When life gives you lemons make lemonade. This popular metaphor is one I always try to keep in the back of my head. Sometimes it is hard to when a drizzle becomes a steady rain which turns into a torrential downpour. When life’s lemons get to be an overwhelming citrus block, it’s hard to see the pitcher of refreshing lemonade at the end of the tunnel.
It could be my car breaking down only to be followed up a few weeks later with a busted pipe and muffler – the bills totaling a month’s worth of paychecks. Then there is working your butt off on edits of a paper, only to receive it back with even more work to do. It could be the general bad day, stepping in puddles, having a miserable cashier cash you out, your food order being wrong, the heat in your car dying. It could be bigger stuff, distance growing between a friendship, it could be your job meeting the chopping block because of budget cuts, or the unexpected illness of a loved one.
We are bound to get lemons in our lives – big and small. It is choosing what to do with them, and how we handle them that will determine whether we are able to find the silver lining in the messes we are handed.
There are many lemons I’ve been given. The biggest was the loss of my grandpa, quite possible the biggest inspiration in my life. I could’ve been soured by the loss, but instead I pushed myself to find meaning in it. I no longer talk to him over dinner, hear one of his corny jokes, or listen to him rant at the television screen. Instead, I can talk to him whenever I want. I can bounce jokes off him and what I think he would find funny, and I can choose to see him and feel him where I go and what I do. I feel his presence when I’m in the midst of prayer, or journaling. I talk to him in the car when I’m driving to work or class. I often ask myself what he would do, what he would find funny and I start engraining his presence into my words and actions. To me, this has been the perfect way of dealing with life’s lemons. Sure, it’s hard to not miss the physical presence of him, but the spiritual bond I now have with him, makes me feel closer to him now than ever before.
There are smaller lemons, like my crappy car giving me trouble every 3-4 months. Then I realize the car got me through four years of college and two more years of graduate school. I avoided car payments for six years and I’m pretty thankful for that.
There was the regret of not jumping at the chance to move to Los Angeles to pursue my writing right from my undergraduate studies. Then I stop to think: graduate school gave me so much more than a diploma. I embarked on several experiences of my own self-growth including the spiritual exercises, countless Kairos retreats, meeting new people, falling in love with Buffalo on a whole new level, and meeting people that really make it the City of Good Neighbors. My program taught me so much more about myself than I ever thought a school program could. I also found passion in philanthropy and how I will always be a part of giving in some way, shape or form. Not to mention, I got two more additional years of writing inspiration.
We could let life’s lemons get the best of us. We can let them snowball into a citrus monster that has us gagging on the scent of kitchen cleaner. Or, we can allow ourselves to find a pleasant scent and use them to find some meaning in the messes we are given, a silver lining in the darkest of times. It isn’t always easy. Sometimes we feel powerless over the obstacles and struggles in our lives. But we are human, and we will sometimes not be strong enough and that’s okay. But what can be limiting about being human is also what gives us the most power: we feel. We may feel the hurt, but when we give ourselves the chance to feel the good in the bad, then we really start to become more than ourselves. We grow. We survive. We need to be patient with ourselves and when we do, when we embrace our humanity we realize we cannot be permanentalty conquered by the bad, only to feel the hurt as a way to propel us toward the healing and the goodness.
So when life gives you lemons make lemonade, use ’em as a garnish for some iced tea, or to give a kick to your fish fry (Yes, this metaphor is pretty corny and may not make sense, but I do feel it has some meaning). As it turns out life’s lemons are never quite as bad as they turn out to be. They may give you something bigger and better than you imagined. They may lead you to a place you never would’ve otherwise traveled to, or meet people you would’ve never otherwise met. Because of those silver linings you can become a better person because of it. At the very least these lemons may make you appreciate the little blessings and the good times a bit more.