“Life is like an ice cream cone; You hafta lick it one day at a time.”
(Charles Schultz as Charlie Brown)
The Story in Our Heads
I was having a conversation the other day with someone who is hard-struggling financially. We were talking about creative ways to make a food dollar stretch and he laid out several techniques that he uses. Almost sheepishly, he mentioned, “I bought some ice cream.”
I heard an entire dialogue in the little point of hesitation before his “confession.” I have had it myself countless times. It goes something like this:
“We shouldn’t buy the ice cream. It’s a luxury. We don’t even always make ends meet.”
“But… ICE CREAM….”
“But nothing! We’re broke!”
“Maybe if we buy the ice cream and just don’t tell anyone. And hide it. And maybe eat it in the car…Our soul is important too ya know”
>…EXHALES…< “I hardly even remember any more.”
“Exactly. That is why we are buying ice cream. GOOD ice cream. And we are going to enjoy every single bite, slowly, in front of whoever we want to eat it in front of. It’s our life, it’s our money, it’s our body. Nobody else gets a vote.”
“It’s not even good for us!!”
“Well, maybe it’s not good for us nutritionally, but honestly, it’s really good soul food.”
“Seriously? Look at our rent. Do you really think $6.00 is going to make that much difference?”
“SIX BUCKS?!?!? Can’t you buy the cheap stuff?”
“No, because the cheap stuff is NOT soul food. It’s just a waste of money and calories. The good stuff is doing something for us.”
“I concede the point.”
“I told ya so. Race you to the freezer case!”
“You know we’re here in the same body right?
All or None
My friend is in survival mode. In survival mode, we tend to regress into “all or none” thinking. The linear brain works out a path that is perfectly linearly logical: “We have this amount of money and this amount of expenses. We cut out this, this and this, and we make it another week. Done.”
But real life doesn’t happen in a strictly rational, linear fashion. We don’t have flat, two-dimensional lives lived out on flat, two-dimensional paper.
Those Other Two Brains
I know, I know, I know, you are really sick of me writing about MBraining. But I’m telling you, this is such a huge part of the real answers that people are seeking! The heart brain and the gut brain remind us that there is more to our lives than the things that make sense on flat, two-dimensional paper.
Amazingly, that wisdom is also the key to us getting out of survival mode.
The Ice Cream
For this person, ice cream is a powerful symbol. Ice cream says, “Even though things are tight, there is still joy. You are still a human being. You are allowed to feel pleasure. You need reminders that you are a living, breathing human being and not just some automaton who serves a practical function: You are full of creativity and inspiration, perspectives and gifts to give to others.”
Seriously, $6 won’t mean much of anything to your Landlord. But good ice cream, (or whatever the “indulgence” is for you that reminds you that you have a life worth living,) can be revolutionary.
Survival can make us feel like horses in a race with blinders that keep us from looking left or right. Must. Win. Race. Nothing. Else. Matters. The problem of course is that life is not a race; It’s a dazzling array of experiences. If the goal is just to get to the end in a certain time frame or before someone else, we will miss all of those amazing discoveries that can be seen on the other side of the blinders.
We may not like the results much if we only eat ice cream. Ironically, when we over-indulge in something it ceases to be special. It no longer carries the wonder of the experience. The indulgence that reminds us that we are alive is just a symbol; Not the wonder itself. More of the thing doesn’t bring us more wonder at all. Ice cream is not a meal. It can, however, make a sparse, cheap, unexciting meal a whole lot more wonder-filled.
The Power of Hope
One of my favorite Anne Lamott quotes is “Hope begins in the dark.” It’s a spark of promise. It’s a seed germinating in the ground. It may not look like much in the moment. The potential can be hard to see. But it is there and it is growing.
Picture a small spot of dirt. It’s just dirt. Notice if you have any kind of reaction to it. Now imagine that a few inches under the surface, there is a little seed that’s just starting to germinate. Check yourself for any internal reactions. Now picture a small, vibrant, green shoot, finding its way out of the dying seed husk. Feel that?
That is hope.That’s what a carton of really good ice cream in the middle of an otherwise sparse grocery list can bring. That little seed of hope reminds us that there is still life, vitality, promise and hope in our lives, even when we can’t see it.
What’s Your Ice Cream?
What are the things in your life that remind you that there is more when it all feels bleak or dull? What reminds you that you are alive, full of purpose, with endless potential for wonder and discovery? What might you put aside or neglect when “all or none” survival-thinking tries to make you forget?
Friend… go get your “ice cream!”
Do you get tripped up in conversations like this one in your head? Contact TIffany today. Let’s figure out how to use it well!