What do I want?


What do I want? Such a simple question. What is it I want?

I was sitting with a group of friends, and someone asked simply the question: “what do I want?” She reflected, then, on what she had “wanted” at times in her life. She mentioned her choices, choices that became clear in her wants.

I had feelings, then. I realized that what I had allowed myself to “want,” was a long way from what she had allowed herself to want, to desire, to consider as a choice in her life. I could not, given who I was, given where I had come from, given who my parents were, who I was, given the circumstances of my birth and even my ancestry. Who I am, as well as what I can want, had certain limitations.

We can see “want” reflected in the world around us. Some of us can “want” what others have. Some of us want what can never be ours. Sometimes, we cannot even want, at all. The places we come from, socially, politically, culturally, intellectually, allow us, or do not allow us to want.

Even to “want” is a luxury,  not given to all.  I felt that when my friend mentioned her choices, which had offered opportunities for want that I did not have, had never had.  Sometimes, even now, in my 60’s, I can begin to want for something I had not considered before.  Do I want to travel to India?  Do I want to learn to swim?  Do I want to know another language?

I think that as children, we can be given the gift to “want,” or the gift will not be given, at all.  Some children can never want.  There is no room in their home, in their lives, in their world, to want.  And that is true for the privileged as well as those who are not born into privilege.  Some children have all that they want fulfilled, the basket of their wants over-flowing, even before they know want.

Such a simple word.  So much meaning, so much depth, so much potential in that word:  want.

The ancient Hebrew word for want is:  chaser.  It’s meaning can be translated in these ways:  “to lack; by implication, to fail, lessen:  be abated, bereave, decrease, to cause to fail, lack, make lower.”  (blueletterbible.com/lexicon).

When we want, then, we lack.  We lack something we do not have.  We are without that which we do not have.  We are in a place of lessening, by our very want.  And we experience, we know this place of lessening, every day.  And we know this place of lessening, or we do not even allow – in ourselves or others – this wanting, this lessening.

What is it I want?  Sometimes, even now, I ask myself that.  What do I want, today?  Do I want this, for lunch, to wear, to see, to experience?  Am I allowed to want, to have this place of lessening awakened in me?  Perhaps I cannot allow this to be awakened, perhaps there is not room for my want.


“My children want for what they cannot have.  I have only these hands among your roots and a few places of sunlight in the house.”  – Mary Elyn Bahlert, “Houseplants.”

4 thoughts on “What do I want?”

  1. To not even be aware, to know of things that could be wants…and now in my 60’s I want to want less and less – I want to be quiet, I don’t want to go to India, I don’t want to want to fly anywhere ever again…but in my younger days I wanted – wanted a lot – of attention, praise…and food – way too much food because I wanted sweet and sweet and fullness…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Mary Elyn….I don’t quite understand what you mean by us being ‘in a place of lessening by our very want.’ Do you mean that by allowing ourselves to feel that something is missing (Hebrew word chaser) we awaken (or deepen) a latent feeling of emptiness so painful that it is best not to go there?

    And I think those who had very little when they were growing up often do not want either because they feel grateful for what little they had or were told to be grateful for/satisfied with whatever was…. or perhaps they learned that having fewer expectations means having fewer hopes dashed. And I found particularly interesting your point that well-to-do children who are given everything before they can know what they want also are among those who cannot want.


    1. Thank you for your thoughtful comments, Linda. I, too, was simply exploring what it meant to “want,” and what sparked my thinking at all was that the person who mentioned her choices was able to “want” more than I was able to imagine. I think it came from a certain privilege that she had that I did not. And so the subject is open to interpretation – yours and mine! Thank you for reading my blog!


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