Embrace the Sweet and the Salty

01/06/2016 03:46 pm ET Updated Jan 06, 2017

I am a big snacker - always have been and probably always will be. My most favorite snacks involve combining the super sweet with the super salty. Case in point - kettle corn, which is one of my most favorites. In fact, I am the only one in my house who can plow through a whole bag in one night. I'm also a big fan of chocolate covered pretzels, ice cream with a potato chip chaser, and on occasion I throw my M&Ms into my movie popcorn.

Sounds strange - even kind of gross and overindulgent? I know. I imagine that watching me snack is a bit like observing a woman trying to figure out what kind of mood she is in, going back in forth at a ridiculously rapid pace. "I'm hot, I'm cold, I'm happy, I'm sad."

But you know what I've figured out about this obsession with both sides of the food spectrum? The saltiness in the snack makes the sweetness of it all the more sweeter and so too the sweetness makes the saltiness all the more salty. I need each variety to appreciate the other. And if you stop and think about it, that's actually kind of the way that life works - for me at least and for better or for worse.

In the midst of a happy moment, if you stop to think about why you are so happy and what makes that moment so great, you'll often find that it's because of the tough times you endured before it. Like when your extended family gathers together to share a meal. Perhaps it's a special occasion. Perhaps it's just another Sunday night. But you find yourself looking around the table truly appreciating everyone who is there and the time that you have together.

Because maybe a few weeks, months or even years ago, you were not able to be together like that, or someone in your family was going through a rough time or you were struggling. You taste that bitterness. You may even get a lump in your throat or a tear in your eye and then you nod at that loved one or you give him a hug and that hug feels so much better because you didn't always hug like that. You didn't even hug at all.

Now think about watching your child's face erupt in a pure and real smile. Maybe it's because she finally scored a soccer goal or he had a great day at school or he walked home from the bus stop by himself without being scared of that big neighborhood dog who barks too much. You are overcome with a sense of joy, and you know what that joy stems from? All those games when she missed the soccer goal or never had the chance to make one. And you recall those not so great days at school. And of course you can't forget the tears that came from that barking dog. All those not so great times make this one that much better.

And on the flip side, in the midst of a tough moment you can sometimes stop and appreciate how bad it feels because at one point it did feel really good.

I've noticed over the years that the loss of a loved one feels that much bigger and hurts that much more because that person once brought you so much happiness when she was in your life. She filled your days with so much joy that it would be impossible to not feel sadness when she is not around. But that's okay to feel too. Would you trade all that happiness for the pain you may be feeling now? I think the answer is probably no. Well it is for me at least.

I guess life would be a lot easier or perhaps just simpler if we never let ourselves really feel the sweetness and the saltiness of our experiences. Imagine a life of blandness i.e. a basic cream of wheat or flavorless oatmeal. No offense to oatmeal. I enjoy it with some cinnamon and some salt (of course.) But just swallowing the bland never lets you work through the sting and pain of the salt nor the high and pure elation of the sugar.

I remind myself of this when applicable in life and yes when I savor each kernel of the kettle corn. Maybe I'm just making an excuse to eat the whole bag of one of my favorite snacks? But I kind of doubt it.