My children have a habit that drives me crazy. Summer has finally arrived and this is the time of year when they start reminiscing about Christmas. Yes, I just said Christmas. Back in January, they would talk non-stop about how much they wished it was warm enough to go biking in their shorts but as soon as June creeps up, they start talking about what they want from Santa Claus and how much they miss playing in the snow. I have to admit, I’m secretly in the same boat. All winter, as I scraped ice off my windshield, I was thinking “When will it be over?!” But the first hot day of the season, when I opened my car and the hot air hit me, I thought “This damn heat!”

This got me to thinking of a trait, perhaps a specifically human one, that drives us all to want more, to want better, to want what we don’t have and that which others possess. This concept of the “Grass is always greener on the other side” is an unquenchable desire to attain the unattainable and better yet, once we have what we were aching for, we are suddenly disinterested and begin a new craving. I wonder if this desire is exactly what excelled human development? Is this passion for “obtaining more” the catalyst that kept us nomadic? This need to find the best food, the best mate, the best home. Is it all just an evolutionary component for survival of the fittest? Maybe our desire for, that which we cannot have, is exactly what makes us work harder, strive for the best, and compels us to break records and achieve a new level of greatness.

We may want our neighbour’s lush green grass sitting there, just out of reach, but did it ever occur to you that, if you actually were able to get their lawn, you would be the one responsible for maintaining it? In the world of our nomadic ancestors, the desire for better was a trait that kept us alive. Now, in the world of instant gratification, we are surrounded by too much choice and the advertisers tap into our prehistoric gene luring us with the “best”.

We can’t turn off this part of our brain. Okay, maybe with some Buddhist training we can abandon desire, but for the rest of us materialistic people, we need to address it. Then, and perhaps only then, can we see it for what it is — an instinct left over from early Homo Sapiens. Like all problems, once they are faced and identified, sometimes they can be more easily controlled or even fade. One of the things I teach in improv is to be present in the moment, to listen intently on what is being presented to you. If you are thinking of what you will say next, then you cease to be present. If you aren’t acting in the moment, the moment has past. We reminisce about our favorite times in our youth, we think of what we need to do next in our futures, and we seem to always dream of what we want and complain about what we don’t have…  How many “moments” are we missing out on because we weren’t present and appreciative of what we have NOW? I have mastered this art of being in the moment in Improv. It’s slowly creeping into my real life — my kids. However, I need more practice as they have just put on a Christmas CD and are making their wish lists. I think I just realized what the top of my wish list will be: my neighbour’s weed-free lawn…and some young handsome lawn maintenance workers to go with it!

About the Author

Stephanie Herrera is a comedian, writer, producer, teacher, singer, actor, mother of 4, and shallow philosopher. She runs the Durham Improv & Acting Studio in Oshawa, Canada, is a professor at Durham and Fleming Colleges, and is an award winning performer. / / / (647) 899-3342  Durham Improv Group and Business pages can be found on Facebook and follow @durhamimprov & @antimommy