Sunday morning and I feel like a junkie. I’m holding a yellow-brown piece of cheesecake on a plate in my left hand while writing with the right. Every now and then I stop writing to take a bite or I sip from the soja latte that is part of the whole entourage. I just drove out all the way into the city, unwashed and with my dog Eddie in the back of the car just to get this cheesecake. One piece, not even two for my sweetheart or some other noble purpose. I did it just because I wanted it. Which, I guess in some therapeutic circumstances would be a good thing (“Good for you! Do something only for yourself for once. Indulge!”). But in my case I’m not sure. How do you know if something is an expression of self love or just plain selfishness?
As could be expected, the cheesecake doesn’t taste as good as in the fantasies that accumulated to this binge trip to the Bagels & Beans where I shuffled towards the counter buried in a big scarf, hat and boyfriend jeans, looking nobody in the eye. It was simply too good to be true. First of all, this cheesecake isn’t sprinkled with walnuts and cinnamon like the one you get when you eat it in the Bagels & Beans itself. Plus, in further attempt to make this whole cheesecake experience just perfect, I slid it in the microwave for eight seconds. Which -trust me- I shouldn’t have done.
But besides that I doubt this cheesecake ever could have been as good as I’ve been craving since I first thought of its creamy, thick texture and sweet taste in yesterday’s yoga class. You see, the whole problem with things you desire –whether it’s cheesecake, a new lover or a day off- is that it’s never even about these things in the first place. What I wanted wasn’t the cheesecake, but the feeling I thought it would give me. Which I guess would be satisfaction. Happiness.
The reason why fulfilling your desires is often so unfulfilling is because giving into them seldom “works”. That’s because the poor objects of your desire can never live up to your expectation: please make me happy. Just think about how silly this really is. Making me happy is not the cheesecake’s job. Its job is to be enjoyed, not needed. That involves a responsibility from my part to take my own happiness into my own hands –usually and sadly the last thing on my mind in a cheesecake filled world. Cheesecake-gate confronts me with a deeply ingrained belief that ‘doing what I want’ will make me happy. Darn.
Non-attachment has never been one of my fortes. Luckily for my poor soul there are many spiritual traditions that ease you into it. They don’t seek to eliminate desire –for food, fame or other pleasures- but in stead stimulate you to experience them deeply. Allow yourself to completely immerse in feeling a certain desire (which, ahem, doesn’t necessarily means acting out on it like I did) and it will inevitably lead you to a deeper desire that is underneath the first one. “Longing, felt fully, leads to belonging” according to Buddhist teacher and psychotherapist Tara Brach. For example, by writing about my cheesecake gate, I stretch it out and realise that the desire underneath the desire is feeling satisfied. It’s not the cheesecake’s job. It’s mine and I know how to take care of it. Right after I finish this piece ;D