My mother became pregnant with my baby brother, friends and neighbors cheerfully advised her to eat pomegranates--an old wives' tale that promised a beautiful child. But there was a certain truth in the suggestion too; the fruit has long been well known as a superfood, packed with vitamins, nutrients, and polyphenols (a powerful antioxidant). For a pregnant woman, it's a gold mine.
But for our mother, retrieving the valuable seeds embedded in the red flesh of such a treasure meant an itchy, painful rash. She relied on us to handle this task for her instead. My siblings and I waited impatiently for our brother to arrive through the winter of 1978, when I was six years old. Our family was still living in Istanbul then, and we counted down the days as our living room was slowly overtaken by kilos of pomegranates.
The elderly woman who lived on the second floor observed our growing stockpile and told me a secret: if I was clever enough to ride a wild horse while eating a pomegranate without dropping a single seed, I would be guaranteed entry to the kingdom of heaven. Our lovely, wise neighbor was a progressive Alevi, a Shiite who held prayer meetings in her home where men and women sat together side-by-side. I couldn't imagine my own parents, who were not exactly conservative but who were certainly more traditional, doing the same. I wondered if the woman had mastered this feat yet herself. She grinned, her eyes bright, and told me, "No, but you are young now and this will make sense to you one day."
Her story stuck with me until my own pregnancy in 2006. Like my mother, I too ate an abundance of pomegranates throughout those 40 weeks while I waited to meet my daughter. I gave her a taste for them when she was in the womb, and now, at nine, she's obsessed with them too.
A few weekends ago, I woke up on Saturday at my usual 5 AM. I sat with my husband, and we talked about his job and a possible promotion. We made coffee and loved on the dogs. Later, we were joined by our daughter, and I carried on with my weekend morning ritual of balancing work and home. I run two companies, so I caught up on email and worked on a few presentations while making homemade broth and changing out the sheets on the beds and completing load after load of laundry. I finished prepping dinner for later that evening and then took a brief break to serve my daughter traditional Turkish tea.
That's when it dawned on me that I'd figured it out. I'm going to heaven. I work my tail off seven days a week to advance my career and grow my companies and to create opportunities for my employees. My bills are paid on time and my customers are happy. Most days, I cook homemade meals to nourish my husband and my children. I buy organic groceries and avoid feeding my kids junk. I put time and energy into keeping the romance alive in my marriage and stay up-to-date on news and trends in his industry so I can have intelligent conversations with him about his work, and he does the same. I cook, I clean, I love, I lead, I lean in and out, I innovate and communicate and from time-to-time even manage to use the treadmill, all while trying not to drop any of my pomegranate seeds. If I keep all of the fruit from falling on the floor, I win. I get into heaven.
And if I drop one? If I'm late to the carpool line or don't finish a report by deadline? If we order takeout? If I snap at my husband? What then?
I still win. Heaven isn't a place--or if it is, we're here already, on the back of the horse. I feel it as I laugh with my daughter over tea or listen to my son talk about politics or in the early morning quiet I share with my husband or, hell, even for a few minutes while folding the laundry. How could any mortal being not drop a seed (or a dozen) while riding a wild horse, working hard to find balance in life and still keep all the pieces together? It isn't possible. Some of the clothes I washed and dried ended up a little wrinkled. The soup was good but too salty. I spent an hour sending emails but still avoided a dozen to deal with on Monday. We do our best. We try and fail and get better. We eat our pomegranates. We carry on.