused me to wonder if I could muster even a fraction of her courage.
Nearly everyone I know is dealing with something hard — no children; too many children; inability to find work, or love, or healing, or hope. I grieve with them, try to support them, admire their ability to keep going. And even though I believe that trials are an inevitable, and even necessary, part of life, each new story serves as a reminder that sometimes what I think I want isn’t right for me.
…because I don’t want it enough. Yesterday, two incredibly fit women blew past me as I plodded along at my trusty jogging pace. I thought, “I want to look like that,” but didn’t increase my speed. I often say I want some things that are undeniably good — to be more fit, more healthy, a better friend, more productive – and would be within my grasp if I just worked harder at them. Sometimes what I haven’t got is simply because I don’t want it enough. Yet.
Image source: Cover art for I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got