The Lesson of the Avocado
Written by: Susanne Sims
The other day I was having lunch with a friend at one of my favorite restaurants. We were dining outdoors under the shade of a beautiful green avocado tree. I had just placed my order for a grilled veggie sandwich on rye and was eagerly awaiting the savory meal when suddenly I experienced a sharp and painful blow on the top of my head. The impact was so jarring, it knocked my teeth together.
“Woa!” I exclaimed. “What was that?”
Rattled, I took a moment to assess my condition, then stood up and looked around. There on the lawn was the torpedo that had just hit me: An avocado. I picked it up. It was unripe and hard as a rock – no wonder the impact was so fierce. I placed the avocado on the table in front of me and chuckled. Surly there was a message here.
“Maybe that was meant to knock some sense into me,” I joked to my friend.
Perhaps you’ve heard of the “cosmic 2×4?” When the universe wants to get your attention, first it taps you on the shoulder. If you don’t respond, it might try something stronger like a spank on the butt. And if you still don’t listen, eventually a cosmic 2×4 comes along to really smack you. “Are you paying attention now?” it asks. Fortunately for me it was just an avocado and not a coconut!
After lunch I returned home wondering about the incident. I sincerely wanted to receive guidance so I started journaling. As I wrote, I realize that I had been going through a very rough period over the last few weeks. I was grappling with guilt, worry, fear, anxiety and shame. I knew I had to write it down and acknowledge my feelings. Instead of carrying this angst around in my head, why not admit any wrongdoing, see my part in it. Even if it was just me speaking to myself on paper, this could be helpful in dealing with the stress.
Having been raised Catholic, I grew up with the concept of confession or reconciliation. Since I’d rejected Catholicism at an early age, I’d never fully appreciated or understood this sacrament. Sin seemed like such a terrible word, often followed by condemnation, fire and brimstone, and burning in hell. Not something most of us want to spend a lot of time on. As I later learned, the origin and original meaning of the word sin is “to miss the mark,” a term that comes from the sport of archery.
Looking at my shadow side and being responsible for my mistakes did not get a lot of air play in my world. For the most part, I had always lived in an environment of constant positivity and cheerleading, striving for goals, manifesting dreams and desires. Bigger, better, faster — just keep climbing, that’s the American way. In retrospect perhaps I was only living a life of spiritual materialism and was stuck in the manifestation phase. Deep introspection and owning up to my shortcomings and failures now seemed important for my spiritual progress.
As I sat with pen in hand I reminded myself that being human means admitting, learning and growing from errors. I am no different from any of my fellow human beings. We are all frail and culpable. Thus, one after one, I wrote down everything I could think of. My greatest blunders. My biggest boo-boos. I searched my heart for where I’d failed myself and others. Who have I hurt? What wrongs did I commit?
I went back as far as I could and found at least a dozen ugly transgressions for which I was truly ashamed and remorseful. It was not a pretty picture. I would wince each time I thought of the next. But write it all down I did.
Perhaps one reason we find this sort of introspection so hard to do is that the next step can be even harder: Forgiveness. I knew I must forgive myself, but in this case, I did not want to forget. It was important that I own, value and remember the lessons these situations brought.
Some aspects of life can be filled with mistakes and regrets, but if we strive to do better, that is what matters most. As we travel the road from innocent child to wise adult, examining the unpleasant picture that sometimes appears in our life allows for grace and compassion to infuse our humanity. This powerful process of soul searching and life review was a gift.
Taking an inventory of past deeds also led me to take inventory of present thoughts. I’ve become more mindful and vigilant about noticing when I’m being tempted or enticed by the world of ego or acquisition. I’ve become much more aware of when my mind is running anxiety, anger, jealousy, fear, resentment and judgement. All of this has led to a desire for more purity in thought, word, deed and action.
The bruise on my head healed. The avocado itself turned brown and soft after a week of sitting on my kitchen counter. When I eventually spoke to the owner of the restaurant to let him know about the incident he said apologetically, “I’m so sorry. We shake that avocado tree every morning to make sure all of the fruit drops.”
To err is human, to forgive divine.