The status of an interesting woman I follow on Twitter recently posited, “What’s your most surprising desire?”
I was getting ready to start my evening chores (watering the garden, kitty maintenance, closing the driveway gate), but the question pulled me up short. I felt compelled to go to the front window–one of my favorite thinking spots because it overlooks the feeders in the garden–and sit for a moment.
I am as bourgeois as a brightly-patterned Vera Bradley handbag. The desires of my now-middle age are simple and unsurprising. Fulfillment and safety for my children. Compelling work to do. That my dress size won’t vary too widely from one month to the next. That my senses and reason will remain intact for a long while to come so I can watch the wild birds, smell the petunias and peonies, make bread, read excellent books, wander through museums and marvel at others’ views of reality (or surreality), hear my family’s voices. I want to write and sell many more books. Visit Scotland and Venice. Make people think and laugh, and occasionally pause in thought.
“Surprising” was difficult. I have few odd tastes or deviant desires (and how much, really, is considered deviant or even surprising anymore?). I don’t want to kill or take revenge on anyone. I have no burning wish to climb significant mountains or spend time in the company of lions, tigers or bears. No. I had to look inside.
I realized that it surprises me how much I want to be missed.
Could there be a more egotistical, basic desire? And yet it surprised me to think it, to realize that it’s something I want.
To miss someone is to reflect happily on their company. To be glad of their existence. To remember that they are (or were) in the world, and be glad for it.
But even as I thought it, I remembered many of the people that I miss. I miss them individually for innumerably different reasons, but mostly for the way they made me feel when I was with them. Or because the way they live their lives enriches the world–they live with open hands and open hearts. Yet they have (or had) little say in whether I miss them or not. Isn’t that strange? The only control we have–no, actually we have no control over who will miss us, treasure us, think of us. I guess it goes without saying that most of us don’t miss the people who have treated us badly, so in order to be missed one should be kind or encouraging or loving or a thousand other things that don’t include being a jerk, yes?
To live in someone else’s memory is to achieve a kind of immortality. If we have made no impression on the world, then when we are gone–when the memory of us is gone–perhaps we cease to exist in any form except dust. Maybe my desire to be missed is simply a desire to never die.
What is a ghost except unfulfilled desire?