Today I woke to nothing but good news.
A positive, caring text message from my personal assistant. An email sharing the joy of an evening well-spent by a friend in Ann Arbor (illustrated, no less). A request from a major news network for an interview about my work. Another query from some business associates in Hawaii wondering if I’d be interested in a trip down there to facilitate an Open Space on Oahu.
It’s kind of freaking me out.
Practical tools to make hard times happier. Even the subtitle of this blog is evidence of my philosophy of life: things are difficult, but with work and practice you can make them a little better. Notice I never say I’m going to show you how to be happy; I never say “here’s the solution.”
At most I say This is kind of interesting; maybe it’ll work?
When I’m faced with nothing but good news, quite frankly I freak the [BLEEP] out.
The Samurai and the Strawberry
Let me tell you my favoritest story in the whole world:
Once upon a time a samurai was walking along a cliff near a deep river, whistling a warrior-like tune and generally minding his own business. Suddenly his keen senses detected movement to his right – a tiger! A giant, ferocious tiger with sharp teeth and razor claws was bounding towards him, obviously intent on having samurai tartare for lunch.
There was nowhere for the samurai to run. He took the only option he could think of, and leaped off the cliff, noticing as he did a branch sticking out from the side. “Aha!” he cried with his samurai voice and reached out to grab the branch on his way down. Securing his grip, he grinned merrily up at the slavering tiger, drooling down with a frustrated growl from the edge of the cliff.
Looking down, the samurai began to try to figure out how to climb down the cliff…and realized his samurai reflexes might not have been as good as he thought. There were no other branches, no real handholds, and a very long, long drop down to the river. Worse, at the bottom of that long, long drop he could see several alligators gathering, looking up at him with an expression of hungry anticipation remarkably similar to that of the tiger above.
This was all very distressing, not the least because tigers and alligators are not even native to Japan. However, the samurai didn’t really have the time to deal with inconsistent fauna, since right about then a couple of cliff rodents with sharp incisors (CRWSI’s, for those who get the reference) crawled out of a hole near the branch he was clinging to and began gnawing at the root. They had, as noted, remarkably sharp incisors, and it looked like the alligators would be dining in relatively short order.
Just then the samurai’s keen senses noticed one other thing. Next to him, growing out of a tiny crack in the wall, was a wild strawberry plant, and hanging there was the ripest, reddest, juiciest strawberry he’d ever seen.
Without hesitation he reached over, plucked the strawberry, and took a big juicy bite.
“What a delicious strawberry!” he shouted.
If the story irritates you, good. I’m glad to be able to share the misery, because it drove me nuts for years. I loved the story, for some reason, but I didn’t get it.
I think I’m starting to. And when I find myself freaking out about the fact that suddenly I seem to have broken through the tangled forest of my life into a patch of delicious wild strawberries, I take a deep breath, reach out, and just enjoy them. There may be more brambles in my future, the tigers still come at night with their voices loud as thunder, and I live in Seattle, so it’s likely to rain soon.
But in the meantime…these are some really good strawberries.
I highly recommend you try some.