When You Don't Get What You Want.

12 Dec 2018

There were tears in the Wednesday household last weekend.

My daughter had saved up her allowance and worked extra chores, all to buy a pair of sports shoes.

Alas, when she went online to buy them, they had sold out countrywide.

I am reliably informed that these (ridiculously overpriced, in my opinion) sports shoes are the last word in ultimately cool things and that my daughter has impeccable taste; but that just made it worse for my bitterly disappointed teenager.

As her mother I had mixed emotions.

Of course, I want her to have everything her heart desires: I am her mother. On the other hand, I think these shoes are a shocking luxury and morally indefensible. I applaud her thrifty habits and work ethic in getting the money to pay for what she wants. At the same time, she must learn you can't always get what you want. I want her to be happy and I want her to learn to manage her unhappiness.

We all have things we desire but which we cannot have. There are things we work hard for, times when we do everything right, but it just doesn't go our way. We don't get that job. The house sale falls through. Nobody gets us that Christmas present we've been hinting so hard for all year.

And the bigger things. Many of us, if asked what we most want, would reply, "Health". Mental health and physical health. It's something that many people take for granted, and thank goodness they can, but we cannot.

Relationships too. We long for closeness, connection with others. We long for loving and united families. Some of us want, more than anything, a close romantic relationship: someone with whom we can share our hopes and dreams, and the tenderness of sexual union.

We all have things – and relationships – we want but cannot have.

How do we deal with those disappointments?

Cats deal with disappointment by shooting up a leg, washing ostentatiously and pretending they didn't really want it in the first place. Cats are all about saving face.

There's the traditional British stiff upper lip: "That's a pity. Never mind. Onwards and upwards."

Toddlers, and those still immature, throw tantrums; as if – by loud protests – what was denied will be given to them. Maybe, if they scream enough, the universe will change its mind.

And – the mature way: the grief expressed. Because, yes, it hurts. To be denied what we long for is painful. To deny that pain is to drive it underground where it festers. But the mature way, even in grief, is to be open to new possibilities.

They say when one door closes, another opens. Sometimes it's a window, not a door. Sometimes it's in a place you didn't look and has a shape you didn't expect. But there is always something.

My daughter has decided to keep that money for now. She will spend on something else later.


A Moodscope member.

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