The Deepest Desire / by Michelle Cowan

It’s not just that I want to be known.

For a long time, I thought that what I most deeply wanted was for another human being to see and appreciate everything about me. Most people want this at some level, and I experienced angst every time something reminded me that absolute knowing is, in fact, impossible. One person can know another for eons and still never peel back every layer.

I pained and hurt and struggled with this—and the idea that I was not allowing people in, that I did not allow people to know me. What was I doing to block their advances? Why would I do such a thing? The cure seemed to lie in me laying down my defenses and learning how to open up about myself in a clear, authentic way. I needed to do this more often. Practice would bring me my desire—or something as close to full-knowing as I could get. So I practiced and tried and worked.

One evening, I bent over the sink, washing a skillet, when the notion of a hypothetical someone breaking into my heart entered my mind. I chose to pause there and keep the thought, as it had been a repeated visitor over the years. I had written songs about it, longed for it, cried on my floor, begging the universe to send someone into my home—into my life—who would break down the walls and catch me at my most vulnerable point. I deeply desired that someone would infiltrate my most heavily guarded space.

There, as I scratched at a piece of cooked-on dinner, an especially frank thought rose to accompany my old friend: “They wouldn’t have to break in if you would open the door.”

At first, it struck me as achingly profound. Of course, just open the door. How simple! “Cling to this thought,” I told myself. “This is something to remember.” But the comfort I expected to flood my heart as a result of the remembering never came. Why did this dramatic solution leave me empty?

Because it was the same answer I’d given myself dozens if not hundreds or thousands of times: Just let people in, open up more readily, live life more honestly, take more chances, and expose yourself regularly. I’d done all of that. I was trying to do it more and more… and still, no one could ever completely know me. No one could see every region.

My scrubbing slowed even further. “Is that what I really want?” I asked myself. “Is my deepest desire really to be known?”

Partly. No one could deny that. This preoccupation had not lingered for so long without gaining my interest. The momentum it provided me to reach new levels of self-actualization was no accident.

However, I had overlooked its partner desire, which takes me back to the original thought in the kitchen: I wanted someone to break in. I didn’t yearn only to be known. I longed for someone to want to know me.

I wanted someone to beat down the door, to go to extraordinary lengths, to be so captivated by me that they would risk even my affections to see my soul.

The desire was two-part: (1) I wanted to be known (2) by someone who wanted to know me.

This key realization has moved something within me. The pressure—at least some of the time—has lifted. The burden is no longer completely on me to open up and bare my soul to the light of day. Yes, I still work on revealing my authentic self more often. Yes, I want to open the door a little further and show the world more of who I am.

But the completion of my desire to be known is not in my hands. No matter how much I open up or give, it is up to the universe and to the people in it to bring someone to my door who will go to any means to break through it.

I can rest, understanding that if I do not satisfy my craving to be known by someone, my life has not been lived in vain. All I can do is to take on the role of my ideal, interested person for others, which will hopefully help me leave the door unlocked for people who decide to persistently pursue more knowledge about me.