You can’t always get what you want
but if you try sometimes
you just might find
you get what you need.
Mick Jagger in Shoulder Stand. Info & other photos from 1972 tour.
I was probably 15 years old the first time I heard this Rolling Stones song. I remember it pretty clearly, actually, because my dad really made the most of it as it came on the radio, turning up the volume and singing along, lest his (admittedly somewhat spoiled) teenage daughter miss the point. You can’t always get what you want. I wonder what it was that I was wanting then? Boobs, maybe. A new pair of Doc Martens. A more interesting town to live in. Different friends.
So I already knew about the first part of the lesson pretty well, although not-getting didn’t stop me from wanting (most of the time it still doesn’t, really). The second part of the lyric- you know, getting what you need- I “got” on an intellectual level, but isn’t it so much more fun* when you get to really experience life’s wisdom firsthand?
Here’s the story. Things are a little crazy in my life: I’m working for “free” so that I can attend a Buddhist meditation retreat in January- handling inquiries, acting as liaison with the retreat facility, playing with schedules and room charts and all kinds of stuff that doesn’t sound nearly as stressful as it feels. The amount of work has escalated in the last few weeks and I’m feeling completely overwhelmed. Simultaneously, I’m teaching my classes, planning those classes (this takes a lot more time and energy than you might think), assisting with a Teacher Training program, working as a Virtual Assistant, planning workshops for next year… and I decided that I needed to bake cookies for all of my yoga students. Not just any cookies, but fancy yoga pose cookies that would take forever to cut out and be prone to breaking and take hours and hours and hours and then people would say things like, “Oh, you didn’t decorate them?”
And with all of this going on (plus usual daily craziness, PLUS holiday craziness)- I hadn’t been finding time to meditate or practice at all. I would say my yoga mat was gathering dust, but this is Florida, so I’ll say it was growing mildewy in the corner. Sadly, although I teach yoga at least once a day- it doesn’t have the same effect on the teacher as it does on the student.
So that was the state of my mind last Friday afternoon when I decided to lower my stress level by taking several pounds of vegetables to my neighbor’s house. Oh right, the vegetables, forgot to tell you about the vegetables. I belong to a CSA- I get a box of vegetables every two weeks and right now there is no time to cook them (see previous paragraph for excuses). I was feeling stressed out and guilty about the rotting organic produce in my fridge, so I just zipped over to my neighbor’s to deliver some vegetables. Such a great feeling. I felt virtuous, lighter, freer! Ready to tackle the many, many chores still ahead… until…
…I got to my front door and realized that I had locked myself out of my own house. (Now, to forestall my well-wishing friends who will here want to share with me the many reasons that you should have a plan for this sort of thing, and the many brilliant ways they have planned to prevent it from happening to them- thanks guys. I’m well aware. In fact, on my to-do list last week was “make spare house key.”)
You can imagine how I felt. Angry, frustrated, thwarted. I even felt despair. I love my life, but in that moment I longed for something a little more sane.
I trudged back to my neighbor’s house to use her phone. Of course she invited me in, and we shared coffee and cheesecake while I waited for Danny to come home and unlock the door.
And there’s the lesson. I didn’t get what I wanted– an afternoon of frenzied cookie baking and work- but I did get an hour of rest. And cheesecake.
I’m not going to tell you that Fate, God, the Universe, etc., just hands you what you need. That’s more tidy and trite than I think things really are. Plus, it really just sounds like utter crap, doesn’t it, when one is faced with a truly terrible situation (the loss of a loved one, a diagnosis of terminal illness, etc.)?
No, I think life’s a lot more messy and chaotic than that. But what IS true is that we are almost always capable of handling what life hands us, especially when it’s something less extreme than the really life-altering situations listed above. And in a lot of those cases, we do find that what we get- well, it works out okay. It might even be what we need.
*facetious sort of “fun”