Chocolate for Courage
“Chocolate is for courage,” Dad once said. He told me this as I snagged a couple of Hershey Kisses. I stored them to unwrap when needed during the hours I was about to spend at what I considered a dead end job. I was no longer at that job, but even when things improve they don’t always change.
Last weekend, I sat picking at the corner of aluminum tinfoil. I picked with a too short, bitten nail and it didn’t catch. I pressed the limited edge closer and attempt to grasp again. The nail still slipped but enough of the wrapping moved to create a scratching sound.
There were sun warmed cherries in a bowl on the counter and yesterday’s picked raspberries chilling in the refrigerator. I craved neither, nor could I convince myself their natural goodness would satisfy. I walked into my Dad’s music room and reached for chocolate. I guess I needed courage. For what?
Despite the strain of disruption and change over the past year, I always identified myself as in control. In fact, my choices were directly made so that I was in spaces where I had more control. But, as I eyed the chocolate still protected behind its tin shield, perhaps this control was an illusion, one that now was revealing itself corner by corner.
I was accustomed to controlling the story. That is what writers do. We decide what happens and when. We choose which characters deserve stories and then determine how their stories are relevant. We prioritize their roles and how each action comes to a shared end.
I was accustomed to defining the situation. That is what educators do. We choose destinations and outcomes. Through meeting agendas and activity plans, we unroll maps and arrange routes to get everyone there. We guide how people fill their backpacks or arrange where they sit and for how long. We decide which learning matters in the end.
Our mistake is that we claim to do those things over blank pages in empty spaces. There is no such thing. Covid-19 had been all about control in large and small ways. As summer opened up, I was reminded again how little control over most of my spaces, I actually had.
Perched on my bed, I finally peeled each section of clustered folds away. The aluminum ripped across the center as it almost always did. This was the chocolate brand that provided motivational phrases inside for those of us that needed more than sugar to spark our burst of courage. Or maybe the words were there to tell us where the courage should propel us to go. I glanced down and read, “Book the flight.”
I had recently discussed dates with family in Israel and hovered over selected flights to rebook from a cancelled 2020 trip. What about all the extra paperwork we had to complete to receive permission for entry? What about all the undone paperwork I had pushed to keep going when it seemed nothing was going anywhere? How would either get done?
I quickly grabbed a second piece of chocolate and rubbed the wrapping away instantly. I read again, “Book the flight.”
In those words, I read, “Let go.”
As both a writer and educator, I believed there was always value to showing up and putting in the work. I had practiced that belief for over a year. I could list many instances when I did not expect blank pages to fill with words or a next opportunity to build upon shared learning. Yet, there had been at least the illusion of movement. And, there are different kinds of movement.
As both a writer and educator, I also believed in the benefit to letting conversations pause as they are until you can return and revisit old steps. But, this was faith without the structure of religion, and harder to practice. New voices and unplanned days. Booking the flight, would be the COVID-19 equivalent of leaving a draft sit dusty in a drawer.
The melted coating soothed all corners of my mouth, all crevasses of my teeth.
“Chocolate,” my dad’s voice rang again. “For courage.”