Wanting what you can’t have

The oven had a conniption fit and quit working four weeks ago. Charred, smoking calzone is not a pretty sight.

You know what happens when you don’t have a working oven? All you can think of are things to cook in the oven: lasagna, chicken pot pie, a roast and vegetables. Or maybe green rice, baked salmon or a chicken with 40 cloves of garlic.

It’s like I have never cooked a single thing on the stovetop in my entire life. Why, no, I’ve never made pork chops in a skillet, sautéed chicken breasts or whipped up a stir fry.

The oven; all I can think of is the oven. I only want what I can’t have. But I have reason to want what I can’t have. I always do.

My reason for fixating on the oven is that I know sick people who could use a pick me up. A coffee cake, brownies, homemade bread. Sick people, nothing; I could use a pick me up.

Do you know what determination is? It is when a woman without an oven finds frozen balls of cookie dough in her freezer and wonders if she can bake them in a waffle maker. Who’s to say you can’t? I’ll say you can’t. You can’t get cookies from a waffle maker. You can get a few browned cookie crumbs, but not cookies.

Of course, this fixation on the non-working oven isn’t as much about the oven as it is human nature and forbidden fruit.

It is the server bringing your food to the table and saying the dish is hot. “It’s very hot. Don’t touch the plate.” He turns away and you touch the plate. Ouch. It’s hot.

It is the sign that says wet paint. Really? How wet? Maybe the sign is old. Maybe the paint is dry. Why can’t I touch it? You look around to see if anyone is looking and slyly touch the wall. The paint is wet.

It is about the man next to me on the plane who has been told to turn off his cell phone. He bends his large frame forward and hides the phone between his legs, still texting. The flight attendant said that he can’t; he’ll prove that he can.

This innate streak of defiance courses through us all. Sometimes the singular focus on getting what we want is the impetus for mastery, achievement, discovery and success. I spoke with a young woman who held a graduate degree in engineering. When she was little, her father told her she’d never be any good at math. He said that she couldn’t; she spent the next 14 years proving that she could.

Other times, our wanting what we want has starkly different results. By hook and by crook, we go for what we want with no thought of others or the consequences. It is a short path to self-destruction.

The antidote is self-discipline, the willingness to delay my desires and redirect my focus. This, too, is the impetus to mastery, achievement, discovery and success.

Voltaire wrote, “Our labour preserves us from three great evils — weariness, vice, and want.”

I wonder if Voltaire had a working oven.