Thursday, February 14, 2013

Eat Dessert ...

I love dessert. Cookies. Cakes. Pies. Ice Cream. Strawberries … Raspberries … When it comes to sweet treats, I am not picky. Truthfully, I’d have to admit that I prefer something chocolate. Add caramel and I’m yours for life.

It’s Valentine's Day so I ask … Do you eat Dessert? Do you indulge yourself in that gooey chocolate cake or ice cream sundae occasionally? Or, do you count calories and walk away from the tempting sweetness?

Not saying I eat dessert every single day … though I do like to keep a small stash of mini-Milky Ways in my desk for the occasional splurge. Just a small rush of chocolate and caramel and I’m back on track.

Recently I received a box of chocolates with a purchase I’d made. It came in a pretty box with a ribbon. The box contained heart shaped truffles … each has its own personality, story and essence. I haven’t finished the box … No, I savor these truffles. I read about each one … I take my time and explore the full sensory experience when it comes to such decadent candy. I enjoy them …

Am I alone here? When it comes to candy and other treats, where do you stand? Think about it for a moment. When you open the menu at a restaurant, do you look at the Dessert Menu first? Do you select something there and then turn to the entry section?

I do. Oh, I don’t always place the order in the end. But I like to consider my options. It’s fun. It’s playful. It makes me feel alive to know there is something coming that I will enjoy even more since I waited for it.

Why all this about dessert? Well, a few days ago I had a shock.  I learned a High School classmate of mine passed away. He was playing hockey, came off the ice and had a massive coronary. Died instantly. He was 46.

I immediately got on Facebook and connected with a few of my closest high school friends to find out what happened ... to pass along the sad news ... to feel connection with people I hadn't seen in a long time. The result was a shared shadow of darkness ...

It is a very personal loss for me. This is a guy that I dated in high school … someone who truly had a significant impact on the person I became during my senior year and thereafter. Arbitrary statement perhaps. But don't we all have a few of those? People who touch us deeply somehow ... change our direction and without even know it, transition us to a new path? We don’t recognize its signficance when it is happening and we're in the midst of it. But when we look back, we are grateful for those life moments.

The story? Oh, he was the Football Quarterback and I was the President of the Drama Club. But you know high school and the distinction between the “classes.” Oil and water don't mix.

We dated all of three weeks. Went to the Homecoming Dance together ... he broke up with me that very night. In the three weeks we dated, we messed with the rhythm of the high school social network. When he walked me to classes -- guys did that in high school, remember? -- the hall of students parted like the Red Sea. It upset all the powers that be.

It was a tough time for me. My theatre friends ditched me since I preferred hanging out with Jeff on Saturday night. Key members of the popular crowd were offended by the presence of a theatre person in their socially elevated mix. When Jeff broke it off, it was my senior year and I became a woman without a country. Dramatic perhaps, but heck, I'm a theatre person so are you surprised?

Strangely, I found friends from the football team who stuck around. Friends who accepted me not as a simply a one-dimensional '"drama girl," but as Jenni with an "i" -- as I became known to them. I met new people who became significant to me. Tiffany for example ... she became my best friend. And we are friends to this day. I figured out what was important to me. I found a balance for theatre and "real life." I directed my first show along with a friend I’d made in Honors English. I discovered people outside the confines of the red curtain. I began to see life as less black and white and more a mixture of grey. I enjoyed things differently. And I began to more completely recognize and embrace these different facets.

20 years later, I attended my High School class reunion. Tiffany and I went together. We dressed up and promised to have each other's back ... no matter what happened. We'd even ditch the event should it struggle. I stayed at her parents house ... a sleepover just like so many times in high school. We giggled and dressed up to the nines ... I mean, it was a reunion after all and we had to look amazing.

I have to admit, I wanted to see Jeff. It had been many years. The drama of high school romance and status was over. He had been an impressive guy ... smarter than most people gave him credit for but I'd discovered that  during our brief "relationship."

I did see him. We hugged and talked about the drama of our past. “Wasn’t there a big deal when we dated?” was the question we explored and laughed about. The red sea parted and the room noticed. Twenty years later, the fact that the Quarterback and the High School Drama Pres were talking was still something that drew attention. My mom called me after the reunion to tell me that one of my school friends called his mom and his mom called my mom to ask about it. Crazy but true. Anyway, like most conversations at a Reunion, it didn't truly end. We just moved on to catch up with others. But in that moment, something inside me clicked. He'd gotten it. Recognized how that whole thing had gone down and affected us both. I'd become someone more confident and secure as a result of it. And somehow, the world found balance for me.

In the midst of all the drama of a high school senior, I didn’t know then to be grateful. But I hope he knows … wherever he is … that what happened those three weeks in high school affected me on a deeper level. It changed me.  It mattered.  That I’m glad I walked out of my comfort zone into the storm. After all, diamonds only shine after they’ve been put under pressure. People touch our lives briefly ... significantly. And I am grateful for what that experience gave me.

So back to dessert. In the context of all this, ask yourself when you are gazing at that mouth-watering menu … Am I making the most of my life? If the clock stopped for me right now, what didn’t I do because I didn’t make time? Am I putting off something fun or denying something I truly want or want to do?  Is there something sweet out there that is calling my name that I keep holding off for a more acceptable moment? And, if I really enjoy it, does it truly matter that the chocolate and caramel will add a pound?  I don't have to eat cake every day after all ... it is a "treat."

Embrace life with two hands. It’s fleeting. Appreciate the tough moments since they have invaluable lessons to teach. Celebrate the special ones.

And, next time you go out, look at the dessert menu in a new light. Order something different … or something that you’ve always wanted to try. Savor the dessert. No excuses necessary.

                                                                                                                                                      -- Jenni