As I was cleaning out my office over the weekend, I found myself reflecting on recent tough events. I realized after a bit of wallowing and stewing that I could continue to stress or I could practice what I “preach” , walk my talk and choose different thoughts.
Man, that’s not easy! …choosing different thoughts.
It actually takes concentrated effort, pure intention, and repetition, repetition, repetition. It also takes kindness and compassion. Once I determined the effort required, I wasn’t sure if I was up for it. I realized I was already pretty worn out and defeated. Admittedly, I wasn’t really digging how I was feeling, mentally or physically. So I asked myself, “Self, what’s the worst thing that can happen if you try something different? You’re already tired, so what’s “more tired”? You’re already frustrated, so what’s “more frustrated”? You may as well go for it.”
So, I decided to go for it. I decided to put forth the mental, and sometimes even physical effort to rid myself of my “stinkin’ thinkin'”. Physically, I stood up and threw open the window of my office and found I could hear the voices of my daughter and husband as they worked the soil in the yard to prepare the beds for winter. They were talking about growing carrots come spring time. I immediately remembered a parable my wise Mom shared with me years ago.
Then, like now, I was facing tough times. I called Mom to groan about how things were so hard for me. I was complaining and whining about how I would never succeed. I was tired of fighting, tired of struggling, It seemed like when I would solve one problem, a new one (usually much bigger!) was right behind it. Life seemed really, really hard. I was tired and frustrated.
Mom listened for a bit and then told me to go grab three pots of water and place them on the stove to boil. She had me put a carrot in one, a raw egg in the second, and ground coffee beans in the third. I thought the old gal was nuts. What in the world did all this have to do with me being ready to just give up?
Mom just lovingly told me to leave the pots alone for twenty minutes and then call her back.
I decided to humor her, expecting to be able to add her foolishness to my growing list of things to moan and groan about. I would have three dirty pots to add to my already full sink of neglected dishes and more ammo for martyrdom.
When I called Mom back, she told me to fish out the carrot and put it in a bowl. Then the egg in it’s own bowl. And finally, to pour the coffee in a mug.
“What do you see?”, she asked me.
“Seriously? Uh, a carrot, an egg, and coffee”, I sarcastically replied.
Mom had me feel the carrot. It was mushy and soft. She had me break open the egg. The shell cracked easily and inside was a very hard-boiled egg. Lastly, she had me taste the coffee. Mmmmmmm…it was strong and rich…just like I like it.
“So, what was the purpose of all this, Mom?”, I asked. “To get me to slow down long enough to enjoy a cup of coffee?”
Mom explained to me that each of the objects had faced the same adversity…boiling water. Yet, each had responded differently. The carrot went in strong, hard, and unrelenting. However, after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak. The egg went in fragile. Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid center, but after sitting in the boiling water, its insides became hardened and its outside easily shattered. However, the ground coffee beans were unique. After they were in the water, they changed the water.
Mom asked me, “Which are you, Kelley? When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot, an egg, or coffee beans?”
That got me thinking. Which am I?
Am I the carrot that seems strong, but with pain and adversity do I wilt and become soft and loose my strength? Do I lose my backbone and the courage of my convictions?
Am I the egg that starts with a soft heart, but changes with the heat? In the midst of the crap of life, do I become hardened? Does my shell look the same, but on the inside am I bitter and tough?
Or am I like the coffee beans? The beans actually change the hot water, the very circumstance that brings the pain. When the water gets hot, the beans release a rich aroma and flavor. When things are at their worst, the beans get better. They change the situation. When the hour is the darkest and trials are their greatest, the beans take itself (and stuff around it) to a whole new level. I want to be the coffee beans.
I vowed to remember the true awakening gift of a cup of coffee.
Think about it…how do you handle adversity? Are you a carrot, an egg, or a coffee bean?
I don’t know where Mom got that idea years ago and I’ve since heard this parable many times from many sources and have no idea to whom goes the credit of this timeless wisdom. I am just so grateful my mom shared it with me on the exact day I was ready and able to hear it all those years ago and I am so grateful I was open to the reminder today. Today I choose to be the coffee beans. I choose to remember that I have within me the power to change my circumstances, to change my actions, to choose my feelings, and to take myself and stuff around me to a whole new level. What do you choose?