Photo by Kevin and Chris

When did we start dimming down the light in our lives, for no good reason at all? When did we learn to do this?
Last Sunday, around 4pm my husband and I started discussing our evening plans.
“What do you want to do tonight?” he asked. I thought about the usual suspects — movies, out to dinner at this place or that. Not feeling excited about any of the options but not knowing why, I threw out a few suggestions for restaurants we might go to.
“But what would be your shoot-the-moon evening?” he asked, hearing the blah-ness in my tone.
Incredible as my husband is, he did not spontaneously blurt this question. This is something we’ve been practicing. Instead of getting stuck in what would be “okay” or even “good” in any situation, we ask each other, “what’s your shoot the moon?”
At this particular time, as at so many others, I had forgotten all about shoot the moon. For no good reason at all, I had gone into auto-compromise, life-is-kinda-sucky mode. The vast and powerful magnet that is mediocrity had simply pulled me in.
Now there was a new question: “What’s my shoot the moon evening?” Whoa. Very different paradigm.
I had no idea what my answer was. This is another thing we’ve learned by asking each other “shoot the moon” questions: often, at first, we don’t know what we want. We have no clue.
And so we sat there. Husband took out his book (he already knew his shoot the moon evening proposal) and for several minutes, I just wondered about the question.
Slowly, one by one, some ideas came to mind. It would involve staying at home, I realized. It would involve red wine, definitely. It would involve sitting in the living room and not in the den. It would involve a particular selection of music, one I’m rarely in the mood to listen to. It would involve steak, and, naturally, it would involve foot massage.
Now I must tell you, that in writing this now, this evening sounds so indulgent to me that I’m slightly embarrassed to write about it. Steak, and red wine and foot massage? Not quinoa and sparkling water and taking a walk?
Are the indulgence police coming to arrest me now?
I shared my thoughts, with husband. Once I knew what I wanted to do and dear husband did too, we crafted a plan that worked for both of us.
The evening was magical. That sense I had, that tonight, tonight in particular, I would enjoy sitting on the couch with a glass of red wine listening to jazz and reading the Times…all of that was so right. The inner compass was accurate. Everything felt in flow, delicious, and I felt very, very alive.
I easily could have had the other night, the one made up of the default plans that first occurred to me, that seemed like nice things to do, and I would have had a ho-hum, kind of disappointing experience.
If I hadn’t asked, “what’s the shoot the moon evening?” that’s the night I would have had. If I hadn’t spent the fifteen minutes it took for figure out the answer, that’s the night I would have had.
We do this constantly. We dim down the light in our lives. We sacrifice pleasure. We keep ourselves from having more joy. We live stuck in open-top boxes.
Turns out, I’m learning, our desires are surprising, changing, and idiosyncratic, because that’s who we are, when we are allowed to be. Our desires take time to unfold because usually they’ve been buried under decades “shoulds” and “have-to’s” we heard from others and tell ourselves.
If we want magic and deliciousness and satisfaction and a knock the ball out of the park life, we’ve got to ask ourselves, with patience and attention, and again and again, What’s my shoot the moon? And then we’ve got to trust the wisdom of the answers.