As I navigate the first week of life after my most recent break-up, I cannot help but feel lucky to have so much love around me. I am afloat in supportive sentiment, healing juju and acts of kindness from my dearly beloveds. Even my most casual of acquaintances seek to soothe my sad heart.
Just yesterday one such acquaintance offered me the proverbial “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” If the lemon in this instance is devastating heartache, then I suppose the lemonade is the plane ticket to Maui I purchased after said lemon was thrown into my chest. Despite this platitude’s unimaginative and trite application, it was given with good intention and for that I am appreciative. But as worn expressions go, there are actually many varied and viable options for what to do when life gives us lemons.
When life gives us lemons, we can: make lemonade, acknowledge that we do not have to make lemonade, add vodka, grab salt and tequila, make a gin and tonic, throw them back, throw them at people, eat them, keep them because, hey, free lemons, ask for chocolate instead, put them in our bras/boxers (it will not solve the problem but the extra attention is nice), make lemon grenades, learn to juggle, be glad it was not herpes, make lemon cookies, squeeze them into someone’s eye, make grapefruit juice and let life wonder how we did it, take a nap, or construct a crude electrochemical battery.
The proverbial phrase in question originated as a clever way to demonstrate how adversity, struggle and misfortune (a lemon’s sourness) cannot persist when confronted with optimism and perseverance (lemonade’s sweetness). Yet as we now know, sour lemons come with countless health, skin and beauty benefits and the sweet taste of lemonade comes from sugar, a notably toxic and addictive substance.
If we continue to make life’s sourness into something that it is not, particularly by disrupting its most natural state, we will never live authentically. We must feel, taste and experience life’s lemons as they were meant to be. Life will hand us incredible lemons, lemons we are indifferent about, lemons that are pretty good, lemons that could be better, lemons that we do not want, lemons that really fucking suck, lemons that surprise us, lemons that disappoint us and other lemons that we cannot possibly predict. We cannot drown the lemon in poison, in sweet relief, in corn syrup, bourbon, pasta or denial. We cannot pretend that the lemon is not there or that the lemon is actually an orange or a lime or a nectarine.
When life gives us lemons it means that we are alive. One day we will no longer be alive. One day we will be dead. When we are dead, there will be no more lemons. Lemons are light and lemons are life. Life gives all of us shitty lemons from time to time, but we are not alone with this bitter taste. The acid of life’s lemons has burned us all, left each and every one of us wondering what the hell is next.
When live gives lemons, shut up and be grateful. And if life happens to give you melons instead of lemons, you just may have dyslexia.