The Perfectionist Buffet
It sounds delicious at first.
You decide to walk through those doors beneath the flashing sign of "Start Living Your OWN Life!" and are greeted with seemingly endless rows of buffet options.
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You start off with a few appetizers of Lose Weight The Easy Way, Learn How To Paint, and a few spoonfuls of Joyfulness Tips.
You turn to your left and see dozens of spicy-looking heaps of How to be more authentic, How to be more creative, How To Leave Your Job, and How to be more calm (that last bin is almost empty). Silver spoons extend from bowls of Be A Better (with varieties of "Parent", "Friend", and "Lover").
And oh my, and that enticing aroma wafting from a few rows down...what is that? Ah, the social media bins! It would be so easy to spend all day right in front of those...
There are the colorful side dishes, the meaty Marketing Yourself and the vegetarian Mindfulness choices, the desserts that make your mouth water - the Strawberry Success Shortcake, the You Can Have It All Yogurt, the Look Great Feel Great Low Fat Chocolate Cake.
You load up your plate - sometimes two or three plates, trying to balance them all.
In the background, a captivating music plays the 6-figure salsa. Televisions in every corner blast images of an attractive women sitting with legs crossed, telling you to find your feminine power, a man wearing a t-shirt slightly frayed at the neckline who mouths Be REAL as he thumps his hand on the book beside him (the one he recently wrote and now promotes relentlessly), a power couple in a - oh, isn't that cute - matching suit and dress - who promise 5 secrets that will earn you 5 figures in the next 5 days all by doing what it is that you love to do.
You think about finding a booth by one of those televisions.
As you continue to ponder your pile on the goodies, you take a minute to look around.
Everyone else's plate looks so perfect.
Some are so artfully done that you automatically glance up to see if it was Martha Stewart holding that plate. You look down at your own - it looks more like a failed experiment with undetectable piles of something-or-other.
Some of the people sitting in the booths look so HAPPY to be eating their gatherings. You can't even tell what they have...but you want it.
And some, some who mill through the rows with you, well, their plates aren't the prettiest. But you can overhear conversations between them, the excitement in their words about finally being HERE, about what all of this will mean... and you walk with a renewed determination towards a seat.
And you sit.
Here you are. Ready to start, all of what you gathered right at your fingertips.
Little did you know, but I'm behind you - a few booths back. I've been sitting at my booth for awhile, finished a few plates, and have been people-watching.
I'm curious to see what you will do.
Will you be one of those who is just here for the experience? The line out the door is long. There is something enticing about a long line, so people jump in. They don't know why, exactly, they want to Live Their Own Life, but it sounds good...and everyone else is doing it....
Those people load up their plates but never stay very long. I see them cycle back in and out every once in awhile, their faces as sad and eager and hopeful each time that they show back up.
Or will you be one of those permanent residents? There's one in that white gown over there, and that woman to your right standing by the Creative Crafts section. They've been here for years. I've seen them get anxious when they pass by the Exit door. So they just fill up their plate again and again. I don't know why, exactly, ... but they never walk back out the door. I wonder if their friends and family miss them.
Here, sit with me for a minute. Look around.
Take a few minutes to breathe. Try to tune out the music, the televisions, the addicting scents, the conversations. Just observe.
Can you see it?
Look at everyone's plates. Look at mine. Look at your own.
Can you see that they are empty?
Look back at the buffet lines. Really look.
The spoons sit in empty bins, steam rises from empty bowls.
All of us, we come and sit and consume that which we think we need, which we CRAVE. We can't pass up the opportunity to grab a bit of Lose-10-Pounds Cake, Be Happy Now Casserole, or Security Souffle.
Look at the faces around you. We are addicted.
And the truth is, if we could really see what is ... we would realize we didn't need any of it.
Every single person sitting in here, every single person still in line - they don't need any of this.
I'm not writing a letter to get this place shut down, nor standing outside with a picket sign. I understand that there is a comfort that comes from filling ourselves up here. I'm not one to judge - after all, I have a few plates in front of me as well.
I leave and come back, sometimes craving my next dish,...
sometimes just to sit an observe and have individual conversations with someone like you.
I just wanted to show you.
You are perfect as you are.
No need to go up for seconds.
But please, grab your plate and join me. We're not in a hurry to be anywhere else, so let's enjoy our imaginary meals together and feel full.
When we're done, we can leave together, and smile at each person we pass. We will both be back, but perhaps next time, you'll be choosing your dishes just a bit differently.
You see now. You know.
Enjoy it all.