A few years ago, I was in a book club with a bunch of people I would never hang out with outside of that book club. (We’ve all been to one of those.) The facilitator started the book discussion off with a general question meant to reveal things about ourselves so that everyone could get to know everyone else better:
If you were offered to have one wish granted for you right at this moment, what would you ask for?
I know exactly what I would want to ask for on most days.
But I also know that to verbalize such a shallow request would be utterly shaming. So I spent the few minutes before the answers moved to me to think about what would I want the second most.
Not world peace, someone already took that. Not clean water for orphans, also taken. Not social equality, the blond one said that. Not lots of money—Wait! Did she really just say that? Suddenly my game plan changed. One brave (or possibly ignorant) soul said exactly the first thing she would want.
“You mean lots of money so that you can help others?” the facilitator attempted to clarify.
“Nope,” the lady replied in her thick Portuguese accent swinging her luscious Brazilian hair over her shoulder. “I would ask for lots of money for me. Then I could be happier.”
Frankly, most of us were taken aback. Sure a good portion of the people here had a secret wish for more money, but we all knew better than to voice it. Lets just say that if the wish granter were able to psychically peer into our hearts and grant our true wishes, the results would be very different than noises of world peace and clean water our mouths were making.
Brazilian Beauty’s unabashed and honest wish had slowed the circle down; but still, there were only three people between me an my wish. Should I be truly honest? Or should I put in my second choice of love and do-goodery that is also a true wish if I had two wishes instead of just one? If she could be honest, I could be too.
The thing is, I don’t want more money; I want a slamming body. That is the desire that occupies most of my waking wish life. I work out for it; I eat cleanly for it. But genetics has determined that I will be an uberstrong, short, stocky zombie apocalypse survivor with decent boobs. Unless I go to some ridiculous extreme that would sacrifice my quality of life, I will never have six-pack abs and an ass that can wear a thong bikini (not that I would, but I would like the option).
So while I might make noises that say I wish for no more hate in the world, that psychic wish granter would wave its hand and poof! I would have the body of Salma Hayek or Scarlett Johansson. Embarrassing to be outed like that for sure, but damn, I’d be HOT.
As my turn to share was only two people away (I think the last person wished for medical care for everyone as an antidote to the previous wish for financial success), I fell down an internal rabbit hole and started thinking about another story of a man whose wish was to play for the Washington Senators in order to beat those Damn Yankees. His wish was granted, but in ways that left him hollow and joyless. He got what he said he wanted to the letter, but he almost lost his soul to get it.
The thing is, I could wish for that amazing physique. And then I could be in a horrible car accident that requires both my legs to be amputated at the knee. And then I could have such chronic and incredible pain that the only thing that even offers remote relief is running on those bendy leg devices. So I become a runner, putting in 60 miles a week. I can eat whatever I want; my excess flesh tones and hardens (“why hello there, abs”); I look awesome. But I am in pain and that rules my life. And really having that slamming body isn’t worth the pain.
I should have specified to my wish granter that I wanted to keep both my legs (and believe me, after this rabbit hole, I definitely qualify my slamming body wish in my head–just in case).
I got the body I wanted. But I am still not content.
What I really need is not an awesome body but a contented heart with the perfectly good body I have now. What I need in all things is a contented heart. Because with a contented heart, you can love freely, give freely, and accept where you are with peace while striving for further good in your life and the lives of others.
So when my turn to wish came, I told the group I wanted a contented heart.
It still is the wish I really want.