Conflicting Desires: A Tale of Two Cities

A particularly tricky element of re-booting occurs when one is pulled in different, seemingly conflicting directions. For me, no disparity is greater than my parallel wanting to be in Santa Barbara and Washington at the same time. These two lovely cities are radically different and worlds apart. Not only do they differ in size and scale, they differ in pace, in focus, in beauty, opportunity, and philosophy. Life in Washington is the converse of life in SB. While each place, in its own way, offers a highly seductive image and lifestyle, the end result is diametrically opposite. And yet, I want them both…very much.


If I didn’t have Washington in my life, I’d feel constrained by the small town and highly limited offerings that Santa Barbara presents. If I didn’t have Santa Barbara, I’d feel overwhelmed by the tight, crowded spaces and smug aggression that accompanies so much of life in DC. Together, these two places balance out and feed my dual needs of city girl and country mouse.


But, what if the conflict isn’t about locations but about choice of lovers or lifestyles? Do you crave independence or security? Do you long for the seeming rush of business travel or the serenity of working solo? How about longings for a sparkling social schedule or the cultivation of a few and only occasionally available close friends? What if your creative activities simply don’t satisfy other wants and needs?


We each wrestle with conflicting desires in our lives, and this clash exists as a thorn in our foot—not hobbling us entirely, but reminding us, with each step, that it is there. Of course, we are all familiar with the wistful longings related to the path not taken, but the point of this post is slightly different. Where re-booting enters this dilemma is finding that middle path of reconciliation within ourself between our conflicting desires.


In so many cases, these issues cannot be resolved by merely hopping on a plane and jetting from one coast to another. We may not have such options. We can’t switch lifestyles, occupations, or relationships quite so easily. So, the question then becomes an internal one: how do we inculcate those parts of the people, activities, or attitudes to which we are so strongly attached when a literal embracing of the same is out of our reach? This is the essence of re-booting.


Using myself as an example, it does me no good to sit in Washington, fretting about missing out on the weather and time zone of Santa Barbara any more than it does for me to wander about SB and regret the exciting pace and opportunities which swirl along the streets of DC. Rather, my challenge is to see how I might cultivate enough of what I love about each place inside of me—a weird thing to say, I know, but how else might I resolve this dilemma? How do I otherwise curb this incessant longing for the other?


What about you? What is an ongoing internal conflict that you wish to resolve or at least to live with in a more tranquil manner? How do you soften or remove that thorn from your life? Remember, this is not about regrets! This is about finding a way to integrate the most important, conflicting elements of what you want most. And, if not now, when? When will you ever do this? Trust me, I find these words as scary as you do.


Of course, as literature and history has taught us, there will always be competing needs over the course of our lives. None of us will get everything we want, exactly the way we want it, but we can get at least a part—especially if we’re willing to take a few risks, to reach out to that person we’ve missed for too long, to commit to that journey even though the time isn’t ideal, and to push ourselves to try, knowing it won’t be everything we fantasize, but will at least grant us that fleeting, precious day where both soft ocean breezes and glittering night lit monuments can be within reach.


Homework assignment: take a few moments to consider one of your pressing conflicts. What is it that you love so much about each side? How can you bring a little bit of both into your day? Surely, there’s something you can try…


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