you can’t eat enough to quench a thirst

we all have needs. we have wants too, but wants are different. it’s hard to believe that sometimes, but it’s true, though the distinction gets lost. my pocketbook pays the price of the incorrect labelling. it’s hard to call our needs by name in this age of constant marketing.

i think i need things all the time. i need a piece of chocolate and a hot cup of coffee in the morning. i need a stylish house. i need new books. i need more sandals now that summer is almost here. i need expensive moisturizer (i have expensive wrinkles). i need a new car (“need” and “new car” are fundamentally incompatible).

when i analyze the list, i realize it’s full of wants, not necessities. none of these things are vital to my existence. they add to my life, but the effects are transitory. they don’t make me feel wonderful forever: the rise comes with a fall. if they’re always absent, i lose nothing vital.

i think i’m meeting my needs when i’m satisfying my wants. i don’t end up feeling better. it’s like drinking soda pop when you’re thirsty. the mouth gets wet, but the need for water remains.

if i’m being honest, i don’t pay attention to my actual needs very much. they’re hard to identify and usually, more challenging and less interesting to meet. my wants scream louder, and the things you can buy are easier than emotional solutions and more fun than going to bed early. wants are about lust: a need means something is lacking. and lack isn’t allowed in the age of “buy your way happy.”

needs, when we acknowledge them, often have risk and hard work attached: who wants that? it’s easier to pretend the need for a validating hug is a call for cheesecake. stuff can be acquired almost anywhere, and it makes uncomfortable feelings and yearnings go away, if only momentarily. mislabeled needs that are fed the wrong food have a nasty habit of returning.

you can’t eat enough to quench a thirst.

thinking about needing things that can’t be purchased makes me uncomfortable. beyond what i can purchase involves other people, and that’s a risk. i should be able to exists as an island. my stuff is supposed to make me content. the commercials promised.

i shouldn’t want. i shouldn’t crave or yearn. i have few wants i can’t meet (especially if i decide paying back the credit card isn’t going to happen). unfortunately, as i continue to buy and acquire, the uncomfortable feelings I balk at calling needs persist. it’s frustrating to realize you have to face all the sticky stuff head on. all of it. one would think addressing a passing percentage would be good enough.

i can identify the needs if i put in effort and focus. the feelings are mine, after all. all the needs feel challenging and risky. i need to feel connected to this life. i need to believe i have value. i need my experiences to matter. these things are hard to fit into a shopping cart and don’t work as solo activities.

i was directly connected to my needs once upon a time. we all were. when we were young, we spoke from our hearts and didn’t worry about what people thought of us. we were open about our requirements. we spoke up, even howled about what we needed. having needs now (forget speaking up) makes me feel guilty. needs make me feel ungrateful. needs make me feel like i’m asking for more than i deserve. wants are definitely more comfortable, at least until the credit card bill comes due.

By Em

I like writing. Words help me unpack my thoughts so things can start to make sense. Once I have both myself and the universe figured out, I plan to take up macrame. "Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing, and learn as you go." E. L. Doctorow

3 comments

  1. Reblogged this on From famine to feast. and commented:

    Two years on, and my piece about the differences between needs and wants is still germane. One would think that a global pandemic would put the brakes on our ferocious consumerism, would make us pause and consider another way besides ever increasing our purchasing possibilities, but as the Ever Given showed us, it’s hard to change the course of big things with momentum. Even if habit leads us to troubled waters.
    Those of us with money are buying our wants. Almost all of them, if the increase in consumer spending levels is any indication. Remember moderation? It’s vanished in favour of the next big thing, product placements, and IG endorsements.
    Those of us without money are irrelevant. I’ve sufficient credit to make myself at least marginally interesting to the world of the seller, but I’ve been desperately broke and in debt before. I didn’t like it. I check on the “want” or “need” categorization. I’ve learned that “you can’t buy happiness” is true.
    There are still things I obsess over, and still things I acquire: facets of this disorder or that I appease with a new used book or stuffed animal. Mostly, however, I question purchases of the non-grocery variety. I question many of those too. I rarely need the new and expensive crackers or the lemon-flovoured humus I won’t eat. Poverty helps, living on fifty-five percent of your income is a struggle, but I’ve mostly come to like a less acquisitive existence. It’s calmer. I feel less guilt. I worry about the consequences of our race to own stuff.
    Besides, I’ve tried to obtain happy from an external before. If I learned nothing else from nearly four decades of an eating disorder, I learned this: you can’t fix an inside problem with an outside solution.

    Like

  2. Nothing will ever satisfy us permanently, I believe its called attachment and or clinging. If we didn’t feel like the next new thing would make our life complete the advertising industry would be nothing but insurance commercials with Emus.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. True story. Although, we’ve definitely reached the point of stretching. Some of the things they tell us we “need” are a little insane 😝

      Liked by 1 person

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