"The sun will keep coming up, your child will say something that will crack your heart open, a new friend will appear, and you will once again be struck by the unbearable wonder and tenderness of life.
Most of us ignore the strawberries because we believe that there's something even better up ahead. We spend our youth waiting for our lives to begin, we get old waiting for our lives to begin, and we die waiting for our lives to begin. As if there were such a thing as finally getting it all right. As if perfection really exists.
A certain kind of perfection does exist, even though the tigers will never go away. Perfection is choosing to enjoy the lusciousness life offers in whatever form it presents itself, even when you are not as thin as you want to be, you owe money to the IRS, and someone you love is dying.
When there are tigers above you and tigers below you, there will always be a strawberry right in front of you. Pick it. Enjoy it. Let yourself have that much."
- Geneen Roth, chapter 24, When You Eat at the Refrigerator
Years ago my very best of all friends gave me this book. I read about half, oo-ing and aw-ing, highlighting and turning the corners of each crisp page that caught my eye (and there were many). But, life got in the way and I didn't finish.
Over the last month or so I dove back in, opened it up, began to upwrap each little chapter with the gentleness it deserved.
And it has changed me.
I especially loved this part of chapter 24 which is titled, When There Are Tigers Above You and Tigers Below You, Eat a Ripe Strawberry. Geneen is talking about her version of an old ancient Buddhist tale, in which a woman essentially strives her entire life to be one way, never veering off the path, to find herself abruptly at the end of her life realizing she didn't allow herself to enjoy much of anything. eg: a ripe strawberry.
It makes me think of my mom, of how she lived and lived and lived and rarely allowed herself the gift of enjoying the things she wanted to enjoy. Always too concerned with finances, or how it would look to others, always seeking the approval of those she cared about (and didn't). Then suddenly, abruptly at the end of her life, she found she had run out of time.
I texted that very best friend of mine immediately after reading this, and we both confirmed our desire to frame the page. What a reminder, day in and day out:
"When there are tigers above you and tigers below you, there will always be a strawberry right in front of you. Pick it. Enjoy it. Let yourself have that much."
I don't eat enough ripe strawberries. I focus so much on everything else. Just another lesson my mama taught me, being brought into fruition long after she had died.
Geneen's books are unicorns and rainbows for me. They're my go-to. They are my therapy and my Prozac, it is as if I open the pages and I've come home. Between her and Anne Lamott, I could own each of their combined many books and still never get enough.
Time for some strawberries.