The Gift of Guilty Pleasures
A true-life tale of success and enlightenment.
Published: July 5, 2010
How to transcend life’s twists of fate.
“If Jake fell in love with me, if I wrote a bestseller and lost twenty pounds, then my life would be perfect.”
Rose listened to this and raised her eyebrows. Her green eyes shone. How she wished she could tell the young woman all the secrets to a happy life right now. It would save so much time, so much pain. But there was nothing she could do about it. This wasn’t how it was done.
Because it never worked.
Rose knew from experience that while inspired instructions were essential on the path to fulfillment and joy, alone they were never enough. For some reason, that even she didn’t quite understand, advice had to be balanced with experience before such instructions were written on the heart instead of simply held in the head.
“You’re trying to graduate before you’ve learnt your lessons,” Rose said, trying to set Maya in the right direction.
“But I’ve been waiting for that life forever,” Maya complained. “I don’t think I can bear to wait any longer.”
“Oh, my dear, don’t worry about that. People fall in love in a second, book deals are made in a day and people have lost ten pounds in a week,” Rose said, trying to drop little clues into the conversation, like hot toffee dropped into cold water. “But it’s much better if we don’t get the things we really want until we’ve learnt our life’s lessons.”
“Lessons about what?” Maya asked, curious and hopeful that perhaps the old lady was about to tell her the longed-for secrets after all.
“Life gives everyone challenges, difficult situations they think they don’t want. Conditions like being lonely, broke and overweight. But people push against these things so strongly that they miss the gifts hidden inside them.”
“Gifts?” Maya asked, incredulous.
Rose knew then that her first instinct had been correct. She couldn’t tell Maya all the secrets to life right now, because she simply wouldn’t believe them. And that would be no use at all. Maya’s cynicism overpowered everything else: her desire, her curiosity, her longing for a happier life. She was dipped in it, head to toe, and its mixture of mistrust and resignation fogged her mind and gave off little puffs of suspicion-smoke that clouded her vision. Rose wasn’t in the business of trying to convince anyone of anything, but she saw a real sweetness in this young woman and, for that, decided to try.
She also noticed, deep inside Maya’s exhausted eyes, soft sparks of hope, buried under years of sadness and disappointment but still desperately trying to shine through. It was this hope that Rose had to awaken first, if Maya stood any chance at happiness at all.
“Well, if you look deep into these situations, these seeming twists of fate, if you look for the secrets to happiness contained within them, then you would sense both how to transcend them,” Rose explained, “and how to be happy along the way.”
Excerpted from Men, Money and Chocolate by Menna Van Praag. Copyright ©2010 (Hay House).
Several years ago, Menna van Praag was a struggling, overweight waitress; then an inspired insight by her life-coach mother, Vicky, led to a three-day experience of enlightenment, from which Men, Money, and Chocolate was born.