Metaphorically Speaking

Metaphorically Speaking August 1, 2007

I am wondering today what the phrase “life is just a bowl of cherries” is supposed to mean anyway.

There’s a bowl of cherries at my house–or, correction, there was. The cumulative result of that acquisition is: cherry stems all over the floor; slimy cherry pits (most in the garbage, some not); and children with sticky faces and stained fingers.

Stained fingers touching things.

Surely this result was not what the authors of that metaphor had in mind?

You can see how this sort of thinking can get me into trouble.

The fact is, I’ve been thinking a lot about metaphors lately, as my spiritual director often begins our sessions by asking me to express my current state of being using a metaphor. This, of course, often dictates the direction of our conversation.

I’ve learned that beginning with something like, “Well, I feel a little bit like a rat, blocked into a corner, trying to climb a slippery wall” often leads to excessive use of Kleenex.

(I’m also pretty sure I’ve learned it’s best to stay away from rodent metaphors altogether.)

I’ve found, though, that overall metaphors help. They help me take a step aside and view the state of everything. They help me put words to feelings I can hardly name, much less describe. They help me draw pictures in my mind to illustrate things I couldn’t understand before.

Ever feel like a tree being watered?

How about stomping around at the bottom of a hill and inadvertently starting an avalanche?

Like you’re taking a nap in a puddle of sunshine?

Running in place?

Walking around with a wet blanket on your head?

(Welcome to the strange place that is the inside of my mind.)

These images have helped me, from time to time, find the words to name a state of being.

I tried to imagine yesterday, however, what would happen if I, say, ran into an acquaintance at the movies and he said, “How are you?” to which I answered using one of my trusty metaphors?

(“Well, today I feel like a fish that’s been caught in a net; I’m struggling to free myself from the net that is . . . “. You get the picture.)

So, back to my original querie . . . metaphorically speaking, is life just a bowl of cherries?

Messy and sticky, leaving stains you can’t get out, sweet as juice running down your chin and full of all the joy that comes from being with people with whom you feel comfortable spitting out pits?

Or, come to think of it, is life more like a bowl of un-gelled cherry Jell-o–lovingly prepared for a constituency that believes cherry Jell-o to be one on a short list of culinary delicacies, mind you–and on the way to the refrigerator when the bowl slips out of your hands and red Jell-o splatters everywhere: down the front of your new white shirt, in the little crack between the stove and the countertop and all over the floor, coating it with a thick layer of stickiness that will never come off no matter how hard you scrub . . . ? 

(Please pass the Kleenex, and just hope you don’t run into me at the movies!)

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