We have all heard them before, the “Life is like … ” complete the sentence. I’m sure if you are anything like me, you have even used them in casual conversation. Or if you happen to also be a constantly thinking and analyzing person like myself, you have tried to come up with your own witty response.
Despite our best efforts, some of these phrases will always stick in my mind.
There is “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get,” one of my favorite quotes from the movie “Forrest Gump.” I find this one especially true around the holidays when you are walking through the store and you see those long skinny boxes of “fancy chocolates.” For some reason, I always HAVE to buy one, even though I really only like maybe half of the treats inside.
I always get home, liberate the box from its plastic wrapper, slide the cover off and examine the inside chocolate treasure map. I quickly discern which ones are my favorites — I am a big fan of the solid chocolate piece found right in the middle. Then I would determine which ones I am going to avoid — chocolate-covered cherries rank pretty high on that list.
The rule in our house was we always had to eat the top layer before we could move to the reset bottom layer to pick out our favorites again. That rule never went unbroken and eventually someone would combine the layers, rendering the chocolate map useless and turning a cheerful Christmas treat into a dangerous game of chocolate roulette. I think that must have been what Forrest was talking about and boy, did he get it right.
Another common phrase is “Life is like a roller coaster.” I am a big fan of roller coasters but was never a big fan of this reference. I understand that there are some pretty scary roller coasters out there, ones that go every direction and can make grown men cry. But I think there is a certain level of agreement that goes with a roller coaster. You don’t just randomly get on the “Wicked Twister” or “Sky Screamer” and not know what you are in for.
With life, we don’t really have much say with getting on the ride. In all fairness, we don’t get to see the twists and turns of the roller coaster and make the decision to stay away. Instead, we jump in one of the cars at birth and jump out at death and all the in between could go either way. Maybe a better phrase would be, “Life is like riding a roller coaster blindfolded, you can’t see where you are going, but you know it is going to be scary getting there.” Or maybe I am too much of a cynic.
After much consideration, I think my go-to comment would be “Life is like a zipper.” Zippers are handy and I don’t think we realize how much they make our lives easier each day. Most of the time, they smoothly go up and down, opening and closing things much like life’s ups and downs open and close portions of our lives.
But then one day the zipper on your favorite jeans breaks apart and now you are left with a draft, a gaping hole that you have to work around. Sometimes you can fix it, but sometimes you can’t and there goes the favorite jeans.
Then there is the day that you put on your winter coat to go outside and as you are standing out in the cold trying to zip your jacket, you find a broken tooth or something that prevents the jacket from zipping and you are left in the cold. I think we probably have all had this happen to us at least once in our life.
Just like with a broken zipper, life can go from moving smoothly to stopping working how it is supposed to in mere moments. Sometimes you can fix it and sometimes you can’t and that leaves you cold, frustrated and probably a little sad. But it is important to remember that the broken zipper isn’t the end of the world, just a little hiccup in the day-to-day.
Whether it is chocolate, roller coasters or zippers, I think the holidays especially are a good time to remember that life can be unexpected and it may be as simple as “spitting the chocolate out” — turning away from a poor choice for a better one. Or it might be more difficult like a mangled zipper that refuses to close — a lost relationship or family member that can’t be repaired. It is times like these that we look back on the times things were going well and anxiously wait for them to return there again.