Many of you may have heard the phrase, “If you are handed lemons make lemonade.” I have understood this to mean that if you find yourself in difficult circumstances you can handle these difficulties by turning them from a negative into a positive. You just take those lemons and squeeze them and mix them with sugar and water and stir with a wooden spoon and something bitter becomes something delicious to drink. Sounds good doesn’t it? Sounds easy. Sounds like something doable. Maybe it also sounds too easy.
Recently I sat in a support group for caregivers of cancer patients. As the individuals in the group talked about what they were dealing with the feelings expressed were pretty raw and intense. There was anger over insurance issues and doctors orders not being written. Anger over family and friends not always being helpful or available. There was talk of fatigue and being overwhelmed with all the needs and not having the time or energy to address them all. There was grief and tears in talking about what could no longer happen. Tears over dreams dying and hopes being lost. And yet at the end of that meeting when the tissues had been passed and the words had been spoken the intensity at the beginning had lessened and there was some peace that had descended upon the people in that room. There was some peace even though the lemons hadn’t been made into lemonade.
I have been pondering what happened there since that meeting and I have some new thoughts on making lemons into lemonade. I am thinking that we should never be in a hurry to make lemonade. Our discomfort with pain and suffering often makes us hurry to turn pain into something palatable and that often doesn’t help those in pain. If we can sit with people who have been handed lemons and let them cut the lemons open and taste the bitterness and feel the sting of lemon juice in their eyes we are validating their pain. We are not dismissing it as something that can be quickly fixed. We are not saying just add some sugar and water and stir. We are saying this is hard. This hurts. This confronts us with hard questions and an unknown future. And for now as we taste the lemons that may be enough. Until the person with the lemons is ready to add the sugar and the water.