Panning for Gold

The unexpected surprise can work both ways, right? I remember panning for gold as a nine year-old child – the rush of seeing those first few flakes still makes me smile. It doesn’t much matter that the ore “sample” might have been spiked by the guide…I did the work and the work rewarded me.

With matching (nah, much greater) unhappiness I also remember being told of a particular girlfriend’s dalliances with some male acquaintances. Hey, fair’s fair, we weren’t married, so expectation of fidelity was misplaced. Still, it was a no-fun surprise I could have done without.

Where is the nice person spiking my life with exciting surprises thesedays? The prize and the loneliness of adulthood is that we are both the surpriser and the surprisee, especially if you’re single. Admittedly, dishing up a surprise to onesself sounds like an exercise in delusion – goodness, wherever did this beautiful set of onyx cufflinks in a Tiffany box come from? – if you planted them yourself in the sock drawer.

I don’t know if we can bias our lives towards pleasant surprises or not. Perhaps you know the answer. My thinking is that it is possible, but only over a long period. Love probably gives us the most grief with up and down surprises. But avoiding love (on the basis that it would prevent all the heartachey surprises) would be to walk around Manhattan and avoid looking at the Chrysler Building, or choosing not to have a deli sandwich for lunch. You’d miss the essence of the place.

Here’s an idea: let’s not begin with love. Love creates expectations that are too high, too ripe for downside surprises. Perhaps something simple. Just as a trip to the city involves a subway ride, let’s begin there. Tolerance. Let’s see if we can tolerate someone first, and work from there.

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