Tag Archives | empathy

Taking the Lemonade Stand


“When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.”

I’ve always found this quote lacking, and here’s why:

1. This assumes that you have all the other ingredients.

What if you don’t have sugar (or agave, if you’re following the trend), or drinkable water, or a suitable container from which to drink, or ice (can you picture a tall glass of lemonade without it?), or even a utensil with which to stir. I know that the quote is about turning something negative into something positive, but it’s not always that clear-cut – not to the person observing the lemonee (lemon recipient), nor to the lemonee him/herself.

I know what you’re thinking: That analogy is too dramatic. It’s just a simple lemonade.

Is it?

Let’s break down all the things you need to make a proper “simple lemonade”:

  • Lemons = challenges, which can be destructive, but can also be fortifying and a catalyst for detoxification.
  • Water = necessities for survival, well-being; you can survive with only this, but not without this.
  • Sugar = energy source; is also things that “sweeten” life, soften the tart and/or bitter parts – it can be fun and frivolous, but necessary.
  • Container = stability; is also the foundation that shapes one’s purpose.
  • Ice = dynamics that enhance the overall life experience.
  • Spoon/Stirrer = facilitator for calls to action.

Before you suggest to someone to turn a given lemon into lemonade, see if they have the other components required to handle it:

– If the person is lacking water or sugar, the addition of lemons will leave an imbalanced, and possibly unpleasant, experience. This is also true if there are already lemons which must be used.

– If that person’s container has cracks or holes, they won’t be able to retain what they get until the damaged areas are addressed.

– If there’s too much ice, the sensationalizing parts of the experience may water down the substantial parts; too little, then it doesn’t revive and refresh in the same way.

– If the mixture is not stirred, it may take a while to create balance in the experience, which will result in more melted ice.

– No container? What are you going to do if you can’t keep it all together?

It’s good to be able to see the positive side of a situation in life, but sometimes, the lemonee is just not at the place where s/he is equipped to do so.

As a well-meaning observer, first seek to understand the lemonee’s situation in better detail, and if appropriate and permitted, help address anything that is lacking before giving potentially sour advice.

As a lemonee, evaluate your circumstances and dire needs first. And be kind to yourself above all – do not add to your burden the acidic guilt of why you can’t simply make lemonade at that moment like everyone suggests. If you just don’t feel like it, THAT’S OKAY. But do attempt to figure out what’s missing.

2. If it can be assumed that you have all the ingredients, why stop at lemonade?

Because if you do have the other ingredients, chances are, you also have more beyond those. Make a lemon custard. Or a lemon meringue pie. Shoot, make a whole meal with lemon chicken, the custard, and the pie, and wash it down with lemonade if you so desire. Don’t limit your creativity to solving problems with what you’ve got.

3. You may not need to make the squeeze anyways.

If you’re really clever, you may find that you have enough other ingredients to put together something that does not include lemons at all.

Sometimes, we focus on the one thing that might pop up in our basket, but just like how “you don’t have to attend every argument you are invited to” (Michael Josephson), you don’t have to squeeze every lemon you’re given. The lemons may not be meant to be a central ingredient for the day, and they certainly are not meant to be the central one to your life (even if you have a basketful). They may just be meant to serve on the side as an occasional cleansing, balancing component.

The excess? Now you can go to town with it and take it to the stands. How do you like them apples?


Days Like This

It is a beautiful, crisp, sunny fall morning.  Outside my window, the long, morning shadows stretch across the grass, drenched bright green with sunlight.  Usually on beautiful days like this, my mood is high.  But today, it is still sunken from an issue I’ve been wrestling with very recently.  I would be fully transparent with you, but it involves a family member, and I don’t want to disclose his/her business.  But it makes me sad; in fact, I’ve been sad for a few days, and I’ve been going through waves of “just move on” and “why??”  It’s a stupid, superficial thing that happened, but in it are deeper, more meaningful issues that fetter my mind and leave my heart slightly cracked and oozing.

That, along with the worry for a family member that I can disclose: my little brother.   He has struggled with many demons since the death of our brother, and I’m afraid he is struggling still.

And to top it off, I had a dream with a heavy undertone.  In one part of my dream, I was sitting by a beach with large rocks and stones, but I was sitting more by the edge of a kind of cliff that sloped into the water.  There were 3 of us sitting and talking.  Suddenly, the tide started coming in, and when I looked down, the water was already to my knees.  We clambered away towards higher ground – the sands had started rolling away into the sea, leaving us standing in even deeper water.  I reached up to grab the sandy incline, and I could see a large, smooth stone jutting out, but I knew that if I grabbed it, it would dislodge into my hand, so I had to grab the sand as I turned around and reached to help my friend with my other hand.  It was a senseless attempt in my mind: How could I help my friend when I had no firm grasp of something solid myself?  I dug my hand into the sloped ground, and instructed that we pulled both legs up over the edge and rolled onto the new cliff.  Somehow, senselessly, we made it.  In my mind, I insisted that we make it, and so we did.

So I woke up this morning with the weight of my worries and the tarry residue of my dream.

After dropping off my little one to school, every song on the radio, which I would normally be jamming to, just felt inappropriate, and I found myself feeling frustrated with my inability to connect to the sense of joy and gratitude in which I’ve been residing.

But as I look out my window at the sparkling jewel-toned leaves and bright stillness of the world beyond the cloud that I’m steeping in, I’m thinking, I must remember this.  I must remember how hard it is to feel happy when something clasps at your heart and hangs on, like a cold pendulum – everywhere you go, however you move….so hard to not fell the tug and swing, weighing down your desire to jump for joy for the many other wonderful things in life.

I thought of a friend of mine who was going through a painful situation recently, and to whom I had tried to transfer some of my strength and joy to help her deal with her situation, but I could see that she was unaffected by my efforts.  I have not been in this space for a long time, and I shirk at every insinuation of it, but sometimes you cannot help but pass through it, especially when it involves someone you love, and especially-especially when you are like me, who feels in full saturation.

So I am going to steep for just a moment longer, to connect with those who cannot shake off the pendulum, and think of how I can help them when they are feeling like this.  I think I may already have the answer.


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