3 Ways to Stay Happy and Productive Even When Life Sucks
by Andrea Watson | October 30, 2020
I hate lemonade. It’s sour and gives me heartburn. I even have trouble stomaching the pink stuff. So why is it that life always seems to think we need or want lemons? The saying “When life hands you lemons, make lemonade” has always bothered me. I mean, it’s good advice and all that. But there’s just something not quite right about it. It’s a little too settled. Resigned, maybe-that’s the word. Hmm. It’s one saying I don’t like to just accept. In this post I’m here to say screw lemonade! When life hands you lemons tell it you are highly allergic to citrus, bust out your epi-pen, and be sure to collect life’s name and contact information for insurance purposes later. The way I see it, there are three ways we can handle this. And each one is perfect for a specific kind of situation. Choose wisely.
Get Off Your Butt
First off, why is life handing you lemons, anyway? Why have you not gone to the store to pick out your own fruit? I know, I know. Lemons are going to happen no matter what we do-like that pesky neighbor who has a bazillion summer squash in her garden and keeps bringing us bags full of them. But what I’m saying is, if you want apple juice, get off your butt and make some! Are you picking up what I’m laying down here? It takes effort to get what we want. If you lose a job, then go back to school to pursue a career. Or become a writer!😉 And if you do have plenty of apple juice, then when the lemons come, they won’t seem as bad. Maybe we could re-purpose them into some sort of old fruit-garbage art and slap it up on Pinterest, who knows?
But, how do we get apples? Well, toots, I’m sorry to tell ya, life doesn’t just give you things. You have to identify what those things are for yourself, learn about the steps it will take to get to where you want to be, and then actually take those steps. It is easy for self-starters, but for many of the rest of us, not so much. Opportunities and options seem to be limited sometimes. But often there are loopholes, or tunnels, or zip lines to get us through, under, and over obstacles. There may be a government program that can help you. Or a civics organization, or even a local library. You have to look around for these things. I did this every day when my son and I were homeless until we got housed. And in the end, if you really can’t have apple juice, go for your second choice instead. Grape is good, too.
Throw Them Back
Sometimes when life gives us lemons, the best answer is to hurl them back at life’s face and hope one lands. Occasionally, we need to fight. Hard. Because it is possible to win in a lot of cases, and it is the lack of knowledge or fear of trying that holds us back. For example, right after my son was born I was engaged in a brutal custody battle. It was dirty. It was nasty. But most of all, it was terrifying. I could have lost my baby and my mind if I hadn’t had a good pitching arm. I was escaping my abuser and trying to hold on to my newborn at the same time and he had many unpleasant tricks up his sleeves.
I fought back hard. I got legal aid representation after writing a personal, gut-wrenching letter to the attorney who originally turned me down. I went to every court date well-groomed, calm, and collected. I presented myself well, told the absolute truth, and did everything the judge told me to do. There was a lot more that went into it than that-lots of sticky details. But you get the point. It was the most important battle of my life and I won because instead of wimping out to go sulk in my corner of defeat, I took this lemon by the balls and squeezed it as hard as I could and then threw it directly back at life where it slapped against life’s face, slid off, and plopped to the ground.
Turn Your Attention to Guava and Just Breathe
Yes. Sometimes life gives us lemons that we have no choice but to accept. But we don’t have to make lemonade. We could make lemon bars or lemon pie, or even lemon chicken. What I’m saying is, accept the lemons for what they are and then make a choice to do something productive. You may need to put the lemons on the back burner or learn how to let go of them-or ignore them completely and focus on something else. Distraction and redirection are great.
Say somebody did you wrong. They somehow took advantage of you and there’s nothing you can do to change it-they’ve beat the system. Well, you can’t exactly go get apples and you can’t really throw it back, but what you can do is accept it and move on. It is difficult, I know. But there are some things we just can’t control. The pieces just need to fall where they may and instead of letting our emotions consume us or reacting in a counter-productive way, we can take hold of how we are thinking and feeling. Focus on yourself in times like these and do what you can to exercise agency over what little things are in your control.
In conclusion, I would like to say that no lemons were harmed during the writing of this post. I know it is easier to just give up on things or take them as they are. But don’t. Because no matter what happens in life, barring death, there is always some sort of action you can take or decision you can make. As long as you’re living your own life, you decide what to do with those lemons.