Today I wanted something. I don’t know what I wanted, but I was unhappy with my current state of the moment. I had a craving for “something.” Maybe sugar. Maybe some exotic purchase. Maybe an SB Frappucino. I didn’t know what I wanted, but I was restless and unable to feed the ache inside.
What We All Crave
I ate some good food, I tried tea rather than decaf coffee. I tried to work on my creative stuff. And I was still frustrated. Odd, right? I have NOTHING to be frustrated about. I have only JOY at this moment, and still… I was unhappy.
Here are some ideas that came to my mind about my craving this afternoon:
- I’m hungry (what food would fill me up)
- I’m tired or depressed (perhaps ice cream or dessert)
- I’m bored (it’s a first-world problem, boredom)
- I’m lonely
- I’m exhausted by the stressful happenings at work
- I’m agitated by the “what’s next” moment I find myself in
Regardless of what it is, I am (was) unsettled in some foundational way.
Pause. Reflect. Reimagine.
Staying with the narrative of my buzzy self of a few hours ago, I headed out to the new grocery store nearby. Maybe a little shopping would do the trick. I didn’t know what I wanted, but I knew they would probably have some treats that would satisfy my sweet tooth. For sure, on that one. I could get ice cream.
Setting the scene. It’s hot outside. My AC is working well, and the fan in the living rooms allows me to keep it about 2 degrees warmer than I might need it. I’m working from home, so that’s awesome. And I’m nagged by my inner unhappiness. It wasn’t sadness. There was nothing specific. Just an ache and a drive to go out and GET SOMETHING to fix it.
I headed out into the world of grocery stores and thrift stores on a hot Thursday day in May. I needed some more incense, and the store carries just what I wanted. DING. I had a purpose. I also needed a gardening trowel so I could get those Easter calla lilies into the ground before they dry up.
And then I’m heading through the isles of grocery mecca. Everything I could want is there. Except none of the sweets called my name. I made a note of my goal for “less sugar, more exercise” and I passed right by the ice cream aisle. Not even the 420-calorie pints were interesting. Okay, that’s a bit of mindfulness over sugar, I think. Add a gold star to my daily chart.
I grabbed some pseudoephedrine for my girlfriend and joked with the pharmacist about the “good stuff.” I found my gardening tool. And I bought some sunscreen. No craving was fulfilled, but also I began to notice my craving was waining. Perhaps my idea of a sweet or my idea of a dessert was being overwritten by my desire for better tennis fitness.
Shopping for Entertainment
There was a slight element of going to the grocery store that fed my “shopping” bug. I’ve never really been into shopping, like my ex-wife or my two kids. I just don’t care that much about browsing and buying stuff that I don’t need. But, shopping, I’m learning, can be simple entertainment. Let’s take GoodWill for example. What’s the harm in blowing out a shopping spree at GW and spending $42.59?
I stopped by GW on the way home. I admired all the stuff. And I desired nothing from GW.
At this moment, I was becoming aware of my shifting desire. I didn’t really need the incense or the little gardening shovel. I needed some entertainment, I needed to get out of the house, I needed something sweet. And, my self-awareness let me go into the grocery store without a clear idea of what I needed and leave without buying ANY sweets. None. Same thing at GW. Just a boring shopping experience. That’s a bit of my normal shopping-in-person state. “Okay, are we done yet?”
Pay Attention to What You Are Craving
- I am loved at the moment, so I was not craving attention or affection. (YAY.)
- I was bored, so I was looking for a way to jumpstart my energy out of neutral.
- I always crave sweets, so I was able to imagine the ice cream at the grocery store as an option (but, ultimately an option I did not choose)
- I wasn’t tired, so a nap wasn’t going to help
What I was craving was novelty. Perhaps a moment or two with other humans. And, of course, my entire body perked up at the idea of ice cream. And then I did something a bit different: I paid attention to how each of my options felt. I noticed I was not really in need of ice cream. I didn’t need anything sweet. I could be of service by getting the sinus meds. And, I did need the little trowel. A needed a bit of a break from my lovely and quiet afternoon doing my work. I didn’t need anything but a chance of scenery.
Can you turn your cravings into awareness? Can you bring your weakness out into the light (ice cream for me) and uncover what might be beneath your hunger? What I learned from my little jaunt to the store and GoodWill was an acceptance that I was bored, wanted a change of venue and did not NEED anything else. Sure, I always WANT ice cream, but today, my fitness won the battle of willpower.
Perhaps I was looking for a high. Or an escape from the slow-moving afternoon of work.
John McElhenney – life coach austin texas
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