The Ketchup Lesson

I have a little addiction to this hamburger spot near my home. That blue cheese burger - perfect little crumbles of goodness slowly melting into the most fantastic burger...they had me at the word blue.

So now you have either stopped reading because you're a vegetarian, or you're hoping the address of this burger place is going to be included.

Well, actually, this article is not about the burger, it's about the ketchup bottle. A Heinz 57 bottle to be exact, that standard bottle we all know, and the secret hidden on that classic glass bottle. The secret that gets the ketchup flowing without jabbing a knife down the neck of the bottle. In fact, it is so simple I forget that the trick is in plain sight sometimes. Until the other day...

I started to pour a little ketchup, and as usual, the stuff was stuck. Stuck good. I jerked it in a quick shake, nothing. So of course I do it again, and yup, same result, and I just come shy of knocking myself out. Then I see it and my mind remembers I know the trick, so why am I still trying to launch the bottle into burger space?

Just midway up the bottle raised in the glass, the number 57 is printed. Holding the ketchup bottle, simply tap on the side directly hitting that “57” spot and the ketchup flows right out. A little higher, a little lower and the battle resumes, but right on that little raised glass number and you got it.

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I have no idea where I learned this info, just something a wise person passed on years ago. The thing is, I usually launch head long into this battle with the ketchup every time we meet, until I remember the little raised numbers. They are not boldly marked, no color, no large print, but they are there. Standard on every glass bottle the Heinz Company makes. It is simple, if you take time to remember.

I am sitting there, ketchup flowing, and it hits me: I not only forget the simple lesson regarding this bottle, but I spend hours battling in many aspects of my life all the while forgetting the innumerable simple lessons and tricks I have learned over the years.

In my short 41 years of watching the human race, it seems we would often rather battle than return to the knowledge we have gained in the hundreds of life lessons handed to us over our lifetime. Yet, we somehow take ridiculous honor in earning the same badge of courage over and over ignoring where we have walked, so to speak, ignoring the spots of wisdom that would make the pour much easier.


The more I have stepped back this past year, taking an objective look at my life, the more I have realized that there are many battles I wouldn't  have to fight over and over if I would take a better look at where I have traveled.

There were some pretty rocky spots so far, but I came out on the other side...always. But let's be honest, that never happens without banging our head a few times realizing we have some pain or disappointment to  attend to, and then deciding to move forward armed with a few new tricks in the bag and acting on the knowledge that we HAVE those tricks.

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BUT...we often toss that collective bag of tricks behind us. More life battles arrive and instead of first taking a huge step back, adjusting our perspective as we go, we just run head long into the battle. Emotions take hold, and we take up the badge of guilt and blame, and in many cases, we assume, that ultimately, this is just how it always goes for us. But this does not have to be the case, in other words, we don't have to launch the ketchup bottle into space.

Think back. You may have faced some incredible obstacles in your life. What did you learn? No really, focus on the learn part. This is not an exercise in keeping track of the injustice committed, your failures, or any choices you would have reversed, get to the "what you learned" part. Not easy, but climb on up and take a look back.

So...what have you learned?

Let me share one spot of learning in my recent collection.

This past year I got divorced and the end of that particular path leaves you looking back with very different eyes over every choice you made in that relationship. Definitely plenty of lessons to choose from.

The biggest lesson to come out my marriage was the importance of being deeply honest in all you say, think, and do. I was not honest with myself for years in my marriage; really even at the altar we both knew it was wrong. But somehow you get better and better at hiding your feelings, you believe the lies society and tradition tell you about where you should be on the life check list, and you numb out. It got to point where hiding that honesty was not only damaging the two hearts in the household, but it was also beginning to physically take a toll on my body. Being real and honest, as hard as it may be, regardless of the outcome, is critical in life.

Lesson learned the hard way on that topic...yet life continues to beat forward and now my perspective is crucial. It is far too easy to throw the old behaviors on and act with the blurred thinking of the past. I am trying to remember that Heinz 57 spot. I have so many lessons I gained from 17 years of marriage and to not apply those battling headlong into more conflict in the next relationship would be the same as wrestling with that stuck ketchup when there is a better way.

Easy to listen to fear and what society and "normalcy" say, but let's cut the crap and be honest about the lessons we have gained. Let's admit we've made some mistakes, had some tough things happen, failed at times, even let others and ourselves down, and then we can FINALLY focus on what we learned, those magic spots, and move forward acting with that knowledge.

It is about training yourself up. In my case, I know the damage of not being real and honest; I have to make a conscious choice to train myself anew. I am trying to reverse years of behavior and that means in every area of my life, not just where I first saw it, but in every aspect I need to be as real and honest as I can muster. And so even in this article that I am about to send into cyberspace, I am still going to continue my training, using the lessons I know and act with honesty. And if divorce is a bit too real for you that only tells me you are due for some conversations with yourself.

So here is to the Heinz 57 spot...we've all had incredibly daunting experiences and they will continue to come from time to time, but when the next struggle arrives, take a second before you run head long into battle.  Look back, and see if you haven't already faced similar situations, then dig into those magic tricks and focus on what you have gained walking this life.

We have so much to give, so much heart to live out and yet, we let endless battles drain our passion and love. I'm done shaking that bottle endlessly; there is a spot that works. I am going to walk in the knowledge I have gained and let the struggle go. I feel I am called to be full of joy, not disappointment. Time for "learning from the past" to get the recognition it deserves, after all, I have a life to live, and talent to share. Let's be bold!

Anyone up for burgers? I know a place, and the ketchup is a flowin'!


Written by Heidi Rickard, Creative Director as The Authenticity Project