It’s the age old expression. When life gives you lemons…
What do you do?
Find the ripest ones and throw them at people to vent your anger? Sell them on at a profit? Make lemonade to donate to the homeless? Save them for a rainy day until they go mouldy and eventually chuck ’em? Or perhaps attempt a lemon version of Potato Head?
Some women I’ve talked to have sometimes wondered “why me?” They’ve wanted to know why the things that have happened, the things that have gone awry with their bodies or with a surgery, have happened to them. It’s almost like a personal affront, something they have had to bear because they’ve been singled out for those experiences. Did they do something to deserve it, is there a bigger plan for what they’re going through, or is it all just so unfair as to be bad luck?
I must admit, of all the things I’ve thought over the years, the ‘why me’ aspect doesn’t seem to have really crossed my mind. I tend to think ‘why not me’? Perhaps it’s luck of the draw, but so many people struggle with something, or several somethings, at some point in their life. Tragedy, loss, heartbreak, turmoil, pain. We are all human and susceptible to illness, accidents, mistakes and chance.
I think that everyone gets given some lemons, some more than others. There’s no fairness about it. Nor is there any rhyme and reason much of the time. But what people do with those lemons is what really shows the exemplary nature of the human condition. It’s how people perceive their situation, their outlook on life and what happens around them, how their view themselves and their purpose, how they move on with life day by day.
When you’ve got a bunch of lemons and you’re running out of room for them…
- Hold on to the zest – Easier said than done, but cultivating a sense of hope is so important. Things can and do change; your situation, your health and how you feel right now will change because nothing stays the same forever. Have hope. You don’t know what’s around the corner, whether there may be a spoon of sugar to sweeten your lemonade if you look out for it.
- Have a tea party – Put those lemons to use. Everything you have been through, all of your experiences, make you a part of who you are. They don’t define you, but they are part of your story. Your pain, struggles, frustration…All of this can be used for good in some way, perhaps by giving you more empathy, a better appreciation for the small joys in life, a kinder ear for which to listen to other lemon owners who are also struggling.
- Channel the anger and frustration – It’s not helpful to live with a bitter taste in your mouth or with anger in your heart, but I think there’s something to be said for a small dose of anger. When I have felt exhausted and like giving up, or when I simply didn’t know what to do next, I think of the things that have angered me. The countless doctors and specialists over the years that fobbed me off, the people that let me down, the surgery that made me worse… It adds a little fire to my belly, gives me a glimmer of energy and zest to keep fighting for a better future.
- Look at the beauty – There’s a song called Lemon Tree by Will Holt that was beautifully recorded by The Seekers. “Lemon tree, very pretty, and the lemon flower is sweet. But the fruit of the poor lemon is impossible to eat”. I think this is a good analogy for invisible illness, seeing the struggles as being sour and inedible, but the origins, the person underneath, is mysterious and beautiful. Beyond your illness is a compassionate, wonderful individual. Outside of yourself and your illness, there is also beauty among the sourness and struggles, if only you look for it and appreciate it when you see it.
- Focus on lemonade, not orange juice – Rather than a focus on what you can’t do, the good things you don’t have and the problems that you do have, try looking at the things that you can do. Try a mini list at first of the things you are grateful for, and start it small. Those parts of your body that do work, even down to the small cells that help your skin to repair cuts and heal bruises, and what each part of your body enables you to do. Then move to the things in your life you like, love or are thankful for (friends, family, work, a pet, the brightness that signals spring is coming, a favourite treat, books you love, online buddies). What are the things you can do, the things you can control? Take back control, take back the positives in your life. No point trying to squeeze the lemons to make orange juice and spending your life wishing it was OJ and regretting that it isn’t.