I am walking the dog at about 7 pm on a late-summer evening. The light is just right, the sun warms me, although it is no longer as high in the sky as the stellar showing of Seattle’s solstice. Hank, my dog, and I have just stopped to buy an ice cream cone – my childhood favorite of a Baskin Robin’s chocolate fudge scoop. We are heading up the hill toward home, meandering slowly. Uncharacteristically, I move leisurely, savoring each taste of ice cream, each steep step, the perfection of the weather. I think to myself, “This is a perfect moment.”
As I walk, I begin to reflect on writing this article; yes this very article about how sweet life is in these kinds of moments. I can imagine myself waxing philosophical. And then, right there, I kid you not, I find a hunk of vanilla ice cream hidden within my scoop of chocolate fudge.
I freeze. I think. Do I take it back? Do I scoop it out? Do I just eat the contaminating vanilla? What do I do? These thoughts go through my mind in the blink of an eye. They have arrived in an involuntary flash. They are not my choosing, but they are constant. These are the thoughts I live with daily without meaning to. What to do? How do I fix this? What do I do? What is wrong here? What to do?
And then I giggle. The irony of the situation hits me. A large, silly grin spreads across my face and I catch myself telling Hank how funny this whole thing it. My perfect moment, the one I had only recognized 45 seconds before – just long enough to spin a story about – has been shattered in a instant by an evil intruder dressed in white. I can’t banish the intruder without giving up the whole of my treat.
And this is precisely the problem. I have a real dilemma on my hands. I see two choices, but both will require giving something up. First, I can give up what I worked hard to get, and believe it is rightfully mine – this ice cream cone. I ate well today. I worked out. I earned my ice cream. I planned out how I would make this happen and fit into the dog’s walk. I even scoured the house for change to pay with in an expression of frugality. I deserve to have this be “right.”
This of course leads me to the second choice. I could, I suppose, give up my attachment to the purity of my special chocolate fudge ice cream and what I think is right in the first place. I could choose to see how funny this is. I could choose to adjust my expectations. I could choose to enjoy the challenge of something new, that maybe, just maybe, has new learning and opportunity for me if I choose to see it that way. Basically, I could choose to change my mind, rather than “fix” my ice cream.
In reality, of course, all of this dialogue was slightly unconscious and quickly experienced. In a flash the frustration arose, and in the next flash, I had already made my choice to see this as a funny twist in my belief about what perfect is. The hard part comes when the intruders are not so cute as vanilla ice cream. The hard part comes when I have the “opportunity” to apply these same choices in business, in relationships, in love. How will I choose to see perfection in challenges I don’t want to deal with, in relationships that seem taxing, in moments of mess-ups?
Luckily, today, the intruder is only ice cream, perhaps the most lovely grounds for practice I can imagine.