How to get yourself to paradise. Now.
"Remember that sometimes not getting what you want is a wonderful stroke of luck." ― Dalai Lama XIV
I don't know how my mother convinced him. But the summer before I turned sixteen, my dad took his first time off from work in seven years so our family could spend a week in paradise.
I remember the rainbow umbrellas lined up in the hot sand. I remember the sound of the surf and the scent of faux coconut wafting from the sweaty, jiggly bodies of elderly tourists walking by.
But mostly, I remember the Macadamia Nut Ice Cream Incident.
If you've ever been on a vacation with a massive lead-up, then I'm sure you've felt the dangerous pressure for everything to be oh-so-perfect.
The details are fuzzy, but there was a fight—a big one. So just Mom and I went on a long, silent walk together. She was on a mission to tick off a Hawaii bucket-list item: get Macadamia nut ice cream on Waikiki Drive.
"Welcome, welcome. What can I get for you?" a wavy-haired server said from behind the counter. The pop music in the tiny shop was loud; the street noise behind the closed glass door, equally cacophonous.
"A scoop of Macadamia nut, please?" I shouted.
"Good choice, good choice," the server murmured as he dug his tattooed arm into the frosty bin. Then he asked me a question I couldn't quite hear. "Yeah, good choice!" he repeated, as he reached for a type of cone that I'd most certainly not agreed to.
From then on, every time he spoke, and I said, "What?" he'd answer, "Good choice!" And something else I didn't ask for got added to my treat.
When all was said and done, I was holding a triple scoop of golden fairy-dust sprinkled ice cream inside a dark chocolate-dipped mega cone. My mother, who'd grown silent-er than silent as she watched this scene unfold, handed over a ten-dollar bill without a word—and skipped ordering a cone for herself.
The walk back to the hotel was anything but silent.
"That guy totally took advantage of us!" I screamed loud enough for Mom to hear me over the cars whizzing by.
"Whoever heard of a $10 ice cream? That's like five times the regular price!" My mother screamed back.
"He treated us like we were too stupid to know better!" we said, almost in unison. And so it went, one of us fuming while the other had a bite. We probably had real steam coming out of our ears as we passed the cone back and forth.
A few minutes went by.
"I'm still mad that we had to pay for it," I said, "but this golden fairy-dust thing…whatever it is, it's really yummy." My mother replied that she found the dipped-cone upsell especially insulting. But also, she thought that the chocolate brought out the subtle saltiness of the macadamia nuts inside the fresh-tasting cream.
All positives aside, I was still committed to my angst. I was calling the ice cream guy a bastard and insisted that no way were we finishing this thing he forced on us.
Soon after, we were back on our hotel property. By then, the whole treat had vanished into our bellies. Mom and I looked at each other and started roaring with laughter.
What does paradise look like to you?
If someone there offends you, misunderstands you, judges you, belittles you, or makes you feel awful in some other way, could that place still be paradise?
Most of us assume the answer is "Hell no."
The fight felt ruinous. So did the unasked for and expensive ice cream upgrade. Both my mom and I were utterly let down by the idea of paradise when we left the shop.
And yet, the awful series of events turned out to be precisely what was needed for the Macadamia nut ice cream to be unforgettably delicious and fun to eat.
So perhaps, paradise isn't a week in Hawaii where all things go the way we want them to. Or even a week of happy times outnumbering the bad.
Maybe it doesn't matter where we are—we find paradise when we aren't too quick to decide that things are wrong or terrible, and follow the unfolding story with curiosity.
Maybe we experience paradise when we have room in our hearts and minds for everything, even people who act in a way that's hard for us to take.
Maybe paradise is what happens when we say yes to this very moment, exactly as it is.
PS. May your version of paradise include oversized treats sprinkled with golden fairy dust, too.
PPS. Writing this reminded me of this breezy but ever-so moody song.