Lemons make me a better person – and no, I’m not just talking about the lemons that accompany salt and tequila. I’m talking about the lemons that sting a fresh cut, or leave you with that acidic feeling in the pit of your stomach. I’m talking about lemons that are uncomfortable and harsh and distasteful. I’m sure you guys have heard the saying “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” Well, I’ve really been picking apart that phrase recently and delving into what it means to (figuratively) turn lemons into lemonade. I feel like it’s one of those sayings that gets thrown around so often that it loses it’s potency. So I’m trying to rediscover what it means.
I don’t know about you guys, but when every January rolls around I always get carried away with the clean slate of a New Year and get that tiny (or sometimes big) “this is it” thought in my head. “This is it; this year is going to be revolutionary, everything will fall into place. I’m going to achieve x, y, z and be on top of my game in all aspects of my life. This is going to be my year.” Then every December inevitably arrives and I look back and realise that things haven’t fallen into place, it hasn’t been ‘my year‘ in the way I envisioned and hoped it would be. It’s like a punch in the stomach. What I’ve realised is, 2019 is not going to be ‘my’ year, because in life we do not have complete autonomy and sometimes life rudely decides to give us an unexpected (and usually unwelcome) lemon. The only thing we can control for certain is our own actions, and sometimes that’s simply not enough to manifest what we want. I was listening to a podcast recently, and the speaker said something that I think so simply yet accurately reflects our autonomy and ability to control our own lives. She said she used to believe she was the writer of her own story, but has now come to realise that is simply not true – we all go through many painful and difficult experiences that we wouldn’t write into our own stories if we were in control. She said now she thinks of herself as the editor, going along with a red pen; with the ability to edit how she reacts to events out of her control. Basically, you can do everything in your power to cultivate a perfect event, a perfect year, a perfect life, but at the end of the day sometimes shit just happens. Sometimes life throws you a lemon, or drops you in the middle of the whole damn orchard for that matter. From there, it is how you react – how you use your red pen – that gives you the opportunity to find something positive out of the negative.
Going into the past few years with the notion of “this is going to be my year”, my biggest focus has always been self love. There was a time in my life where I got to such a low point and from there it has always been my mission to work towards accepting myself for who I am. There have been periods of time where I have built up good momentum, making leaps and bounds in the right direction, but I am not perfect, and I do have moments where I fall back into a toxic mindset. When I encounter these set backs I feel an overwhelming sense of futility. I totally disregard any and all progress I have made and think to myself “I’m never gonna get there, I will never love myself.” These setbacks are my lemons. However, every time I have found myself in this position – sitting on the ground in the middle of an orchard, surrounded by lemons, feeling utterly useless – I have got back up. I pick the lemons off the ground, I slice them open, juice them, mix them with sugar and water – that is me exercising my red pen, that is healing, that is a lesson learnt and wisdom gained. For so many years I’ve failed to acknowledge the importance behind this process – I’ve just viewed these downfalls as the contamination of a self love journey that I naively wanted to be perfect. However, I’m now recognising that going through the process of getting back up again despite the downfall, is exactly what is edging me closer to a place of full self acceptance and love. The feeling of stagnancy is all in my head.
There is a quote that goes
“There is no final version of yourself. We never stop growing or changing, nor should we. Stop beating yourself up for not being ‘there’ yet.” – Unknown.
Ever since I read this quote for the first time I haven’t forgotten it. It has served as a friendly reminder to myself that setbacks do not automatically invalidate progress that has already been made, because our journeys are constant and ever evolving. We’re never going to get to a point in our personal evolution where we think “that’s it, I’m done. I’ve reached the absolute best version of myself that I can be”. That simply will not happen. Because we can always be better, and for that reason we will never stop evolving, and the lemons that life hands us will never become redundant. I’ve realised that in my quest for self acceptance it is imperative that I switch my perspective, and stop viewing setbacks as a definition of me not being ‘there’ yet, and instead start viewing them as a catalyst that is pushing me, challenging me, and nurturing my growth in a positive direction. Because with every obstacle I face and each lemon life hands me, I am learning more about myself, and life, and how to love myself through all of it. I’m not going to deny that it’s a tough process; extracting the good stuff from the bad – the lemon juice from the rind – it can sting like no other. But I know it is worth it.
And now after making several several batches of lemonade, and accepting that I’m going to have to make several more in future, I can look back and realise that even though the past 5, 6, 7 years have not been the embodiment of perfection I had originally hoped, I can still call those years mine in the greatest sense of the word. The lemons that made those years imperfect have built up the substance of who I am and what I know and what I believe. When I really examine the whole situation, it was naive of me to ever simply think “this is it, this year will be perfect”. The good almost always comes with the bad – it was silly to think I could only ever have lemonade without any lemons.
So here we are at the beginning of a new year, and for the first time in what feels like forever I’m coming into it accepting that it will not be perfect. 2019 will have obstacles and pitfalls, I mean heck, I’m already in the middle of one right now. There will be lemons, lots of them, and I’m ok with that – I recognise their importance in getting to where I want to be. We cannot simply choose a specific year to be from excused from life’s shitty parts, nor should we want to, because it is the crap parts of life that make the good parts good. I know this doesn’t seem like a particularly revolutionary concept, but I just feel like all too often we go into experiences expecting them to be perfect – a trip away, a new job, a new house, a new year – and we get so upset if it doesn’t turn out that way. Yes, it can be upsetting, especially when we have put so much time and energy and money into something that we so desperately wanted to be perfect. But I guess I’m trying to say that if you find that things don’t turn out perfectly, try to see the good in it, recognise that there is only so much you can control in life. And if something bad does happy that is beyond your control, rejoice in the process of making lemonade. Grit your teeth at stinging gums and a bitter tongue, and have faith that good will come of it.
Love (and lemons),