Few things in life stop me in my tracks. Few things really, truly take my breathe away. And, to my surprise, on a seemingly average October afternoon along the narrow, cobble-stoned streets of Paris, I encountered what was the most delicious, mouth-watering, decadent, and dare I say, life-altering macaron I have ever had in my entire life. The most fascinating thing about this little dessert wasn’t just the explosion of flavours that made my taste buds dance as I bit into its’ beautifully constructed, pillowy structure, but rather, the lesson it taught me about life. About the art, and beauty, of balance.
A beautiful mélange
In North American society, we value productivity and material achievements, holding that as the mantle, or standard of success. We desperately find ways to push, pull, and claw our way to the top of some proverbial ladder that will lead us to an unforeseen destination where we’ll find complete satisfaction. For most, that means having achieved a high degree of stature in their workplace and commas in their chequing account. And, although in and of themselves, these pursuits aren’t inherently bad, I would argue than a singular focus on any one thing at any one time robs you of a unique joy that comes from seeking and working towards a more balanced life.
The caramel beurre salé macaron by Pierre Marcolini exemplified impeccable harmony of flavours unlike any sweet I’d ever tasted before. The tartness of the salt blended perfectly with the sweetness of the smooth, gooey caramel, creating an unforgettable, multi-faceted sensory experience. There’s something to be said about the bitterness of salt that emphasizes and heighten sweetness. If we’re too busy focusing on one aspect of our life, neglecting other parts, the beauty of the experience in its entirety is missed, and sometimes even lost. We fear that if we don’t pour all our efforts, energy, and time into our job, that we’ll never make it to that corner office, or to that six figure salary. But the truth is, pursuing a healthy balance between work and life doesn’t deter or side-track you from success, or compromise excellence at all, it actually makes you that much more successful. Investing your time, money, energy, and efforts across a variety of things allows you to exercise endurance – creating a whole life that can be sustained over a long period of time.
The misconception of success
We develop in stages – infancy, childhood, adolescence, adulthood. Traditionally, we’ve been taught to experience each of these stages in an isolation, narrowing our focus to that particular stage. As a child, you can only learn and grow as fast your biology dictates, but the problem is that as adults, we don’t grow out of this way of living. We limit ourselves to the here and now, putting other aspects of our lives off until “later”. And, of course, “later” isn’t ever guaranteed us.
My husband and I have been married for one year now, and over the course of this year, we’ve been asked innumerable times about when we’re going to have a baby. Shortly following that question is the statement (or warning?) that “your life will totally change when you have kids”. We’re not sure if this is meant to encourage or detract us from starting a family. We’ve only just scratched the surface of all that we want to see, hear, and do in our lives, so when it’s the right time for us, we plan on bringing our children along with us on that ride. We’re not going to just jump into “the next thing” just because that’s what we’re apparently supposed to do. When we do have kids, we’ll be packing ’em up, strapping ’em in, and taking them all over the world with us; not waiting until they are old enough to no longer seem like a burden to the plans we had before they were born.
Balance is an achievement
The beauty of that macaron was in the delicate balance of all the many layers that made this little piece of heaven as unforgettable as it was. Leaning too far into one aspect of your life is counter what you’re naturally inclined, or designed, to do. Our bodies, for example, will crave the foods and nutrients they may be deprived of. Ever crave a salad when you’ve been eating like crap? It sounds crazy, but even I’ve experienced that! Your body, mind, spirit, and relationships need balance. But, despite what we need, we tend to let social and internal pressures dictate our story, rather than creating and maintaining a full, balanced, and ultimately much more satisfying life. Don’t get twisted, fighting for the pursuit of balance is hard! It means saying no to some things, while saying yes to others. It means carving time in your schedule to exercise, work on your side project, make time for a friend, while also getting enough sleep at the end of the day. Achieving balance is delicate and difficult, but is ultimately a truer, more sustainable measure of success.
That afternoon would be my last in Paris, so I was determined to find another Pierre Marcolini shop before I left, and this time I would buy many more of those delicious macarons. The evening turned to night, which turned into our very early morning flight. I never did find another shop, and later discovered that they don’t deliver to Canada. And, although that makes me really sad, part of me doesn’t think I’ll ever be able to have that sensual of an experience with a macaron ever again. And, I’m okay with that, because, I’ll always have that one Caramel Beurre Salé by Pierre Marcolini on October 14, 2016.
Here’s to finding life meaning through dessert…