My coffee this morning is less appealing than most mornings. I slept poorly, when I slept last night, at all. I woke feeling groggy and stiff, and reaching for the alarm in slow motion. It seemed to beep an infernally long time. I started to fuss at myself about each detail that felt irksome, or disappointing, a choice that holds the potential to derail both the morning and the day, given an opportunity to do so.

I considered basic needs, instead, and the difference between wants and needs – real needs, basic needs. Is a bad cup of coffee actually such a big deal? Is having a really first-rate cup of coffee in the morning a ‘need’? I do enjoy it. It’s a high priority in the morning to have coffee, both for the ritual and routine of it, and for the pleasantness of the warmth of the cup in my hand. Does having that moment rise to the level of a ‘basic need’? Hardly. Does it, however, ‘meet needs’? Sure. Does my rather average, almost actually bad cup of coffee this morning meet my needs? It does.

If the need being gratified by my cup of coffee in the morning can be so easily gratified even by a bad cup of coffee, and if having a cup of coffee is not, itself, a ‘need’…what is the underlying need met by my cup of coffee in the morning?

The flowers may be lovely, but life's needs must be met before they blossom.

The flowers may be lovely, but life’s needs must be met before they blossom.

What is a ‘basic need’? Without checking references at all, I define ‘basic need’ myself as those needs that, left unmet, result in poor emotional or physical health, perhaps worsening until death may be an outcome. I mean…that’s the definition I tend to force myself to accept in difficult times, when a lot of other needs are unmet; it helps me get by until better times to tell myself I ‘have everything I really need to survive’. Is this extremely short list (food, water, sleep) really all there is to ‘basic needs’? I don’t really think so, myself, because those survival basics don’t do more than offer the most basic opportunity to wake up again to try another day. If I want to thrive, rather than simply survive, my list of ‘basic needs’ expands a bit to include things like shelter, appropriate clothing, sex, acknowledgment and internet connectivity (hey, it’s my list! lol). It gets complicated [for me] to understand, for example, that while I genuinely do see sex as a ‘basic need’ as an adult…my need doesn’t impose a demand on anyone else. That may be true of all needs, actually. My own individual needs do not constitute a demand or obligation on any one other human being, unless we share a specific contract – like the one human beings share with each other in marriage, or that we share as a society with our government. An interesting thought on a Friday that quickly takes me to the question ‘What do I feel obligated to do for my fellow human beings to ensure their basic needs are met, and what more can I do to build a world where we all see mere survival as an unacceptable minimum standard of life for humanity?”

Subjectively, I need this cup of coffee in the morning… It’s clearly not a ‘basic need’ in any sense. (I’m no expert, these are simply my own musings about needs, and your results – and opinion – may vary.) I go to great lengths to ensure I have it, however, and the feeling of having it satisfies in the way feeling a basic need met also satisfies. What’s up with that? I’m back to ‘what is the underlying need being met?’

We are connected, related, interdependent, and reliant upon each other for survival. How do I balance my needs, and wants, versus those of the world?

We are connected, related, interdependent, and reliant upon each other for survival. How do I balance my needs, and wants, versus those of the world?

Do you know what you really need in life? Are the most ‘important’ needs in life truly the basic survival needs? Once we’ve got survival going on…what then? What do I really need as a human primate, a creature of both emotion and reason, to thrive – to be the best of who I am, to become the woman I most want to be, to enjoy the many facets of living in a way that really satisfies?

What do I need to thrive?

What do I need to thrive?

Today is a good day for questions. Life’s curriculum doesn’t take a day off – and the quiz is always an ‘open book test’. Today is a good day to ask ‘what do I need from my life’? Today is a good day to find joy in whatever answers – or experiences – there may be.