This is the takeaway from a conversation I had with my second-grader on our way to his martial arts class earlier this week. It’s good stuff. Something we adults should take stock in.
Relationships are like toast. Sometimes, although rare, toast can turn out perfectly golden brown and evenly toasted. No part of the toast is too hard or too soft, too dark or too light… not too anything. It’s what you imagine when you think of perfect toast. This type of toast can be enjoyed every day for breakfast or a snack or whenever you need something wholesome and comforting. You never get tired of it because it is so satisfying in so many ways.
But sometimes the settings on the toaster get all wonky and your toast starts to burn! Your immediate reaction is to try to salvage the burning toast and avoid a fire so you quickly turn off the power. Then you hurriedly look for the right tool to safely remove it from the toaster. In the midst of the panic, you get flustered and can’t decide if a fork or a spatula or a pair of tongs or a whisk is the best utensil to remove it without damaging either the toast (because you want to salvage and enjoy it) or yourself (because you don’t want to get burned). Goosebumps. Trying to save the toast can be incredibly stressful.
Once you finally get the toast out of the toaster, you take a good look at it and begin to evaluate whether it’s worth saving. Sometimes it’s burned to a crisp and smoking; it’s obvious right away there’s no saving it. In these cases, it’s necessary to discard the toast and get a new piece of bread from the loaf. When discarding the burnt toast, sometimes you’ll be frustrated and will throw it aggressively into the trash bin. Other times, when you’re calm and level-headed, you can more easily accept the fact that sometimes toast gets burned and it’s just not going to work out with that particular piece. You’re disappointed because you had already built expectations for that piece of toast, but you can see that a fresh start is the best option. So you simply drop it into the trash rather than throwing it away angrily.
Sometimes once you get it out of the toaster, you can see that it’s definitely darker than you usually prefer, but the toast appears to be salvageable. So now you must look for the right tool once again. Your goal is to gently scrape away the darkened part, but it’s just the surface of the toast so you need a delicate touch and a butter knife. A steak knife would be too risky with such a delicate piece of toast. A meat cleaver is definitely overkill. But a butter knife, although considered a pretty safe utensil, when used properly can be very effective. So you gently hold the piece of dark toast in your hand and gingerly scrape away at the part you don’t like. Pretty soon, the toast is a lighter golden brown color again, and it’s ready for butter and jam. Success! Relationship, er, toast saved!
But sometimes when you pull the toast out of the toaster, at first glance it looks like it can be saved. It’s only upon further inspection once you turn the piece over that you see the other side is actually totally ruined. There’s no hope for saving this toast because one side is simply not edible. Toast needs to be evenly cooked on both sides in order for it to be enjoyed. The times only one side of the toast is ruined can be the most frustrating because your emotions get sent on a roller coaster ride. You panicked when the toast first started to burn. But you were hopeful again when it looked like you could still eat it. Then you realized it really was over when you saw the other side was ruined.
Cooking the perfect toast can be tricky; therefore, it’s important to understand and accept the fact that most toast is not perfect but is still perfectly edible and satisfying. Then every once in a while that perfect toast will surface. Savor it; don’t devour it. On occasion, your toast will burn. Sometimes it will end in flames, even. In those times, it’s important to learn how to safely discard the toast so you don’t get injured or start a bigger fire. Being angry can often cause you to be careless and make a bad situation worse so we must try to keep a level head and be clear with our intentions as we discard the ruined toast. THEN we grab a new piece of bread, adjust the settings on the toaster if necessary, and start making new toast.