A man walking across a field encountered a tiger. He fled, and the tiger chased after him. Coming to a cliff, he caught hold of a wild vine hanging from a tree and swung himself over the edge. The tiger sniffed at him from the edge of the cliff. Terrified, dangling, the man looked down. Far below, another tiger had come and was waiting to eat him. Meanwhile, from the tree branch above him, two mice, one white and one black, little by little began to gnaw away at the vine. Suddenly, amidst all of this, the man noticed a luscious strawberry growing out of the edge of the chasm. Grasping the vine in one hand, he reached out and plucked the strawberry with the other and ate it. How sweet it tasted!
I remember hearing this story when I was young but I never really understood it. I never understood why anyone would eat a strawberry when he or she should be trying to escape the tigers! It wasn’t until years later that I finally got it.
I had just found out my mother had breast cancer, and I was walking to meet her for dinner. My mind was seized by the most frightening thoughts of losing my mother and what this illness would mean. Panic overcame me. All of a sudden, a beautiful breeze hit my face and an enveloping peace and joy ran through me. Was it okay for me to feel this joy when danger was looming over my family? And then I realized, aha! This is the strawberry. I got to dinner, and the peace and joy stayed with me. My mother and I held hands and we laughed and cried a bit. And throughout that evening the depth of my joy was profound. I was acutely aware that in that moment there was nothing else to do but be present with one another. Sure, there would be a time to act on her illness and decisions to be made, but at that moment it was time to eat the strawberry. How sweet it tasted!
I am sure you realize that the story stops after the man eats the strawberry because the message of this story is to be in the moment. But my Maybe Mind says, “Hey, we have no idea what happens to the man. He could fall to his death after he enjoys the strawberry, but Maybe he is saved by a friend, or Maybe the tiger leaves for other prey or the man figures out another way out of the situation.” Adding hope and possibility to the story makes it easier to enjoy the strawberry and at the same time be aware that new possibilities can arise. This is when we realize that the unexpected can be our friend. It always brings change and change offers us not just obstacles but also new ways to move forward.
So whatever you are facing today, whether it is financial troubles, illness, or another crisis, be sure to find the strawberries when you can. This is the true essence of being alive, no matter what the future brings. Staying in the present is like opening the window to life. Maybe when you are not even looking the winds will change, offering you a way out of whatever you are experiencing.
Reprinted from The Gift of Maybe by Allison Carmen by arrangement with Perigee, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, a Penguin Random House Company, Copyright © 2014 by Allison Carmen.