The mystery contained within a box of chocolates
“Life is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re gonna get.”
I don’t watch much television; these days I seldom watch it at all. With compulsory home isolation, television hasn’t been a luxury I’ve had time to enjoy. Gone are the days of losing myself within the screen watching the latest, highly addictive Netflix series. Yet, in the name of research, I did recently switch the television on to watch snippets of one of the most thought-provoking and well-known classic movies of recent times, Forrest Gump. If you’re familiar with the above quote, I’m guessing you’ve seen the movie. Tom Hanks stars in the role of a seemingly unintelligent man (Forrest). A man oblivious to his internal strength, power and his innate ability to unknowingly influence the lives of people who cross his path. Watching this movie brings a sense of disbelief as to how his life story unfolded, witnessing a continuous barrage of obstacles on his life’s path.
Forrest Gump is capable of drawing many emotions to the surface, leaving me full of happy feelings one minute, followed by a deep sense of sadness the next. Superseding this mix of emotions, the movie leads me on an overwhelming path of self-reflection; the movie encourages me to look within, to seek insight. A beautifully written narrative, Forrest Gump explores the life of one charming and unassumingly humble man, Forrest, who has many insightful stories to tell. Never the shy type, Forrest opens up as he talks to many passersby, mere strangers while sitting on a bench one day, waiting for a bus. As Forrest opens up to one stranger at a time, his defining characteristic shines through. He isn’t a quitter and always moves forward regardless of what life throws his way. Ultimately, Forrest’s moral sense of right and wrong keeps him firmly on the right path for a meaningful life. As he continues to share, I witness the deep impression and influence he unintentionally and unselfishly leaves behind.
As Forrest sits on the bench at the bus stop, next to one of many passersby, a simple box of chocolates leads Forrest to quote something his mother once said to him about a box of chocolates; memorable and catchy this quote sums up the story in one precise sentence.
“My mamma always said, life is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re gonna get.”
This observation offers a compelling and repetitive theme that weaves throughout the story. This quote also sums up life in general; today and the years leading up to today because unexpected events always occur. Fittingly, the box of chocolate that Forrest is referring to represents life. According to Forrest, when you open a box of chocolates, you can never tell for sure what flavour you’re going to bite into (unless you read the picture guide of course). Similar to walking into a room filled with complete darkness. As you walk forward, who knows what might happen, what object may be in front of us to stumble on? The same can be said of life. We are all born into this world full of mysteries and unknowns. We pick things up along the way but overwhelmingly, life is a journey we cannot predict. In my experience, each day delivers something new. Some days come at me with immense beauty and happiness; these are the days I might think, ‘that’s the life’. On other occasions, however, life breaks my heart and soul, leaving me shattered. Life’s like that; a smooth ride is never guaranteed, heartache and pain are part of this journey. Ultimately, as an individual, it’s my responsibility to accept and manage any issues that come my way as best I can. That’s all I can ask of myself; likewise, this is all I can ask of people around me.
The central message Forrest Gump delivers is similar to the quote by Helen Keller, discussed in my previous blog, The Symbolism of Doors, Passageways and Our Future. The quote, “When one door of happiness closes, another opens, but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one that has been opened for us” suggesting doors and passageways to be a representation of our life path. Life can include any number of unexpected and sometimes difficult doors to pass through; and we never know which door is coming next, not until the handle turns and that door swings open. By this time, there is little point in looking back to what once was. That door or life experience is now securely in the past.
With everything that life has delivered in 2020, Forrest and his chocolates are of more relevance than ever. We’re in a daily battle, living in conditions, unlike anything we’ve experienced previously. Some Victorians are taking the stance of having been grossly mistreated as we live through extreme lockdown conditions in our State. People are beginning to push back in objection to the constraints on our way of life. Unfortunately, the battle doesn’t end here. On a personal level, we face another daily battle within our own minds. A battle of survival; never before has self-care and our own sense of inner health and wellbeing, been so crucial.
Accepting and devouring our very own box of chocolates
Each of us has our own individual box of chocolates. The chocolates are a representation of the nature of life; no two people can expect to receive the same combination of fillings; thus, no two life experiences are likely to be the same. Some chocolates within our box may be our favourite flavour and provide us with a source of great pleasure. Others may be bitter, hard to eat and not at all pleasant; whether we like it or not, once we take the first bite, we are unable to take that bite back. These not so desirable sweet treats can serve as a representation of a time in life we’d rather forget, for whatever reason, but make no mistake, the chocolates are in the box for a very good reason.
When I look back over my life so far; the box of chocolates metaphor comes to life too. The chocolates I received stand out as being a complicated mix of deliciousness and many I’d prefer never to have tasted. For example, one day many years ago, I had one of those chocolates that are to be savoured. This was the day my family immigrated from the United Kingdom to this amazing country (Australia) that we are now lucky enough to call home. A day of great happiness and satisfaction for my family. Figuratively speaking, that one particular chocolate was unforgettable and life-changing. Not everyone is lucky enough to have such an opportunity.
I’ve also had my fair share of chocolates that don’t dance well with my tastebuds. This is no coincidence; my life has been ambushed with what sometimes feels like an endless stream of trying circumstances. Childhood anxieties evolved into the deadly shadow of disordered eating and body image issues that would torment me as I grew into adulthood. Positive or otherwise, that is what I’ve received in life. That’s my story about accepting and working with difficulties. A strong sense of frustration took over as I lingered around in my helplessness and self-destruction; but not anymore. Don’t get me wrong, eating disorders don’t simply go away, nor do the daily barrage of messages disappear. The difference is I’m now learning to live life, appreciate other people, and make the most of what I have and the things and people I love. Even better, I now have The Picture Healer, something I’ve been devoted to and have worked hard to achieve. Maybe, in some small way, the work I’m putting into helping myself is also helping others struggling with their battles, eating disorders or otherwise. I can see now that it is up to me to make the most of life. This includes both the good and the downright horrible experiences in my chocolate box.
We know that a box of chocolates is a delicious metaphor describing life. You might argue that when opening a box of chocolates, the smart way to select a chocolate is to use the flavour guide that usually accompanies the package. But, do we use the pictures as a guide or dive in and accept whatever flavour we may get? Since when did life come with a set of instructions?
The box of chocolates defines the movie, Forrest Gump, brilliantly, because Forrest’s life had servings of both bad and good experiences. The metaphor is flavoured with a distinct sense of accuracy, unpredictability, volatility and randomness. As we waken each morning, we wake up to the opportunity for a new beginning, a new challenge and a new surprise. But I don’t recall being promised a life full of positive and predictable experiences. Would you want to know what to expect for the rest of your life? Look at this question from a child’s perspective at Christmas time. If there were no mystery surrounding the day, Christmas would lose its sense of excitement and surprise; it would become just another day. Life has no script; mistakes are inevitable. Mistakes provide valuable opportunities to learn and grow as individuals; this is how we learn right from wrong as children. Maybe we’d benefit reconsidering our unforgiving expectations that some people are not allowed to make mistakes.
I’ve made countless mistakes, the same ones over and over. Some of these mistakes have been quite costly both financially and emotionally. I’ve been on this quest to achieve that allusive recovery for years. I’ve spent a lot of money funding treatment programs that did nothing but take advantage of vulnerable people. Programs that were hugely overpriced, usually in another state or online. What did I receive in return? Nothing but more disappointment in myself because all of the resources I had wasted AGAIN. Full of guilt and ammunition to encourage the self-critical side of myself to continue the relentless self-beating. As far as I was concerned, I’d disappointed everyone who was helping make such treatments a viable option. Hindsight is a beautiful thing; I now have a better understanding and I know that some of these programs deceitful and money-hungry businesses that shouldn’t be allowed to offer treatment for ED patients. Luckily for me, my extremely forgiving and understanding family and key friends didn’t bat an eyelid; they just wanted me to get better. So, despite the substantial costs, financially and emotionally, the punishment was coming from one source only: my ED.
Maybe this is why I find myself today, struggling to accept the unrelenting and high expectations many of us are directing at the individuals working tirelessly to run this beautiful country we call home. Yes, it’s probably a controversial statement to say right now, but these people are human and they will make mistakes. Admittedly, these mistakes can have far broader bearing than the mistakes you and I may make. Still, put yourself in their shoes, even think of them as family members. Would the ongoing abuse they’re receiving still feel acceptable? I hope my message comes across clearly. I too have lost family to COVID-19, I’ve been affected mentally as have my children and many others I know. Any preventable loss of human life is absolutely unacceptable; my heart goes out to everyone who has experienced loss through the pandemic. I’m simply coming from a place of peace and forgiveness. For the first time in my life, I have goals now. I also have an unfathomable desire to get back to the job of living life, likewise for everyone else to be able to enjoy doing the same. All we can ask is that lessons have been learned, critical mistakes not be repeated and that amends are made. I have no interest in all the blame.
We are at a significant point in our collective journey through COVID-19. Understandably, many of us are looking back on the past year with a raging sense of anger and injustice. We’ve had no choice but to ignore our better judgment, trusting strangers to do the right thing whilst staying away from those we love. So, where to from here? What would Forrest Gump do?
Life and living is a big mixing pot that is full of good and bad experiences, so let us accept what has happened and move on. Currently, some people are finding themselves stuck in the middle of a story with no end in sight. We’re becoming increasingly frustrated because we don’t know how and when the story is going to end. Australians now is the time to come together with one common goal in sight. Move forward from a place of acceptance, a place of peace, a place of forgiveness, knowing we cannot change events that have regretfully occurred. What we can do is let go of the highly critical and shaming comments, the blame game, and the theories, and get on with the job of rebuilding our world, and a life where we can be happy.