My Marshmallow of Hope

“I just want to go to the Vancouver Public Art gallery or see something inspiring,” a friend of mine said. “Life has gotten to be a bit mundane. Work. Home.”

I felt for her. It’s been over a year since I even left the rock we call home. I live on the Sunshine Coast in British Columbia, Canada. While it is part of the mainland, not an island, it is only accessible by ferry or seaplane. I haven’t traveled, gone shopping or even popped down into the States where our family lived.

But I had one thing that gives me hope, which I shared with my friend, “You need a marshmallow.”

Humans have this amazing ability to look forward. We look forward to events, holidays or even a night in without the kids. When we look forward with hope and expectations, we call it dreaming. The very art of anticipating something on the horizon can excite us and lighten our daily grind.

And surprisingly, our daily grind became a bit more stale when everything ground to a halt during COVID. As I continue to “hold the line” by wearing masks, social distancing and reducing unnecessary trips, I have also been smothered by this “meh” feeling. The feeling that life has lost its sparkle. There’s really nothing to anticipate other than another St. Patrick’s Day at home with my husband and cat. We walk the same paths everyday.

It’s just waiting. Waiting for the vaccine. Waiting for normal. Waiting for it to be over.

And then I found a marshmallow.

It is so named for the Stanford marshmallow experiment, a study on delayed gratification in 1972 led by psychologist Walter Mischel. Basically, a child was offered a choice between one small but immediate reward, or two small rewards if they waited for a period of time. A marshmallow. (Or a pretzel stick based upon the child’s preference, but who wouldn’t want a marshmallow?)

My husband and I decided that when it was all over and we felt safe to travel, we would leave the rock we called home and explore some place new. Walk on new paths. Listen to live music. Feel like our world is a bit bigger.

We have started researching walking paths and the best towns to visit in Switzerland. We ordered books off Abe Books about the country. We’ve watched walking tours on YouTube. Our daily walks are now training sessions, bringing us one step closer to our marshmallow.

The wait time is now more of a prep time. The “meh” has been replaced by anticipation. The longer we wait, the better the reward.

A marshmallow could be a party in your backyard. Flying to see relatives. Attending a hockey game. Focus on something in the future that you can plan for, dream about and feel hopeful about. It’s best if it is something that needs a bit of research or saving up for — something you can work towards in the meantime.

It’s what will get us through the waiting and the “meh”.

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