I’ve written to you before of the melancholy and even depression that sometimes dwarfs me when I’m reminded of how life works. Why be happy if people unexpectedly die? If the threat of evil penetrating your child or family exists? If you can love with your whole heart, only to be betrayed by the beneficiary of that love? I’ve lived long enough to understand that life is a precarious thing. And no matter how hard you try to hold onto the good, hard times inevitably follow. Most days, I take this truth to mean that life is a superbly valuable gift. Rare and precious. And that the threat of future pain makes this present moment that much more special and meaningful. On my bad days it makes me feel jaded and I want an award for getting out of bed.
While listening to one of her books on tape, I heard Geneen Roth shed some truth on this paradox. She puts a dieters twist on this Buddhist tiger story. Ever not happy with her body size, the woman is a serial dieter and fitness feign. Despite her healthy physic she cannot outrun the tigers. While crouched down and waiting for her death, she looks up to see a succulent strawberry. Her high protein, no carb diet means she has not enjoyed a strawberry in a very long time. Knowing her death is imminent and her weight no longer matters, she picks the strawberry and scrumptiously enjoys every last bite.
By reaching her physical goals, the woman had conquered one of her tigers but alas there were more that awaited her. This is life. We spend our time reaching for what we’re sure will make us happy, only to find that when we finally arrive, there are more tigers trying to eat us.
This truth is only depressing if we forget to enjoy the strawberries along the way. Life is painful at times, but it’s also oh so glorious in between. You will have times of quaint, tiger-free walks in the jungle. ENJOY THEM. And know that when the tigers return, there will always be a strawberry to help you through. A new friend, an encouraging word, a blessing in disguise. Don’t deprive yourself dear ones. Focus on the good and let it give you strength to make it through the trials of life. Don’t not enjoy the tiger-free times, simply because you know future tigers are possible. Embody the good of this moment like the sun lives inside you. And maybe, just maybe, you’ll blind a few tigers along the way 🙂
P.S. Sometimes, there are actual tigers in our lives. Cancer, job-loss, death. But often times we make up our own tigers. Never not happy with where we are, we hustle for a better future. Except, we’re so busy hustling for what we think we need to be happy, that we spend our lives not eating the strawberries of the present. Let’s do better about this, okay dear ones? Let’s try together. Look around you. Get a bird’s eye view of your present. How much is ACTUALLY wrong? Not near as much as your hustler wants you to think. And if there is something ACTUALLY wrong, if there are tigers above you and tigers below you, look for the strawberry. It’s there. Pick it, smell it, bring it up to your eyes and examine it carefully, then put it in your mouth and slowly enjoy every last bite. Aaahhh. Life’s precious bounty is delicious. Let’s enjoy it 🙂