If your Valentine’s Day gifts have felt a bit light lately, there’s a reason.
In a story that’s sure to shake the nation, the Washington Post reported that the classic heart box o’ chocolates has more box than chocolate. Thanks to over-packaging, the nine to 11 chocolates inside take up less than half the available space.
Now, depending on how new you are to the packaging game, this may get a response ranging from “What a rip-off!” to “Duh.” After all, most of us have a lot of Amazon experience these days. Any time a cardboard box shows up at the door, we know to expect more stuffing than stuff – though at least then, it’s to protect what you ordered from damage.
My own response, meanwhile, surprised even me. I realized this felt familiar. And then I understood why.
This is something that most of us have lived.
I don’t mean that any of us have done shiftwork at a chocolate company. (Though if you do happen to have that job, I wouldn’t mind a couple of samples.) But all of us have been through a lot lately. Many are exhausted. Many depressed. More than a few are just trying to get by with what they’ve got – physically, financially, emotionally – while knowing inside that it’s just not enough.
But we’re really good at keeping the outside from matching the inside. After all, we don’t want to worry the people who care about us. And we still have to get through the day. So we take whatever we’ve got on the inside and arrange it as best we can, hoping for the best.
My English ancestors would have called it “Mustn’t grumble.” Some of my family still likes to refer to “Fake it ‘til you make it.” Whatever you call it, it can be exhausting. Like finishing an interstate drive on fumes, you’re constantly watching the gauges, just trying to make it one more mile … or at least to find somewhere safe to break down. And the whole time, the only thing the other drivers see is one more car like any other.
If that’s you, I get it. I think a lot of us do.
We’re there, too. And you’re not alone.
If you remember nothing else from this, remember that.
It’s an easy thing to forget. When the world has gone weird and life is bearing down like a boulder on a cartoon coyote, it’s easy to believe that you’re the only one in the fight. Especially if you’re the main person holding up a family, a business, a life. No one’s meant to hold so much pressure for so long, but so many of us do.
It’s hard to let someone in, give them a peek at the backstage. Just as it’s hard to see when someone needs help, past all the lovely set dressing.
But both are essential. All of us need all of us, whether it’s a helper seeing enough to reach in or a hurter needing enough to reach out.
And it starts by being willing to take the lid off the box and show what’s inside.
Not easy. Not comfortable. It’s not even something I do well, to be honest. But it’s essential.
Think about it, at least.
An awful lot of our boxes may be half-empty. But there’s still something sweet inside.
And it’s all the sweeter when it can be shared.