You Can’t Always Get What You Want

Photo by Nigam Machchhar on

During one glorious period in my long career in education, teachers were responsible for procuring their own in-service classes.

I was a science teacher, so environmental education courses were approved. Many of these classes were spent hiking in the woods, sifting through the detritus on a stream bed, or mucking about in wetlands. A marked improvement, in my opinion, from sitting in an artificially lighted classroom listening to an expert drone on about classroom management or Maslow’s Hierarchy or whatever the educational topic du jour happened to be.

I once attended a class at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, a popular spot for hiking and raptor-watching, with environmental education classes at their visitor center.

In the fall in Pennsylvania, hawks migrate by following ridges that run in a North-South direction across our state. Hawk Mountain is situated at the end of the easternmost ridge, where the migrating raptors jump off to speed across the coastal plain, then set out across the Atlantic to wind up in Florida or points south.

Hawk Mountain sits in a geologic funnel of sorts, concentrating the migrating birds in impressive numbers.

The day I attended, we spent a morning in the visitor center classroom preparing lessons in environmental education. In the afternoon, we hiked to the lookout area on top of the mountain for some raptor watching.

The lookout is situated in a boulder field, so hawk watchers have an unobstructed view of the skies. Our class spread out among the rocks and settled in to watch.

I sat on the edge of the group, slightly apart from the crowd, feeling a little blue that day, worried about my mother who was in a nursing home, suffering from dementia. The nursing home wanted to move her to a different section, which I did not think would be a good fit for her.

At the time, I was working sixty-hour weeks, teaching full-time, guiding nearly 100 students with their science projects, and visiting my mother each night to help her take a shower and get ready for bed.

I hoped the afternoon of hawk watching would provide some needed relaxation and distraction.

The hawks were plentiful that bright September afternoon, but far away, mere specks in the blue sky until I found them in my binoculars. I was not feeling particularly engaged.

I lowered my binoculars to stretch my neck when a movement near my right foot caught my eye.

It was a weasel, not five feet away, poking his head up between the rocks.

My breathing slowed and I became perfectly still, frozen in the ridiculous position of rubbing my neck.

In my head, alarm bells were going off and a neon sign that said “WEASEL” in bright red letters was flashing.

I had never seen a weasel in nature before.

He slid gracefully onto a nearby rock, a graceful comma of an animal. He was studying me, looking directly into my eyes.

Weasels are fierce predators with acute senses of hearing and sight. They kill their prey by biting it at the base of the skull, breaking its neck. This slender mammal was not afraid of me at all, despite our disparity in size.

He watched me for what seemed like an eternity, but was probably only five minutes, then calmly, in his own time, slipped between the rocks and disappeared.

The encounter left me stunned and elated. For five full minutes, I looked into a weasel’s eyes and saw “wild“.

It flipped a switch in my brain.

I still worried about my mom, sure, but I knew I would do whatever was necessary to advocate for her in the nursing home. It was all I could do, and it was the best I could do.

Here is the point: I went to the class hoping for an afternoon of decompression and diversion through hawk-watching. I got a different perspective on a significant problem in my life through being watched by a weasel.

It’s like the wise philosophers Keith Richards and Mick Jagger once said, “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, well, you just might find…You get what you need.

How many times have I gone chasing after one coveted, golden prize, only to end up with something completely different, but exactly right?

Lots of times.

Growing up, I pictured my future perfect mate having curly blond hair and blue eyes. My actual perfect mate has (had?) black hair and brown eyes. (My husband is, um…follically challenged.)

After our two dogs died within a short time of each other, my husband and I agonized over whether to get another dog. We decided not to, then ended up with my son’s dog, who was the perfect addition to our empty nest.

You can’t always get what you want. No one does. But in not getting what we want, we learn to be resourceful and flexible.

You can’t always get what you want, but we do get to choose how we react to not getting what we want.

You can’t always get what you want, but we can decide that grace often comes in unexpected ways and how we think, feel, and live our lives is based on decisions we make every single day.

Sometimes, you just might find…you get what you need.

And sometimes what you need comes in unanticipated forms. It may look like a weasel.

For we walk by faith, not by sight. 2 Corinthians 5:7


You can find the places I link up here.



  1. I love this post, Laurie! It is so true. It made me realize the many times the Lord did not give me what I wanted, but gave me what I needed. I am so grateful He gives us what is best, and good, needed, and most wise. Blessings to you today!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I feel like this should be the theme song of my life. More times than I can count this has happened to me. I used to fight it but I’ve learned that in the end it’s what’s best for me, even if I didn’t choose it.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I love this! I have looked back on my life before and it seems like a series of not getting what I wanted, but getting exactly what I needed. Sometimes, it takes a while to realize it, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Love, love that because life is that way. Sometimes, I do think that nothing ever goes or has gone the way I planned in life, but in reality, it ended up so much better in so many ways. Perfect piece that I need to read today to remind that even when we don’t get what we want, it is okay, and there are gifts we never dreamt would happen.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I love this, Laurie! I totally agree that we cannot control our situations, but we definitely have 100% over our attitude & actions. More often than not, I have been able to find just what I โ€œneed,โ€ even if it isnโ€™t always what I want or had asked for ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  6. This is so true, Laurie.
    Sometimes we’re better off when we don’t get what we want.
    Which reminds me of Oscar Wilde’s saying: โ€There are only two tragedies in life: one is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it.โ€

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  7. I love those unexpected, miraculous moments that Nature hands out at random — probably far more often than I realize since so much of the time I’m not paying attention, or as you point out, I’m after some other goal. It’s almost always true that what you get is worth more than what you wanted.

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  8. I do believe in being open to accept messages from the universe. Like you, Iโ€™ve found many times that certain things happen for a reason. Iโ€™m so pleased for you that you didnโ€™t spend that day in a classroom. #lifethisweek

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  9. “You canโ€™t always get what you want, but we do get to choose how we react to not getting what we want.” Ooh, this is good, Laurie. I’ve been reacting somewhat badly today about not getting something I want. But I can choose to react differently if I want to. And I want to! Thanks, friend.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. awesome. I told my husband you do the best parables.

    this thinking started with Burger King, get it your way, led to kids all having their own room/bath/tv/phone/computers/cars. Now people don’t even want you to have a opinion not like theirs. Someone seemed peeved I like different tv shows than she does. We live in societies and can’t always get what we want but it’s better to live among others for growth and safety but that comes with the price, you can’t always have it YOUR way.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, LeeAnna. I never thought of “have it your way” feeding into the need to have everything all the time, but you’re right! We don’t even like people to have their own opinion. We want everyone’s opinion to be the same (ours) and shun people who have different views than we do. Good point!


  11. Oh this is certainly a timely reminder. I’ve been wallowing a little lately and thinking about ‘what I want’ and the sense I’m not achieving what I should be. I’ve been directionless and felt bad about that. Something happened today that made me look at a reflection of myself and pause… almost asking myself how I am. What I needed.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. This is so true on so many levels. The more we try to control our lives, the harder it is to adjust to life circumstances when they don’t work out the way we want. I’m really not good with change and tend to dwell on things. I cope better if I can accept that life isn’t always meant to go the way we want it to

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  13. Very true! The important thing is being open to what you do get, as often it is better than what you expected or wanted ๐Ÿ™‚ Side note: Hawk Mountain is very near where I grew up! It is a wonderful place ๐Ÿ™‚

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  14. Laurie,
    Thanks a lot…lol. As soon as I read your title, I started singing along with Mick Jagger in my head and the tune is still going ’round and ’round. Maybe it’s a message I need to take with me this week. I may not get what I asked for, but God always gives me what I need…Amen! The Bible according to the Rolling Stones!
    Bev xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ha! I gave myself the same earworm, Bev! ๐Ÿ™‚ I wish I had thought of that phrase. It would have made a great post title – “The Bible According to the Rolling Stones”!


  15. What a great post, Laurie! I think your message holds true in every area of life. I’ve experienced this in a recent disappointment because God may be opening up another opportunity that might be better. Just need to wait, hold on and the good God does always emerges.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I’ve never heard of teachers being able to set up their own in-service day classes, but I LOVE it. Sounds like a wise administrator somewhere… My dearest friend is a leadership coach, and she has to take regular classes to keep up her license. Similarly, she has to find/choose/make them happen herself. I’m always drooling over the rich classes she manages to find!

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  17. I LOVE this! I often go out birding, hoping to see some targeted rarity, only to be gobsmacked by some other aspect of nature–a cactus bloom, a different bird who hops up close, a bear, or a bobcat. God always knows just what we need โค

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  18. Right from the title I had that song playing in my head! I absolutely agree that it’s funny how life often works out to give us what we need and not necessarily what we thought we wanted. I think part of that is what has really helped me learn to be more flexible.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Hi Laurie – judging from the comments, a lot of people agree with you! I certainly do, I would never have anticipated leaving work at 57, and yet it has brought me to such a happy and relaxed place in my life – exactly what I wanted and needed for the years ahead – so much better than I ever would have expected or hoped for!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, Leanne, I am so happy to be retired too. Even though retirement wasn’t something you looked for, it is something that has turned out for the best. So glad you got what you need!


  20. I love reading your thoughtful posts, Laurie. We may not get what we want, but we get what we need. I needed to hear thus. May be I should just trust this process, and keep working hard. What I need, God will help me through. Thank you so much.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. You told the story beautifully Laurie and the end results are clear – we get what we need not what we think we want! A fabulous post and what a marvellous little creature the weasel was for you to see that day #lifethisweek

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  22. Laurie, yes! May we go through life with eyes wide open instead of laser focused on something that just might not satisfy. You just never know what will wake us up in all the ways that matter most.

    The Lord has a way of guiding us to something new and fresh and necessary …

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Thinking about your mom, two thoughts come to mind, one is “Strength in love”, the other is honoring. Many people quote the command to “Honor Your Parents” and water it down to simple obedience, do what your parents tell you. But the command was addressed to adult males! Jesus talks about honoring your parents as caring about them in t heir old age. I’d have to look up the post but it was when he was chastising the Pharisees at one point for saying to their parents, loosely tranaslated, “I can’t help you because my money is dedicated to God. In your care for your mother, the daily bathing ritual and advocating for her, you honored her in very real ways. As to the weasel, I would not have known what it was, but I would have been afraid, and possibly done the wrong thing RUN!! Great song connection too. I think we should come up with an alternate hymnal, secular songs that teach a message but won’t be included in a regular hymnal. This song would work. Also, “I never promised you a rose garden.” and “looking for love in all the wrong places. and maybe Garth Brooks “Friends in Low Places.” Best and blessings, Michele

    Liked by 1 person

  24. What a treasure trove of learnings, lessons and more you gain from your life, and especially via teaching.

    I am so grateful (NOW!) that we could not find our permanent home since selling and moving…because we have changed immensely in that time need wise and I now understand ‘not getting what I want’ is a good thing!!

    Thank you so much for linking up this week for #lifethisweek. We are nearly at the end of 2020 and only a few optional prompts left! Next week is 49/51 Lucky 7.12.2020. Hope to see you there. Denyse.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, I did learn so much from teaching. There are so many times I didn’t get what I wanted, but it turned out for the best in the end. Thank you for hosting. See you next week!


  25. Thank you for sharing this, Laurie – it was such a beautiful reminder. I love how God surprises us in such wonderful ways, giving us just what we need when we need it. This is why I steer clear of too much planning and focus instead on gratitude and grace.

    Liked by 1 person

    • So true – God is full of surprises. I am learning through the pandemic to do less planning and be more flexible too. One silver lining! Thank you for hosting.


  26. Totally engaging post, Laurie! And such truth – you can’t always get what you want but always what you need. It’s a blessing sometimes when God DOESN’T give us what we want! LOL, He sees the big picture whereas we are all focused on the here and now.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. โ€œIt was all I could do, and it was the best I could do.โ€ Laurie, this is such a freeing perspective, especially when it comes to things that are sort of within our control and yet completely out of our control at the same time. The song started playing in my head when I saw your headline too … such a great way to illustrate the idea that not getting what we want is often exactly what we need. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    • That perspective is freeing. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always come easily for me. I still have that song playing in my head. That’s OK…I like it! ๐Ÿ™‚


  28. I had no idea weasels were so vicious! I guess I should have suspected, when the word “weasel” is used in a non-complimentary fashion. I so agree with what you said about not getting what we want but choosing how to react to it and trusting that God will give us just what we need.

    Liked by 2 people

  29. Lovely post, the feel of your writing is like flowing rivers…great expression, The way the ‘weasel’ was mentioned, some ‘things’ appear in front of us, and not recently did i start to ‘recognize’ the effect of seeing it and appreciating it. Thank you

    Liked by 2 people

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