Sometimes, my father buys a box of ice cream sandwiches.
After dinner, he unwraps one and eats it, perhaps while finishing up an article from the newspaper. Then he tosses the wrapper out and goes to the living room to read a mystery before bed.
I’ve watched my father do this again and again. And I’ve watched his effortless moderation with envy. He can stop after one ice cream sandwich and get on with life. Whereas me? I’d be fixated on having another, maybe sneak down to the kitchen when no one was looking for a second or third.
The other day, my father and I were in the car. We were talking about addictive tendencies. I’ve got them in spades, I said. Me too, my father said.
But I see you do moderation all the time! I turned to him. Look at the ice cream sandwiches; you only eat one.
That’s true, my father nodded. But it’s an effort for me. His voice was clear and honest.
Which brought my assumptions to a full stop. It was one of those moments where life showed me that no matter how much we see of a person’s outer life, we still know so little of his or her inner life. Of the efforts, urges, struggles that don’t get disclosed.
That’s comforting to hear, Dad. Thanks for sharing it, I said. No way would I have thought it was an effort for you.
And it occurred to me that we are never so alone in our experience as we may think.
So, when we are sure that those around us have none of our shames or hangups, that they move effortlessly over the earth, remember the ice cream sandwich. And all the unseen inner life that, perhaps, is not so unlike our own.