“I Want Does Get”

and why it’s on us, not the ghosts we walk with, to decide who we are and who we can become.

One of the Wednesday Questions in the Writers’ Gym last week (a weekly ritual where writers ask anything on their minds about creativity, confidence, careers, work-in-progress or anything else about writing and life) came from a member who’s been thinking about what it means to be nourished, mentally and spiritually. They asked what’s worked for me, and for other members.

The question flashed me right back to school in the late Nineties, and to a stock phrase (polite, more specific term for ‘cliché’) we heard a lot from a member of staff I respected enormously:

“I Want Don’t Get”

What’s that got to do with nourishment, mental, spiritual or otherwise?  

It’s the simplest recipe for how to not get it.

For me, this quote is inseparable from who I heard say it: someone who taught me a huge amount about things I grew to love, and encouraged me in them, but who also (long after I’d been at school) shared with me that when, as an adult, they told their own parent (who’d said that stock phrase to them throughout childhood and beyond) that they wished they’d carried on in higher education was shocked to hear  ‘Then why didn’t you say so?’

The truths we internalise and spend years if not lifetimes daring ourselves into quiet rebellions against, we can – sometimes – eventually – discover were never intended to be taken that way in the first place.

Which means it’s on us, and not on the ghosts we walk with, to decide what we believe and who we can become.

Attack of the ‘should’ fairies

Wherever we dare sense a discomfort, a swallowed truth we’re just realising is there, there’s a ‘should’ fairy flapping around somewhere at the other end of it. In this case, perhaps, ‘we shouldn’t be greedy’, and/or ‘it’s greedy to want’. Or, indeed, in society as many of us have experienced it directly or historically, ‘women’s primary purpose is the nurture of others’. Keep doing that without acknowledging the should fairies flapping around, and we might end up with very successful, obedient caeers and personal lives but something will have been left behind. Some nourishment to the soul and mind that is not necessarily better than the other choices, but didn’t necessarily have to be neglected in order to follow them either.

Our creative side makes us fully who we are. It’s the beginning of a benign circle. When we nourish it, it nourishes others.

The courage to look in the emotional mirror is much more nurturing than it is scary: the more of ourselves available to us, the more authentically we can be available to others in turn. Answering ‘what do I want?’ is hard. To do it well often goes against years of conditioning. But the answers are there.

For me, nourishment in all aspects of life come easier and more freely when I’m taking regular check-ins with:

A) What I want


B) What I fear.

The things we want, the deeper we want them, can get covered by attacks from the ‘Should’ Fairies: I shouldn’t want that, that shouldn’t be a priority, things like that aren’t for people like me etc.

Here are three ways to check in with what you want spiritually, mentally, socially, physically…whatever is relevant to you, at any given time.

Candle time

I’ve talked about the candle recently so won’t go back over that now but one development since then is that candle time can happen without the candle. If the light isn’t right, or I don’t have enough time before the next event for it to burn to reach the sides, I look at the unlit candle before I start journaling and it does exactly the same job as if it were lit. I journal, which includes a to-do list and a reigniting of the whys behind the whats. It sets me up for the day by reconnecting me with who I am.

Monthly ‘I want’s

In that same journal, I check in with the things I’ve caught myself missing or wanting, and I start to look at the ‘I fear’ that is behind every neglected ‘I want’. This month’s include travel (something unpleasant happened to me when I first travelled alone and I’m still having symptoms around that). Having expressed to myself it was something I wanted to tackle, a conversation with an old friend sparked an agreement to do a trip together. That wouldn’tt have happened without the ground work of what nourishes me: what I want – and what’s stopping me (what I fear).

‘If I wave my magic wand… what is the connection I want to reach out for?’

Looking myself in the mirror (emotionally rather than literally) and telling myself on the page or aloud what I want allows me to spot how what I fear (the ways it might not work, perceived failure by myself or others, perceived rejection in whatever form that would take, perceived personality for wanting it in the first place).

It might be checking in with a person already in your life who’s been on your mind, it might be more community, either existing or branching out from the networks you already have. It might be learning something new, or trying something you previously thought you weren’t (here comes one of the greatest self-poisoning phrases) “the sort of person who” liked or did or spent time on that.

Once we’ve done this groundwork, we put the boundaries around our own time and channel our what-ifs into creativity instead of anxiety – how do I want to make this my reality? – the reaching-out in the world we need to get and keep that nourishment.

The next step is making it a habit…coming back to ourselves, checking in again. Because the small answers may change week to week but the big answers beneath them get clearer every single time.

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