Tag Archives | empowering

Taking the Lemonade Stand

Lemonade1Cropped

“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?

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Beyond the Grain: Lessons From Board-Breaking

BeyondTheGrainMcCroskeyR

(Photo Credit: McCroskeyR)

When I was about 15, I had a boyfriend-ish (a guy who liked me and wanted me to be his girlfriend, and who had to see me by having his whole family come over when he visited, but with whom I couldn’t go out or do anything).  James was two years older, probably been around the block a few good rounds, but was much more immature than I was in other ways, usually in the thinking arena.

On one of his few visits, I remember us going outside with his sister, Gwen, and him seeing some lumber pieces laying around (my father was a contractor).  James was explaining something to me about breaking boards, and told either me or his sister (I forget which) to hold one of the wooden board pieces while he punched it to break it.  He revved up, and hit the piece of wood, but his hand bounced back, with the wood, unflinching.

I think he did this one or two more times, when I offered to try.  He held it for me, and I punched through it.  James was 5’11, about 160 lbs.; I was 5’3, about 100 lbs.  He picked up another piece of wood, just to be sure he didn’t weaken the first one for me, and again, my little fist punched through.  I explained that he had to aim behind the wood.

This memory clip came to me as I was thinking about how short-sighted we can get when it comes to achieving our goals.  We know what we want to see happen, but we focus on the wrong thing, so our projected destination may short us of the desired outcome.

For example, it is almost New Year’s Resolution time, and, for those who like a proverbial starting point, many will use the 1st of the year as their declaration to lose weight.  It is a very short-sighted, yet understandable target, but the problem is that focusing on the size or scale—the obvious, superficial issues—is often a goal with a reach too short to be truly successful.  It is like James’ focusing on aiming at the board to break it – it’s solid, easy to see, and so seems the right focal point.  But this effort actually focuses on the obstacle, not the solution.

Often times, weight issues (as are many health issues) are symptomatic of imbalances elsewhere, whether it be physical, hormonal, biological, psychological, etc., and focusing on restoring balance as needed is the best solution.

Instead of doing this, however, many start punching at the board (“Crap. I’ve gained weight again. I need to start dieting.”),  instead of punching through the board (“Hmm, what’s causing this weight gain?  How have I been feeling?  How is my lifestyle?  What have I been doing differently, or need to do differently? What should I get checked out?”).

This simple lesson can be applied across the board – relationships, work, finances – any area where an obstacle must be overcome.  Every circumstance is different, of course, and sometimes the issue isn’t so simply solved by merely identifying the problem and end point accurately, but it is necessary for the most concise route.

In short: Aim beyond the superficial plane to get the breakthrough you want.

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Life Code: Lessons from “Dexter”

Dexter

“Dexter: Harry’s Code” Scene (Photo credit: http://swishost.com/dexter-widescreen.html)

From the beginning, I loved the idea of Dexter’s character: A serial killer of serial killers.  Perhaps I am too elementary spiritually, not transcended above the idea of such a system of justice.  I’m not sure what it is within me that makes it gratifying, not horrifying, to think of someone killing those who kill innocent people, like my twisted sense of relief to know that child rapists often get killed in prison when their inmates discover the nature of the predator’s crimes.  I feel that somehow I am wrong to think this way, and I am partly ashamed to admit having a side comfortable with such brutality.  The fact that I am not entirely convinced that it is wrong to think this way, however, brings me to believe that my sense of shame is more a learned one rather than an instinctive one.  So, for now at least, Dexterity, it is.

I feel, though, that I am not alone, as “Dexter” was quite a popular show, and not just for his sexy love interest, Hannah McKay (played by Yvonne Strahovsky) in the latter half of the series.  I remember going into a department store and talking to a sales associate about the show when it was at the height of its popularity, and was told that the Henley shirts Dexter sported always sold out quickly.  It made me wonder if the general population was as dark as I was, or if Dexter was, in fact, not really a bad guy, despite the general acceptance that killing is a bad, bad thing.

What made Dexter’s “dark passenger” a welcomed one, I believe, was “The Code,” a set of rules that was taught to Dexter by his father before he passed away:

  1. Never get caught.
  2. Never kill an innocent.

This code serves Dexter well throughout the series, both for his objectives within the context of the show as well as for his likeability as a character from the perspective of the show’s fans.  His code perpetuates his survival and ability to carry justice in the most primal and efficient way.  Without it, his character and story unravel.

In real life, we all must live by codes.  The law has a set of codes, religions have their codes, and general society has its own code of conduct.  People teeter-totter, pick and choose among these different sets of codes to create a basket of their own, some with very full baskets, adhering to every code they know, others, with fairly empty ones.  The exercise of identifying one’s own personal code is important, I believe, because it forces one to examine one’s self, both internally as well as in relation to one’s world, with all the people and triggers in it.  This connects us with our sense of control and, more importantly, accountability, which is a necessary moderator for the sense of power that comes with control.  If there’s any ethical standard or quality control to be found, accountability is the sleuth for it.

I’ve always thought about this theory of a code of conduct, although I’d not labeled it, but I recognized its existence immediately whenever one of my unspoken codes was being violated – the protest rose in full form, from my thoughts to emotions, to the heat rising to head and my neck hairs standing up.  For whatever reasons, I was made to feel and think (and when I was younger, be physical) intensely, and people would see just a facet of me, usually the peaceable side, the side I give freely to everyone in my path; the other side, the one that says Dexter can be my best friend, must be earned.

So my code consists of a justice unfazed by whatever gruesome fate must be met by an individual who gleefully causes comparable pain and destruction of an innocent life.  Understanding this helps me come to terms with who I am, as Dexter had to come to terms with who he was, and to best focus my life in light of this.

My own personal code, in no particular order of importance:

  1. Seek truth.  Every good thing needs strong roots in truth.  Seek it within yourself first, so you can help others find it.
  2. Seek balance.  This is not about becoming homogeneous; this is about living life in such a way that you are truly happy and at peace inside.
  3. Seek joy.  “Face the sun and the shadows fall behind you.”  Walk towards and amongst the positive; shine so brightly that your light is contagious.
  4. Seek to grow.  Read, listen, learn, connect, record, reflect, venture, and think for yourself.
  5. Share what you find.  Contribute to the good of the world; let your knowledge be a platform for others to stand upon as they build theirs.
  6. Be kind.  Many people are hurting in the world, and your kindness may disarm their expressions of pain or salve them.
  7. Be open.  You don’t know everything.  If knowledge is power, and you need power to help or protect the powerless, stay open to keep learning.
  8. Be aware.  It is not enough to be kind or open alone. Know what you’re dealing with.  This is part of self-preservation.
  9. Be of service.  This is another way to contribute to the good of the world, and to honor #10.
  10. Be grateful.  Life has little meaning or joy without this.

Although not spelled out, Dexter actually did most of these things on my list, and I can say vice versa to his.  (Don’t be shocked – I’ll wager most of you can say the same thing.  😉 )

This code has been fairly consistent all my life.  Whenever I’ve failed to adhere to or protect it, it is like I’ve abandoned myself.  Spelling it out has helped me become more aware of it to maintain its integrity.

What about you? What is your personal code, the one that defines and directs the best of who you are and want to be?

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