By Alison February 19, 2008 16 Comments 3 Min Read


Last night she ran out barefoot over
the wet gravel to call him back
from the street. This morning
in the tranquility of bath water

She wonders when it was she first shivered
with the wish for more than ordinary happiness.

How did she fall in love with poetry
that clear eyed girl she was?

Late at night, by a one bar heater,
her unpainted lips parted
on the words of dead poets.

She was safer in the dance hall.

"And if you can’t love poetry"

she muses. "What was there of me
all of those years ago, apart from
that life of which it is made?"

Only an inhospitable hostess
A young woman in an old dress.

Elaine Feinstein

When was it we first shivered with the wish for more than ordinary happiness? When, as  in  Mina Loy’s poetic tribute to marriage, did we first know ourselves to be like Gina, a woman who wanted everything, everything, every way at once? Is it a disease we all suffer? A malady integral to the female soul, this deep rooted need for more?

More now. Please. Again. More and more and more.
Or else I shall die.

I’ve been watching the BBC TV adaptation of Madame Bovary. Half an hour here and there fitted in between a child requiring constant entertainment during the shock that is a half term holiday. Cringing in recognition of Emma’s sheer frustration. Knowing myself to be a fellow sufferer of Bovarysme–  " a disposition towards escapist daydreaming in which one imagines herself as a heroine of a romance and refuses to acknowledge everyday realities."  And getting myself in a terrible muddle as the books I’ve read converge in my mind… all at odds with each other and leaving me floundering.

Tell me this and tell me no more: if we are to believe in The Secret, if knowing, wholly and simply, what it is we want in this life, and trusting the universe to help us manifest our dreams is enough to create the kind of life we dream about, what is there to stop us from wanting too much? Not so much more than we deserve… but perhaps more than we were made to handle? What if, somewhere along the line, wanting more than "everyday happiness", believing  in poetry, or in lists of dreams as long as your arm, gets in the way of the everyday epiphanies?

When does wanting more than we already have become a betrayal of all that is wonderful now?

Perhaps it is an age thing. A mood of the nation thing. This sense of entitlement to more we all feel now. Or perhaps it is the jugular frustration of mothering young children. Of feeling our souls split in two as we strain to be the women we were while giving all we’ve got to other little beings? The itch of temptuous  relationships battered by want. And exhaustion. Yes perhaps it is just simple exhaustion that makes another life seem so tempting?  Or perhaps like Lucy in Charlotte Matthews poem of the same name, one day we will acknowledge the darkness inside ourselves and make it the purest part of who we are… She tells me time will pass faster as I get older, that I won’t want so much anymore.

And even so, more, now, again. I want life to be prettier. Simpler. I want the life I’m writing in my dreams. My own personal fairytale. Prince Charming. A beanstalk to unimaginable riches. A tiny baby floating on a lily pad.  A life without chin whiskers please. Oh isn’t it awful? For or else I shall die. But then perhaps, perhaps, perhaps, all of this is peculiar to me.

Sometimes my capacity for gratitude flutters out the window. So au revoir to all that. Au revoir.


  1. Anita says:

    Oh, haven’t we all been there… and don’t you write about it stunningly!?
    Thank you for this…

  2. Debbi In California says:

    And I can attest that this feeling waxes and wanes with the years, and is ever so delicious every time. A positively delicious aching and yearning for a wonderful life, and every time, I do believe I make more effort to improve my lot, and that of my companions in this travel. And, we are all the better for it, as you will be too! Love!

  3. Wendy says:

    You do have a way with words!
    This to shall pass. Give it some time. Re-arrange the furniture to see things in a new light, it always helps me. Stirring the same pot can get mighty boring. Throw something new in to the mix. A class or lecture on something you are interested in. A field trip to a store, shop, musem you’ve nevere been to. Dress up for yourself, not anyone else. The list can go on….
    Being content is hard. It doesn’t come naturally. We fight against it, but shouldn’t as it is a single mum’s biggest ally. Heres a pint to you, from Texas.

  4. Patsy says:

    Once again I am stunned by your eloquence. And I know the feeling of wanting….something…all too well.

  5. Cheryl Dack says:

    Oh no…not peculiar to you at all! This is a God-given craving, I believe. Without it, how would we create beautiful things we’ve never seen, have any hope of improving the world or ever have a child? It is that desire for MORE, for better, for the light at the end of the tunnel and for the green grass on the neighbor’s side of the fence that fuels dreams, feeds artists’ imaginations, inspires us to do what hasn’t been done before AND MAKES US HUMAN. But like all really important values/truths, it has its evil counterpart: that same desire for MORE than what’s in today can also lead to not savoring what IS IN today. You said that so well. So what are we to do? Just what you’re doing, I think! Wrestle with it. And it is as we wrestle and IN THAT TENSION, and so many more similar tensions, that we LIVE, especially as women. We are defined by how well we walk the many tightropes that are Truths. As you mentioned, a biggie is the Tightrope of Taking Care of Mommy and Taking Care of Baby. To lose my balance in one direction means losing ME (and where will Baby be then???) and to lose it to the other direction means neglecting Baby’s needs in favor of my own. So we live on the tightrope….teetering, swaying, bending, righting ourselves. I think this is another of those Tightropes. The really wonderful thing about you is that you are opening up a discourse about it. EVERY mama is walking these tightropes and if she thinks she’s not, she’s either lying or has fallen to one side or the other (oh peril!). So let’s keep wrestling ’til we’re dead! Because THAT’s living.

  6. Helen in the Dominican Republic says:

    Bye ‘eck Lass, you’ve made me weep, laugh and then jump for joy! I stumbled upon your website 2 weeks ago and read your posts like treasuring a chocolate bar – you are totally evocative and delicious! A real treat for a northern lass residing in the Caribbean for many many a year and ohhhhh you are such a reminder of home but more powerfully what a mind reader of women where ever we may be through out the world. Thank you for your musings and thoughts – you are a comfort, a treasure, truly a very special and loving woman and mum.
    Total nail on the head girl tonight – thank you!!!

  7. Colette says:

    Beautifully written, Madame Brocante!
    It seems, in a recent study on which countries have the happiest populations, No. 1 was Denmark. How did they explain that? Danes don’t talk about happiness as such, but about contentment. And why are they content? They don’t expect too much. As long as they have what the *need*, they’re fine. As for how they’ve escaped that “I want and I want more” syndrome, I have no idea. When asked what was wrong with America (which came in at No. 27), for example, one Dane said: The America Dream (i.e. wealth). Why? Because the more they have, the more they want.

  8. gena says:

    Again you have touched a raw nerve within me! and yes it is absolutely possible to have what we wish for, believe me, but then the old but true cliche comes into play’be careful what you wish for’ often followed by’the grass is not that green on the other side of the street’I too love what is written here, and I believe if we are all totally honest, there is a Madam Bovary residing in each of us.

  9. Nonnie says:

    I don’t think I can add any more to what has already been said. You always manage to write about what is so relevant to us all. And so beautifully too. Alison, please write a book!!!

  10. Jayne says:

    It’s always a joy visiting your site. You write so well and often thought provokingly. Not surprisingly perhaps, you also have some very sharp readers. I particularly like Cheryl’s comments and couldn’t agree more. I think it’s human nature to want and to strive for more but as I get older I’m starting to realise that the secret to happiness is definitely entwined with simply appreciating and being thankful for what you have today. It’s trite, I know, but true.

  11. “Please write a book” must have echoed around this blog since its inception.
    Alison, you write in every woman’s voice in the most rich and wonderful way. Please write a book!!

  12. Karla says:

    Oh how true are all these things you’ve voiced – the desire for more always at war with the gratitude for now.
    And yes, I shall say it once again and echo these other commenters – please write a book!

  13. Jacquie Kernick says:

    You sure can read my thoughts, Ali! I am new here and so enjoying the rich reading to be found…you write so well. It’s refreshing.
    Love & Blessings

  14. Suzanne says:

    Your ability to take every woman's thought and delicately place it with words is a Godsend! Especially for those of us not as talented. You have a special gift for explanation and soul searching and of course, expression and writing. Hopefully, this desire for 'more' is never trampled and encourages you to go public with your thoughts and writing. You are most talented!

  15. Polly says:

    I read this: “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” But I’m far from achieving it =) Blessings… Polly

  16. Hi Alison…I just wanted to let you know how much I enjoy your blog…Have you ever thought of writing books? You are a wonderful writer…Katie

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