The Sweetness of Not Getting What We Want When We Want It

Fleshy Wonderfulness

I can’t get enough.  Images of those round, fleshy, rosy orbs of sweetness hover at the edge of my mind and nibble away at my crave center, refusing to leave me in peace. Despite all of first lady Eve’s considerable charms I would bet Adam was never tempted in the way that I am on a daily basis to give in to the temptation to fondle one again and again, even if for just a few stolen moments, and to drink in the scent and sigh from the pleasure of the sweetness that emanates from within.  Big ones, small ones, perfectly round or more likely wonderfully and originally imperfect – I love them alllllll.  Twice a day I allow myself to indulge in partaking of my obsession.  Yes, I’m talking about apples my friends.  “What gives?” you might ask yourself.   They are just apples.  A popular fruit – universally tasty even to the notoriously fussy palates of one billion four year olds.  Why the special status?  Why all the fuss?  It’s really quite simple.  I too took them for granted, until one day, many years ago, I couldn’t have them anymore.  When I was about 14 I suddenly developed what was termed by my allergist  “oral intolerances” to many fruits, vegetables and nuts and my beloved apples were amongst the forbidden fruits.  Until this year, I couldn’t eat any of those things – and now suddenly, at the age of (ahem) 45, I am cured.  I had continued to test things out each year to see if perhaps things had changed and I was always disappointed – until this year.  It seems that I have been rewarded for my patience – that and my beginning to drink fresh green juices some months ago.  I am attributing all good things to that whether it is true or not because I want everyone else to join me – that, and the fact that I can find no other reasonable explanation.

My recent love affair with apples (yes, I’m three months in and my ardor hasn’t cooled yet) has made me think about the benefits of not always getting what you want exactly when you want it.  I think most of us probably go through our lives shaking our internal fists at all of those things that block us from getting what we want, but none of us ever really sit down and think about what life would really be like if we got everything that we wanted exactly when we wanted it.  Would it really be better – or is the striving for what we want, the journey, also of value – perhaps even of greater value than the having at times?  I never thought about apples, or craved them, until I couldn’t have them.  There is definitely something to be said for the utter sweetness of delayed gratification, and also perhaps for the heartbreak of non-gratification of our wants and desires.

I like to imagine myself as an old world Queen sometimes (o.k. – confession, I often imagine this, and I have the most glorious crown!) and I wonder what I would do with my power.  What if I had the power to smite all those that displeased me and reward all those that curried favor?  Would it really be the best thing for me to be surrounded only by those that pleased me at all times?  What would I learn from that kind of life?  Wouldn’t I just get bored after awhile and behaving oddly just to shake things up a bit?  Or perhaps retreat into my own little world away from reality.  Of course I could make everyone drink green juice, and that would be a good thing, until they rose up against me of course, waving their donuts in the air menacingly.  Oh no, not the donuts!

Think about all of the books that you have read and films that you have seen.  Would any of them interest you if the characters just sat around getting everything that they wanted when they wanted it?  You want love – here it is!  You want to achieve world peace – not a problem.  You want to consume a delicious meal – here is one ready made for you.  A child – poof, here are two.  A house in the Hamptons – why not have a big one while we are at it.  A successful career – voila.  You want to be a great writer – you are now a great writer.  No one would get to page fifty of a book like that – unless there was also some conflict.  Conflict – the blocking of what we want – is what makes stories interesting and our lives are the greatest stories we will ever tell in our time here on earth.  Of course no one would want to read a book or see a movie about characters that never get anything that they want either – so that is where the appreciation of delayed gratification comes in – and it is the delay that makes finally getting what we want so delectable.

Think about the path your life has taken, and all the turns you have had to take because something you wanted couldn’t be for some reason or another.  When I do so I realize that there truly always has been another door that opened when one closed.  So today let us raise a glass (or a fruit of your choice) and celebrate all the irritating little quirks that our bodies come up with (trust me, these will increase with age), all of the failures that we have experienced, all of the doors that have closed, and all of the times that we didn’t get what we wanted when we wanted it – and know that somehow other moments of our lives have been made so much the sweeter because of them.

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12 thoughts on “The Sweetness of Not Getting What We Want When We Want It

  1. I too think that the struggle in trying to achieve something is part of the sweetness of success when (and if) it happens. It’s like all the time you spend trying something is practice for becoming the person who will eventually be able to do it. But what happens when you can’t practice? Were the years of apple deprivation worth the fervour you experience now while eating them? Maybe. I lost the ability to eat dairy last year and really, really, really miss ice cream, pizza, cheese on my pasta. Perhaps one day, far in the future, I will be able to eat these things again but will look back and feel gratitude for what their absence did for my waistline. I’m glad for us both though that the only thing we’re missing out on is culinary… I’m not sure I’d feel the same if I were missing out on life.

    Hope your gala return to the pink ladies continues to be red delicious! Mmmm!

    • Aaaaaaaaah, no ice cream? Ever? Actually I recommend Tofuti as an alternative – still very yummy and although it has a lame name it is decidedly dairy free. And Whole Foods has some delicious non-dairy ice cream type bars made with coconut milk – very creamy and yummy. Nothing I can recommend for the cheese though – every vegan cheese I have ever tried was, at best, vile 🙂 You can do something fancy with nutritional yeast that makes a kind of parmesan-y creamy sauce on pasta though. Ah, as you can see you shouldn’t get me started on the vegetarian/vegan end of things. I just go on and on. Please let me know if you want me to send you the links to some of my propaganda. Actually I will make a plug for the documentary “Forks Over Knives” – if you see it you might see your inability to eat dairy as a gift from the gods. Maybe you will still just want some brie.

      I have to say that for me this special sweetness of not getting what I want does extend (most of the time, when I’ve had time to rant and calm down a bit) to the rest of my life – even to the big things, and even when I am in the midst of not getting what I want. I have experienced that bad things can eventually turn into good and good into bad, so I tend to ride out the bad by asking where this could possibly take me and what might be the benefit. I’m not always satisfied with the result, but I have found that other doors do always open. While I’m waiting I now eat apples (Pink lady’s are my favorites – how did you know?:))

      I have to say that

  2. Such an interesting take on conflict, on desire for something that’s out of reach.

    I do agree that in my life, every time a door has closed, a window has opened, and I’ve discovered that in retrospect, what I thought I wanted may not have been the best thing for me after all. And I do find that struggle has helped me to appreciate the sweet things in life where once I might have taken them for granted. So here’s to you and your apples, and not always getting everything you want!

    • Dear BH – may a window open wide for every door that closes for you! I raise my apple in celebration of the open window you have recently gone through – and thank the gods for closing the doors that came before 🙂

  3. Such a great perspective to have, especially when it’s so easy to get caught up in the “buy buy buy!” mentality that seems to be everywhere these days. Thanks for the reminder!

    • Thanks for your comment a m b. It is a constant struggle to fight against the “why wait if you can have it now” ploy of the advertisers isn’t it? It is so tempting to give in and live your whole life accordingly. Sometimes I give in to it – buy the boots, have a hissy about the lack of advancement in some wish of mine, but less all the time. I just might figure this out this life thing – just need another 50 years or so and I’m sure I’ll be there 🙂

      I checked out your blog by the way and will be happily visiting again …. I’m a big nerdy word lover myself – and always love to chat with others with the same inclination.

  4. First. Pink Lady’s are my favorite too. Second, I had a friend in the Phillipines once who told me that apples were especially treasured because they didn’t grow there and were only given out at Christmas. For me, who grew up with only apples in the Alberta supermarket half the year, it sounded so crazy.

    Third, I admit I had a mixed reaction to the idea of how not getting what we want makes getting it sweeter. It’s not that I disagree per se, but I think the idea has it’s limits. My husband once said, there is never an excuse for suffering, and I agree with that. On the other hand, I have seen a lot of people who have always got what they want, too easily, who don’t appreciate what goes into the getting, who have no clear idea of the struggles of the world. And last, I have never felt the getting was easy, and the one thing I wanted took years to get. Does it make it sweeter? Yes and no. Will I be more grateful? Perhaps, even though I should have been grateful either way. Did it make all those years worth it? No.

    Of course, there are those who get what they want and are able to be grateful either way. And to those who can be grateful without the punishment of being blocked, I commend them.

    For me, it’s not about not getting what we want, but not taking what we want for granted. Delayed gratification has its limits. But the effort in the getting, the reward, the appreciation, and the gift of it, absolutely!

    Alas, I still take the apple for granted.

    PS- have you tried a honeycrisp apple? gorgeous.

    • BeZ, as always, your supreme honesty is so utterly refreshing. I do agree that, as BC suggests, delayed gratification can often come with a new sense of gratitude– of course. I do also completely agree with J that there is no excuse for suffering. That is not to say that suffering, at times, happens– but I do recoil from the idea that there is ever a ‘reason’ for suffering. Perhaps I’ve become over-sensitive by hearing too many terrible things explained away as being part of a bigger plan that we may one day understand. I suppose I am of the camp that needs room for frustration and even anger (after many many years of holding those emotions down and away) that doesn’t negate gratitude and appreciation, that can exist but not evolve into resentment, and that doesn’t get in the way of forward momentum, that doesn’t take away from other beauties of the moment. In the case of BC’s apple, I suppose I would need to give myself room to be utterly pissed that I hadn’t been able to eat an apple for so many years AND be entirely grateful for the sweetness of the pink lady in the moment. Perhaps this is the Gemini in me.

      Also, BC: I am just SO glad that you have a glorious crown in your imagination!

      • Thanks for your thoughtful comments La Z, I will draw you all a picture of my crown one day 🙂

        I agree, I don’t think there is a reason for bad things happening to good people (or even bad people for that matter). I tend to believe it is all fairly random, and sometimes I am overwhelmed by that thought. But I guess I am talking more about the choice involved in “suffering” – although living in the first world I feel a bit guilty in even using that word. If I am able to embrace not getting what I want when I want it as an opportunity to learn something then I am in fact taking the power back from that randomness of life and thus relieving any suffering I might feel.

        I agree that frustration and anger are all human emotions that also teach us something, and I do believe we should all be free to go there from time to time (there is a real power to anger sometimes) – but it has been my experience that those emotions are also limited in their usefulness if I stay there too long.

    • An interesting response as always BZ. I haven’t seen the honeycrisp apple here yet … I shall keep my eyes peeled and my apple peeler at the ready 🙂

      I knew that suggesting that not getting what we want might be of value would be a catalyst for a good conversation. I don’t believe that most of us are taught this concept. I wasn’t taught it, but I am just beginning to embrace the notion. It is changing who I am – I hope for the better.

  5. I have been thinking about this post all week as I have madly picked and juiced and mashed and eaten far too many apples. I have a few thoughts about not getting what you want . First, I am the kid who ate the marshmallow. I have no use for delayed gratification. I’m not sure later makes things better. It’s the same thing only later. On the other hand, I am also a mother who will not let her daughters get their ears pierced until they are teenagers. Not because I have any moral issue with earrings, I actually think little girls are so cute with earrings but because I want my children to have something to look forward too. If we get everything too soon then the joy we can experience later is gone. Like so much in life maybe this is one of those things where it is OK to contradict myself.

  6. Pingback: Join the Conversation: Is there a dream you will never get to fulfill? | Mother Sugar

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