Melissa Lynn Block

Melissa Lynn Block
Santa Barbara, CA, USA
January 14
I am a writer, reader, mother, yoga teacher, and dancer/choreographer. I am not in any way related to the NPR commentator who shares my name. I am a study in opposites and paradoxes, just like you. The photo that appears here was taken by Kathee Miller. And that is all.

Melissa Lynn Block's Links
Editor’s Pick
APRIL 5, 2010 3:18PM

On Longing Unfulfilled

Rate: 13 Flag

Back in the early 1980s, my drug of choice was Simon le Bon of Duran Duran. Remember Duran Duran? They were minimally talented, bright-eyed, smooth-skinned British boys who inspired Beatles-level ardor in thousands and thousands of awkward young things like me. Despite the makeup and fedoras, they were probably the most telegenic band to hatch into the public eye around the time MTV first came on the air.

The feeling of that crush is still fresh to me, now a 40-year-old married mother of two. It was visceral. When I touched into wanting this particular grown man to hold me, to kiss me, to gaze down into my eyes, it was like dipping a toe into something bottomless. My longing was both howling void and soft dark womb.

It made me want to cry and scream and laugh and dance.

It hurt. Literally. I wanted so much, so hard, that it hurt.

Back then, 13- and 14-year-olds were still generally pretty innocent. My fellow "Durannies" and I didn’t have any real notion of what a 20-year-old pop star might want to do with a willing young groupie.

Most likely, if someone had filled us in on those details, we’d have emitted shocked exclamations of “Eeeeew! DisGUSting!”

We had just enough information to be enthralled, mystified and full of fear. When combined with the requisite hormone-initiated internal stirrings and attractions, ignorance intensfied the whole experience of wanting. The resultant shimmering mess of confusion and craving addled me almost completely.

Little did I know at the time that I was having a spiritual experience.

In my last blog post I wrote about my rudimentary understanding of Sufism. I shared a Rumi poem called “Love Dogs.” Rumi wrote: “Listen to the moan of a dog for its master./That whining is the connection.” He wrote: “The grief you cry out from/draws you toward union…Your pure sadness/that wants help/is the secret cup.”

The experience of longing can show us our heart’s true desire—the very things we should try to obtain. Deep longing can help support us in making difficult changes to move toward the object of that desire. And it’s part of the American cultural identity to go after what we want. If I want it bad enough, I can make it happen. I’m the captain of my own ship. I can do whatever I set my mind to!

We are encouraged to forego any manner of dawdling when it comes to getting exactly what we want. Usually, there are multiple ways for others to profit from our journey from longing to fulfillment. An entire consumer culture has been built on squashing even the faintest hint of longing with an avalanche of stuff.

Want to be young again? Don’t delay; you know parentheses have their place, just not on your face!  Just buy this concoction or have this procedure. Want to catch that partner who you just know is your soulmate? Find the right book. Take a class. Really, it's is as simple as finding the right resources, and there are more resources than ever before! Longing for a spiritual experience? Take this drug. Join this church. Find this prophet. Do this breathwork. Come on, get ON it! What are you waiting for? Go. Go!

When the obtaining seems impossible, we exert the power of the will to cut off the longing at its root. We make ourselves stop wanting when we cannot have what we want. A choice is made to want something else instead—something we’re more likely to get.

When that choice is made consciously, we are renouncing desire, and there is maturity in this. We make a choice to move out of the dizzying realm of longing and into a more grounded place. But when we unconsciously shut longing unfulfilled out of our lives, or refuse to let ourselves long for anything because we're afraid of the intensity of experience that longing might bring, we’re cheating ourselves out of one of the great ontological emotions.

What if the longing to be young again is really just the first appreciation you've ever had for how gosh-darn stunning a young, ripe, smooth-skinned woman really is? How she is the vessel through which new life comes, and how the simple power of her presence is enough to drive men mad? When you were younger you didn't really have a clue. But now, that longing is telling you to appreciate one of the most beautiful and compelling things on Earth. You don't have to be it. You can just enjoy it.

(If enough 40-plus women realize this, the "anti-aging cosmeceutical"  industry is gonna be in a whole hell of a lot of trouble. I'll be the one throwing a party over its demise.)

Think back to a great unrequited love in your own life. Can you remember the feeling of deep longing for something unattainable? What have you longed for? Go to that longing. Feel what it feels like. If you weren’t conditioned to think that longing is something to fulfill as quickly as possible, wouldn’t you find a kind of joy in the experience of longing itself? 

Have a listen to this song by singer-songwriter Dave Matthews, who has a lock on the expression of longing: a pure, nectar-sweet, howling-at-the-moon, gorgeous-in-and-of-itself kind of longing. At an acoustic show played in 1999 with Tim Reynolds at Luther College, Matthews tells a story about a girl who gives him directions on a city street and walks away, at which point he finds himself taken by her beauty. He turns to look for her but she's disappeared into the crowd. His song “Little Thing” comes from that experience. This version makes all the little hairs stand up on the back of my neck.

The next time you long for something, pause before you go after it with guns blazing. Breathe into your longing. Embrace it, even if just for a few moments.This is what it feels like to lose yourself. Psychologist Robert Augustus Masters puts it beautifully: he says, “Date your longing.”

When you long for some need or want to be fulfilled by your partner, your parent, your employer or your friend, pause and feel the longing itself. Recognize that just as spending money on stuff to temporarily squelch desire doesn't really work, it also doesn't work to expect someone else to put you out of the misery of longing unfulfilled. You're responsible for it, and it wants you to acknowledge it and feel it fully. It ain't going anywhere until you either experience it or consciously renounce it within yourself.

Recognize that longing isn’t an obstacle, but a path. Get cozy with your longing; let it crack you open; see how it illuminates what’s most important to you, what brings you the most joy. Even the kind of longing that hurts is a way to God.   


Your tags:


Enter the amount, and click "Tip" to submit!
Recipient's email address:
Personal message (optional):

Your email address:


Type your comment below:
I remember Duran Duran alright. Arcadia too. Memory lane...
I hate longing....

I love longing....
theres some great duran duran hits on Rock Band, the guitar game.
the metaphysics of "want" and desire is very much a western quandary because we have a vast industry, advertising, that is essentially designed to create false or pseudo-wants. unfortunately, the marketing of a rock band kinda fits in that category..... but... thanks for the lesson in metaphysics via pop culture....
and way cool that this got EP. congrats =)
First of all, this is awesome. My thoughts exactly on the spiritual void that the quest for youth really reflects.

Second of all, John Taylor was mine. We used to write overwrought fan fiction starring ourselves with our prospective Durannie. Funnest thing ever.

Third of all, that unfulfilled longing, that painful sweetness was so energizing and exciting. Then when a tiny bit older, the deep feeling that everything was possible. I loved those feelings and I mourn them on some level at 40. But on the other hand, I love the trade for the gifts of 40. One of those gifts is getting to appreciate and celebrate the longings and desires of the very very young women that I know and love now. You are so right that there is wisdom in revisiting those twisting youthful desires, at least in memory. If only to greater appreciate the authority and greater psychic ease of being grown.
I'll turn 47 in a couple of months. I was in college when Duran Duran first became popular. "Girls on Film" was a decent song. I really liked "Save a Prayer." The music video was filmed in Sri Lanka, and the lyrics were especially touching:

"Some people call it a one night stand
But we can call it paradise

"Don't save a prayer for me now
save it till the morning after"

I must confess, I found the rest of their music crap! I can't understand how anyone would compare them to the Beatles, or even refer to them as the "Fab Five."

Except for the opening refrain of "Please, please tell me now!" from "Is There Something I Should Know?", Duran Duran didn't sound or look anything like the Beatles!

I don't mind '80s pop, either. I was into the Go-Go's during the early '80s! The backlash against disco was in full swing, and my friend Greg once dismissed the Go-Go's, comparing their brand of infectious pop to "disco"--mindless music with no substance.

I had to disagree with Greg on that one--the Go-Go's could be labeled "bubblegum," maybe, but *not* disco!

Duran Duran redeemed themselves in my eyes during the '90s with a couple of gems: "Ordinary World" and "Undone."
I LOVE this. Thanks for articulating it so well.
Longing - I know it well and wish I could recover all the hours of my life gone forever because of it. It is one of the most effective ways to waste time, to not be present in your life and to not be there for the people around you. I do not recommend it!
Duran Duran were telegenic BECAUSE of the makeup - it gave them an ambiguous edge that hinted at a delicious anarchy, or perversity. Otherwise they would have been just another band. If David Bowie had just come out on stage in a suit and tie and crooned into a microphone, who the hell would have ever noticed him?...That's my only quibble with this article...Otherwise, I agree completely. I MISS those days of longing, those days of youth, when life promised excitement, sex, adventure, possibilities. Here I am now in late middle age, plodding along downhill toward the grave, beset by ailing parents, ailing husband, child at home after college with no plan for the future, myself aching and paining, uncertain financial future, house in need of repair...blah blah...but put on "Wild Boys" in the car, "The Reflex", "Hungry Like The Wolf" - and I'm a young, yearning girl again, singing my heart out.
This is a new way of looking at things for me. Very compelling and beautifully written. I'll be thinking about this for a long time.
Good article.

At least until the Dave Matthews reference.

He is to music what Thomas Kinkaid is to art.
This is so well written and, quite frankly, nails it for me. There most definitely is a sweetness and a deep appreciation for longing and desire that I don't think I felt, or considered so positively, at an earlier age (I'm 43).

Congratulations on the EP.
insightful. i needed to read this today. thank you.
Thank you for putting that into words. r.
I found your blog through a mutual acquaintance, and glad that I have. Congratulations on the EP.

Very interesting observations...especially that longing is a path...a very clear path.