I packed a chocolate into my work lunch bag one recent morning. Feeling particularly naughty, I had already decided that I was going to have it for breakfast. (collective gasp of horror!)
I arrived at work, booted up my computer and went in search of a cup of coffee. I pottered back to my desk, and started wading through my emails. As I absent-mindedly opened the chocolate wrapper, an email caught my eye and, clicking on it, I found myself annoyed and indignant at its contents. Someone who just naturally rubs me up the wrong way was just doing what he does naturally – rubbing me up the wrong way !
I flew into an inner fury (inner fury, because I’m an introvert). I hit the reply button, and replied, the forward button and forwarded – it took every ounce of my concentration to remain diplomatic and handle the emails politely. And then… I went for a little walk to chat with a colleague and get my mind off of everything.
The morning wore on, and at about 10h30, I remembered my chocolate. Oh goodie, I thought. Just what I need, with a cup of tea! I opened my lunch bag…. And there lay the empty chocolate wrapper.
Shock! Who ate my chocolate?!
I sat stunned for a moment, and then it came back to me. I ate my chocolate. The whole thing! But I couldn’t remember a single bite. The flavour, the texture, the sweet rush of sugar and cocoa and caffeine. I had been so preoccupied with my outburst of anger, that I’d inhaled the entire chocolate without realizing it.
Have you ever had a similar experience? Becoming so caught up in something – often trivial and unimportant – and missing what could have been a “real moment”. Savouring every bite of a chocolate. Pausing to take in a magnificent sunset. Listening to your child jabber and giggle while she plays. Real moments are all around us, accessible at any time. But most of us suffer from what I’ve now morosely named Who-Ate-My-Chocolate Syndrome, and we miss it, time and again.
Stuck in a home affairs queue with nothing to occupy you? Why not spend the time looking at the faces around you… their expressions, their body language, what they are wearing. Find what makes them unique and find something beautiful about them. Smile at them, maybe say hello if you’re a raging extrovert just dying to talk to someone. You’re stuck there, you may as well make something out of it, and you might even learn something from life by looking at it through the eyes of a stranger .
Maybe you’re sitting at work, weighed down under a pile of paperwork? Make your next loo-break count. Enjoy the feeling of stretching your legs. Take some deep breathes. Close your eyes for a minute. Take a detour via the kitchen and get a cup of tea. Savour the tea.
Or perhaps you are whiling away an afternoon watching the kids play in the park? Put your smartphone down. Facebook isn’t going anywhere. But your kids are – they are growing up right in front of you, and one day they will be gone. Watch them. Laugh with them, encourage them, show them that you are really there.
With this mindset, you could even make a positive moment out of something as mundane as being stuck in traffic. Whether it be putting the radio up high and enjoying the rise and fall of harmonizing voices and a rhythm that resonates with your soul, or putting the radio off entirely and taking the time to consider life and count your blessings.
The cure for Who-Ate-My-Chocolate Syndrome is simple: Being present. Whatever life has given to you right now… be there with it and embrace it.