dark corners of desire

Bette Davis. Tallulah Bankhead. Anne Bancroft. Elizabeth Taylor. Stockard Channing.

Guess what I have in common with these glorious women?

Well, at one time or another in our lives, we all played the same role on stage: Regina in The Little Foxes.

Regina is a part that’s been coveted by many women for decades.

Regina is what I would call a sink-your-teeth-into-it part.

Because, oh my, how she wants.

Regina wants fiercely. Ferociously. And it’s quite an experience to embody all that fierceness onstage. Truly, it’s a visceral visit to the dark corners of desire.

Not only does Regina want it all, but she’s mad as hell that she’s not getting it. She stamps her feet and demands to know: when will it be my turn?

To live in the in the big city?

To hob nob with the rich and famous?

To wear fancy clothes and eat at the very best restaurants?

But the thing is, in order to get what she wants Regina has to resort to some pretty despicable acts.

Like manipulation and lying. Not to mention literally turning her back on her biggest obstacle (her ailing husband Horace) by refusing to give him the medicine that will save his life.

In case you don’t know the end of the story, Horace doesn’t make it. Regina prevails. She gets everything she wants.

Well, sort of.

If you don’t count the fact that her daughter deserts her. Her husband is dead. (In the bedroom next to hers.) She’s alone. In a big, dark house.

With a bunch of money to cuddle up to.

Sometimes, years after I’ve played a part, a particular line remains lodged in my memory. At times I can hear, as clear as a bell, Regina’s declaration: I want more. I want a bigger share.

I hear it mostly when I’m tuned in to the drumbeat of wanting going on around us all the time. It’s propelled, in part, by human nature, but also by so many other things: mass marketing, social media, upbringing, peer pressure, and social constructs about what constitutes a good life.

And hoo boy, is it confusing. Just ask my clients. (It’s a topic of frequent conversation).

Perhaps you even feel it, and you think that what you really must do is want a bigger share, like Regina. And when you’re in that place, you feel the urgency. It’s like there’s a percussion instrument deep inside of you.

Beating. Beating. Beating out a path.

To something bigger, grander, spectacular. Maybe you’ve even had a taste of bigger, grander, spectacular. It’s a little like a drug, isn’t it? A good one.

But the feeling doesn’t last, so you need more. You keep chasing the next fix, because it’s easy to get addicted and want another hit.

Like Regina, it’s easy to get hooked on what seems like the good stuff.

I want more. I want a bigger share.

Like Regina, maybe you even start to compare yourself to other people and get a little angry about what you don’t have.

Or worse yet, you begin to think that there’s something wrong with you because you don’t have what they have.

Then the door is opened and in comes the self-judgment, the doubt, the questioning. Within moments you might feel the spiraling down, without even knowing exactly why.

When Regina’s refrain starts playing in my head, I know it’s both a warning and a reminder.

A warning about how easy it is to get pulled into the dark corners of desire and the promise of another fix. A reminder that this is not how I choose to live my life, in a state of perpetual wanting.

Of course, I also know we live in a time where the underlying philosophy is often about wanting big, immediate gratification, the sky’s the limit. There’s a frantic quality to it and I’m not immune. So I hold tight to the sides of my little boat and try to point it toward calmer waters.

And please understand: I don’t think wanting is bad.

When it’s coupled with true, heartfelt desire (which I’m writing about tomorrow), it’s often wondrous, positive, life-affirming. In fact, if you’re coming out of a time when your desire has been disabled, those tiny inklings of wanting are often the first sign of hope and healing.

But there is a dark side to it.

A place where it can possess you. And while Regina’s cold and heartless behavior is far from normal, I like to think that Lillian Hellman (who certainly had some dark corners of her own) painted this character with broad strokes for good reason. Because when you’re in the trance of wanting, isn’t it wise to step back and ask:

  • Does this wanting fly in the face of what I know from my own history and experience?
  • Does this wanting require me to act in ways that are out of sync with my heart and soul?
  • Do I always need to silence the obstacles to my wanting (like Regina silenced Horace) or are they sometimes there to teach me what I don’t know yet?
  • And finally, will this wanting require me to give up something very, very precious?

C’mon, admit it. Isn’t there a little bit of Regina in all of us?

* * * * *

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10 thoughts on “dark corners of desire

  1. Oh Patty, wow! You struck a nerve today! The Regina in me, OMG. It’s not a wanting for “stuff” or money but feeling. I want to feel loved, desired, to be seen and heard. I can’t post more here, it’s too personal, but wow, great questions to ask!

  2. You are so right on with this post. I’ve experienced this quite a bit regarding creative writing. I write because I love it. There’s something magical to telling a story in words and seeing how the characters speak. There’s a joy to the final product — where you look and say, “Wow. I wrote that!” What’s the catch?

    You nailed it — wanting something bigger…like everyone to say “what a wonderful story” or to have the story published. Maybe even write of novel….but if I get too caught up in wanting these “bigger” things — not that they are bad — I lose that special joy of the moment a story is created; the personal WOW moment, I think people whatever they do need to remember that quiet moment of joy of just creating.

    I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving….I know this is late, but things got hectic for me. I love your posts — they are comfort food for my mind and soul.

  3. I certainly have a Regina in me! Wanting more, more, more for no reason other than the wanting. Phew. It’s exhausting. And then I take myself in hand and remind myself that everything is perfect the way it is right here, right now. I love this post for reminding me of this.

  4. What an essay on desire! I have been feeling driven a bit lately myself. My wants feel less about wanting material things and more about wanting to express myself ferociously. I have so much to give. AEDM has been a great partner in making that happen. I feel like a wild woman creator…a little foxie! lol. It feels healthy to me…like that kick you get out a night of dancing or a brisk walk in nature. You want more and know your soul is better for it. Thanks for making me think and introducing me to Regina!

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