Coping When Life Gives You Lemons

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I had high expectations. I always knew I would have a college education, even my Master’s degree. I expected to have a fulfilling career in my chosen field directly after graduating. I figured if I walked in, portfolio in one hand, a degree in the other, I’d be a shoe in. I expected the perfect guy, a loving marriage, the house with the picket fence, 2.3 kids and a dog. If I were lucky, maybe there’d still be stables in my future and a beautifully embellished saddle. I figured I would raise those kids; they’d grow up and bring home their own happy lives to share with me. My dreams, my expectations, my life. Nope.I grew up a bit spoiled, only child and all that, and had a pretty linear view of life. I figured it was like those dot to dot pictures – start at point A, move forward to B and end up happily ever after by O.  Here’s a big secret: Life was never that simple. Life didn’t entirely agree with me and my philosophies, and I found (and still find) myself questioning what to do with that big basket of lemons outside my proverbial front door.

I can’t say it was anything but an ordinary day when the seams started coming undone. I had made pizza for dinner, homemade, and the kids went to bed on time. Miracles do happen. I went to bed, leaving hubby watching TV and relaxing, and didn’t move until he came into the bedroom around 1 am. In 5 minutes he went from “I need Tums,” to “I need to go to the hospital.” Long story short, it wasn’t the spiciness, but a minor heart attack. My mother in law swore it was acid reflux. This was the easy part, because the next night, while under observation, hubby had the big one. “The Widowmaker…” and he survived. Coma induced with morphine and then jump-started by the doc on duty, he made it. But everything else changed.

I never had that perfect job, instead working alongside my husband in our own business. Now, it all changed. The long hours and stress of owning and running the show took its toll. We had to get out. And we did. Life became a Twilight Zone type of altered reality and a lot of grief. Hubby was grieving his health and some lost opportunities, but me, I was grieving for my not so perfect life. Everything that was familiar and comfy was now over. Pill bottles lined the counter, and we had to talk about closing our business. Unsure of how we would survive, what opportunities lay ahead and where we were going added a lot of stress to everyone in the house. I decided to follow my heart, which leads me right here, holding a purple pen and a bunch of lemons.

It’s a bit embarrassing to admit, but I started dropping out of sight. I turned down coffee dates, outings with friends and began to hibernate. I felt like I was floating in space, lost. Soon, loneliness began to overtake me, because I thought that nobody else knew what I was going through, what my family was going through at the time. I felt it was completely unfair and I wanted to just hide under the covers. I couldn’t even form a sentence or an abstract poem.

So what’s my point? We all expect our lives to be a certain way. We have hopes and dreams that were seeds planted in our uncorrupted youth. When life doesn’t go according to our visions, it can be difficult to accept the disappointments and our reality. But resistance is futile. No matter how many times I tell myself that this isn’t the life I dreamed, planned or wanted, don’t I deserve something better? We all succumb to the “Why me’s?” but those thoughts just bury us, and send more lemons.

Here’s my truth. Expectations are nothing. I spent my youth like the horses I rode, wearing blinders. I figured I could plan every move, every decision. It all feels foolish now. There is only so much self-pity one can take. You get to a point where you are so sick of your sad thoughts, that life becomes a chore. The baskets of lemons keep arriving, and you can’t take a single second more of it. This is you’re a-ha moment! Get up, brush your hands off and get the juicer because you are going to make lemonade.

For me, it began with a course on mindfulness and the human psyche. As I sat, breathing, listening to the velvety voice of my tutor, I started to think a little more objectively. I could have a new life, a better life. My issues all stem from my expectations, and the longer they went unfulfilled, the more despaired I became. I was a sad heroine of a crappy fairy tale.

And so, the lemonade. I know that I want to live the best life possible for me, myself and I. I want it to be meaningful and happy. I can’t toss all my dreams aside, but I need to find a middle ground. It’s all about making sure the lemonade is not too tart or too sweet. I need to become more flexible, more understanding, and figure out how to create a niche for my unique skills. I need to grab hold of that lemon peel to gain a little resilience from unexpected falls. My friends, it is about creating a more long-term perspective on life and your goals, each moment that isn’t to your plan is not a setback. It’s just a glass of too tart lemonade, and you’ll have to either set it aside or add more sweetener.

The world is full of uncontrollable circumstances. Your most potent defense is how you think. Is your glass half full? That is your decision alone. If it’s half empty, do you want to add some more lemonade? Or leave the lemons in the basket? You know life is worth living, but often, you will have to dust yourself off and make some lemonade. It’s how we persevere.

Squeezing the best of what life throws at you makes you stronger, more resilient.

Maybe, our expectations and dreams are not to blame. Perhaps they are in our minds to teach us something valuable. It’s been a few years since the heart attack, and hubby is still going strong. Are things different? Absolutely. Does it affect me? Of course, but it’s all about my details now. No pity. It’s ok to feel cruddy sometimes. You aren’t broken. Just don’t get overly attached to those too tart feelings. Acknowledge your feelings, and adjust your dreams accordingly. Permit yourself to make lemonade, then move on. Remember to live authentically, be who you are, use your talents and do the best that you can. It’s all you have. It’s why I won’t give up or give in and why I keep those purple pens handy. It’s why I relish every moment with my family and friends. And guess what- you and I have all the fixings to make as much lemonade as we want to – and that is liberating. So go get the juicer, I’ve got a few baskets of lemons at the door.🍋🍋

Stay motivated and caffeinated!😊☕

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3 Comments

  1. I totally feel your pain… I had my fair share of lemons also… a lot more than others.
    The secret is to look into the future and keep going… Never look back…

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