Hypergraphia is a condition that causes people to transcribe their thoughts uncontrollably. I don't suffer from it in the clinical sense, but I may be borderline. My blog is the cyber-wall where I spray paint my thoughts for all to see. By the way, if you came here directly through blogger --if your page has no yellow frames and no pretty pic of me in the top left corner -- you may want to visit my main site at www.hypergraffiti.com, where you can read this blog and much much more.


I'm Trudy Morgan-Cole, a writer from St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada. My books include "The Violent Friendship of Esther Johnson," "Esther: A Story of Courage," and "Deborah and Barak." I'm also a married mom of two, a teacher in an adult-ed program, and a Christian of the Seventh-day Adventist kind. I blog about writing, reading, parenting, teaching, spirituality, and shiny things that catch my eye.

Friday, March 09, 2007


Following hard on the heels of my post about self-denial the other day, I read Andrea's post entitled "Want/on," which made me rethink the whole question in a different light. Not enough to make me go out to Tim's and buy that chocolate danish I've been craving, but enough to make me revisit the question of what we want and what we're willing to give up -- and why.

I pointed out in my other post that people who were raised in very guilt-ridden, negative religious backgrounds probably won't get a lot of spiritual benefit out of self-denial, because they will tend to interpret "giving up" through those lenses. After reading Andrea's experience of growing out of just that kind of background, I think more needs to be said on that question, to balance what I said earlier about the blessings of self-denial.

I honestly forget sometimes, or forget to focus on, the fact that some people have not been taught to name what they want and go after it. Some people have been taught that desire is bad, that they shouldn't want anything, that their own wants are to be stuffed down inside and subjugated to everyone else's concerns. Needs, OK -- you might possibly be allowed to have some of your needs met, if we can fit it into the schedule. But wants? Forget about those.

It's a concern for people from some fundamentalist backgrounds, as Andrea's post points out. It's also a concern from a feminist perspective, because many women have been taught (implicitly rather than explicitly, usually) that it's un-feminine to want too much, to be too ambitious, too desirous, too wanton. Women are often taught to ignore their own wants and needs in favour of serving husbands, children, bosses, parents, society's expectations.

If you don't know what you want, if you've never learned to say, "This is what I want and here is how I am going to get it," then there's not much spiritual value in denying yourself pleasures. You don't believe you deserve those pleasures anyway; you're giving up something you don't think you're entitled to. Whereas to me, the whole point of giving up pleasures is that they are pleasures. I know I desire these things; I know that I need to, as Christians sometimes put it, "order my desires" (disordered desire can be selfish and self-destructive) -- but it would never occur to me not to listen to the voice of my own desire, not to be aware of what I want.

Like so many other things, I have my parents to thank for this, and the more I read about other people's upbringings the more I think I should be sending my parents weekly roses, or cheques, or something. Not that they are, or were, perfect -- but there are so many ways in which they managed not to screw me up, that I am eternally grateful.

This area of desire is certainly one of them. I was always taught to know what I want and go for it, assuming it was not harmful to myself or others. Our family religion, while conservative, was very much not fundamentalist. I suppose when I think of the issue of desire in the context of my faith, I have been mostly influenced by Bible texts like, "Trust in the Lord, and He will grant you the desires of your heart," or "At His right hand are pleasures forevermore." Or, in the New Testament, "I have come that they might have life, and have it more abundantly," and "My God will supply all your needs according to the riches of His grace," and "He is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think."

Whether by accident or design, I grew up with a mentality of abundance rather than lack: the world was a good place created by a good God, and it was good for me to have and to want things (always keeping in mind that ordering of desires: things that wouldn't hurt me or hurt others).

I still want things. A lot of things. I know what I desire, what gives me pleasure. I have been fortunate enough to have gotten a lot of the things I desire, and to believe that most of the other things I desire will come to me.

I want a chocolate danish at Tim Horton's when Lent is over.
I want to read the three new novels by favourite authors that I've got stashed away for Easter break.
I want a lengthy spa vacation in a hot southern climate -- which I'm not likely to get this winter. But I also want a weekend away in New York with my husband, and a weekend in Eastport with my Strident Girlfriends -- and both those look do-able in the next couple of months!
I want things for the rest of my life that I haven't had yet -- a year living outside North America; a Honda Goldwing (you didn't read that, Mom. Scroll back up to the part about what a great parenting job you did and reread that instead); a renovated bathroom with a corner whirlpool tub.

I know I won't get everything I want, but I know what I want and I know it's good for me to want. And it's good for me sometimes to say "No" to things I want. But when I talk about Lenten disciplines, about fasting, about the benefits of self-denial, I would hate anyone to think I was laying a burden of negativity on anyone who hasn't yet learned to say "YES!" to life and all its good gifts.

That's all I wanted to say. There's a flip side to this self-denial coin, as there is to everything. I want everyone to know that I plan to spend the entire week of Easter vacation in bed reading novels and eating chocolate, and that that is A Good Thing.

Well, that's what I want to do on Easter break -- I guess my kids will have some say in what actually happens!


Blogger bubandpie said...

This is such a fascinating post. You've put my finger on something I've felt vaguely whenever I read about people who are scarred by negative experiences with religion. The same thing applies, I think, to guilt - there are various disciplines designed to produce an examination of conscience, a sense of humility - but these are only of value to those who have a (more than) healthy self-love: I have a tendency to give myself far too much credit, so I am exactly the kind of person at whom those "guilt trips" are aimed. For someone else, they could be damaging or wrong.

10:41 PM  
Blogger TrudyJ said...

Yes, that's right in line with what I was thinking. It's no good talking about humility to someone without a strong sense of self-esteem, or talking about self-denial to someone who hasn't learned to name and pursue their own desires. It's similar to the thinking that says an organization like Women for Sobriety is better for women with addictions than 12-step programs are (not that I am sure I agree with this thinking, but I understand the argument) because it's actually damaging to talk about giving up control and power for people who have never had a sense of their own power.

10:05 PM  

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