Cultivating Artificial Desire

Let's talk about the Insanity that is creating A Registry.

Wish Lists have never been easy for my adult self.  The question, "What do you want for Christmas?" tends to wipe my brain clean so fast it's a wonder I remember what Christmas is.  This probably springs from the use of the word "want".  My mother was very purposeful about instilling in us the difference between the words "need" and "want", along with the corresponding lesson that wants are at all times secondary to needs, and your resources (including time, money, and brain power) should be allocated accordingly.  And, of course, for a long time during my twenties I only had enough resources for one of those categories.  So why bother thinking about the other?  Basically what I'm saying is that I got out of the habit of thinking in terms of wants.

Thus when it came time to register for our wedding I found myself nearly paralyzed with anxiety.

What should we ask for?  We don't really need anything!  But we have to make this thing, everyone says so... okay, what do people normally ask for?  I can ask for some of that.  No, wait- am I being greedy and asking for too much?  Or am I being difficult and not giving people enough options?  Is there enough variety in price??  Oh gods this is stressful...

I hated the whole process- hated it.  Loved getting the gifts, mind you- just hated asking for them.  It was a relief to put the entire process behind me.

And then the time came for me to create The Baby Registry, arguably even more of a Big Deal than the Wedding Registry, since unlike Nathan and myself, Neeps will not enter this union with 28 years of accumulated stuff.  And he actually will have needs.  Like, keeping-him-alive-needs.

So I started researching for the best stuff for my impending dependent, which lead to headache-ing, and anxiety-ing, and then as a way to distract myself from all of that unpleasantness I started to really examine why creating registries is so damn stressful for me.

I came up with a couple of thoughts, but in the end I think what it comes down to is this: making a wish list creates an artificial desire.  See, I'm generally a pretty happy person, content with what I have.  A large part of that contentment springs from not desiring things I don't have (thanks, Mom and the Buddha).  So when you ask me to start thinking about things I want/need, I tend to look around go, "I have my family, my health, a roof over my head and plenty to eat- I'm actually really good, thanks."  But if I have to make a list, due to societal expectations or making it easier of friends/family, or whatever- I will.  I'll do all the eye-crossing research and read the billions of reviews to find the best Thises and Thats for our situation, and I'll compile the Ultimate Wish List, which will include things like a Very Specific Waterproof Stroller Blanket.

Now, let's rewind about a month.  You say, "Jenny O, you do not have a Very Specific Waterproof Stroller Blanket in your life.  Is this in any way having a negative effect on your state of mind?" to which I reply, "What?"  And then when I figure out what we're talking about I say something along the lines of, "Well honestly I've never even considered the existence of waterproof stroller blankets (although now that you mention it, it sounds like a very practical thing to have for a baby born in the pacific northwest at the tail end of autumn) let alone a Very Specific One.  But no- it doesn't bother me that I don't have one, and I don't expect it will bother me if I never receive one.  We'll make due."

Now, however, it's On the List.  I've put time and energy into thinking about a Very Specific Waterproof Stroller Blanket, and now I do want it- which means I am quite likely to be (somewhat understandably) disappointed if I don't get it, because I've managed to convince myself that I need it for my baby.  After all, why would I ask someone to spend resources on something I didn't need?  I wouldn't!

And so you see, I have created in myself an artificial desire, and that way, my friends, lies a lessening of contentment.


Having brought an awareness to the situation- an awareness of why creating a list of "I Want These Things" bothers me so much- has helped to lessen my stress.  Because now I can be very mindful in not thinking about it.  And the less I dwell on my brand new "wants", the less disappointment I will suffer if they don't appear- and the more genuine enjoyment I will have if they do.  Because again- I love getting gifts!  Going to be suuuuuper appreciative of  any-and-everything people give us, whether it's on the registry or not!  Because every single one of those things is an expression of love and a gesture of support for me, for Nathan, and most especially for Neeps.  And that, Gentle Readers, is something I enjoy dwelling on.

(Bonus: if I manage to put the Registry out of my brain it will be like people are miraculous mind-readers who just plucked The Perfect Thing from the aether.  Win-win!)

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