We all know the old cliché that “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” It’s a cliché because it holds truth: often the best response to getting handed a sour deal is to sweeten it and repackage it for a different use. A relationship you thought was wonderful goes bad, so you pick up the pieces, learn from what went wrong and use that knowledge to improve your relationship skills. You lose your job, feel angry and unwanted for a while, then set to work figuring out how to present the positive aspects in your resume as you build your self esteem to go look for a new job. You gain the diagnosis of a chronic disease, then reframe the fear into a goad for lifestyle changes. If we accept the lemons with a sense of gratitude, remarkable transformations can occur. The ideal situation is one where we can “reframe” the concept of lemons from a sour problem into nourishment for our lives. Lemons are tremendous tools for positive change.
But what do you do when life keeps handing you lemon after lemon? How much lemonade can you stomach? We all know that gratitude is good for you, body and soul, but how do you maintain a sense of gratitude over the long haul when things are tough?
You could make something different from the lemons, of course (lemon pie?), or learn new purposes for lemons (they are good for cleaning stains and clearing out smelly refrigerators). You could sell lemons or trade lemons for other goods, assuming you can find someone without his or her own abundance of lemons. You could store them for possible future use (do lemons freeze well?).
After a while, though, most people find that their creativity and sense of enterprise dry up when confronted with a steady supply of lemons that gradually pile up and rot. It is hard not to feel resentful, depressed or angry. Now it is time to employ other sets of skills.
Confronted with a pile of lemons, I have learned to ask a few questions:
• Where are the lemons coming from and why do they get into my possession?
• Is there something I can do to redirect the flow of lemons?
• Are they all really lemons or are my perceptions of the situation what is sour?
A bit of meditation (or sometimes a lot) on these questions usually leads me to fresh ideas and a more positive perspective. The scent of lemons can clear the mind and uplift the spirit.