Not all lemons make lemonade

Maybe the birds weren’t too smart after all. I mean I wouldn’t build my house with a potential disaster looming overhead like that.

As you go about your daily life, you will encounter many lemons.  Sour expressions, sour attitudes, sour auras!  The good thing is that if you don’t want to be a lemon, you don’t have to be! Just don’t let those lemons rub themselves all over you! And you don’t even have to save them!  Just let lemons be lemons! -C.  Joybell C.

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photo: Morning Accomplishments by PositivelyAnne

As the morning sun was just peaking over the hill behind our house, I sat in my favorite chair, enjoying my first cup of coffee, when through the window I spotted a pair of doves who had begun the process of building a nest in our lemon tree.

The nest was being built in the apex of two branches towards the back of the tree.  These branches were covered with dark green leaves and laden with bright yellow citrus fruit.  One of the doves appeared to be in charge of gathering the twigs to make the nest and I watched it as it scoured the ground underneath a nearby pepper tree, where it would bring back to the waiting dove a single twig of the exact same size as all the others lining the nest.  The other dove would take that twig and maneuver it in place using their beak, head and breast.  One layer of twigs laid vertically and then another layer laid horizontally on top of that layer and then all layers compressed to form a sphere. 

I got up from my chair, face pressed against the window, and I marveled at the architectural, construction and engineering skills of these two birds.   I’m supposedly smarter than doves and yet, I can’t cut a piece of lumber without measuring and remeasuring and here each twig this bird gathered was somehow proportionate to the previous twig.  How could that be?   And that spherical shape…what’s up with that? I certainly couldn’t build anything spherical without…well, I can’t build anything spherical period!!! 

What really caused me to pause was the fact that the doves were building this amazing creation completely surrounded by dozens and dozens of really large lemons.  Some of the lemons appeared to be heavier, and larger, than their tiny bodies, and many of the lemons were hanging directly, ominously, over their handiwork.  All it would take is quick snap of a stem, a wayward fruit dropping and all that these two industrious creatures had worked so hard to create would be destroyed.   Yet, the doves seemed completely unphased by the lemons and just diligently went about the work they had set out to do.

Maybe the birds weren’t too smart after all.  I mean I wouldn’t build my house with a potential disaster looming overhead like that.

A thought crossed my mind:

“Not all lemons make lemonade.”

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photo:  Lemon Reflections by PositivelyAnne

Practicing positivity requires a certain level of “intentional awareness” of life’s lemons: the people, the places and the things, that bring one down and impact a person in a negative way.   A few years back, I made a list of the lemons in my life and it was a bit humbling to discover that even positive folks like me can get caught up in some pretty sour situations, with some pretty sour people.   

But being “aware” of life’s lemons is a totally different proposition then feeling compelled to try and make lemonade out of ALL OF THEM!

Is that even possible to do?  To make lemonade out of all of the people, places and things that bring us down.  Or were the doves onto something?  Is it possible to be your positive self, do your thing, surrounded, just as these doves are, by life’s lemons?

When I was a little girl, I remember being very sensitive to anyone in my life, be it family, friend or stranger, who had a sour disposition or approached life in a negative way.  Although I didn’t have much life experience, I had a keen awareness that there were some people in the world, who preferred to stay sour lemons.  The folks who had no interest in making lemonade and made it their mission to make life difficult for others.  I didn’t understand that.  I wasn’t wired that way.

Now this did not include the folks I knew with horrible childhoods or who were poor, suffering from depression, mental illness or addiction issues.  As complex as those issues were for a little girl to process, I somehow understood that there was a difference between being a victim of your circumstances and “consciously choosing” to be a lemon in life by permanently wallowing in anger, nastiness and hate.

As I got older, my concern for doing something about these individuals who checked off “lemon” as a lifestyle turned into a compulsion to where I felt I had to turn these lemons into lemonade any time I encountered one!  

And that meant lots of sleep lost and lots of disappointment for me. 

Life, in case you aren’t as attune to it as me, is sure full of a lot of lemons! 

Families! Friends! Communities! Workplaces! Schools! Churches! Grocery Stores! Banks! Airplanes! The list is endless…

LEMONS! LEMONS! LEMONS!

Literally, I’m drowning in lemons…a heavy, depressive pile of lemons!   What happened to positivity in this world?  What happened to light and hope and peace?  

Social Media is the worst of it.  The divide and conquer mentality, the focus on all things that tear us apart, all the things that don’t matter in the end.  I’m a cancer survivor so I know how futile it is to spend one precious moment of life focused on negativity.  It’s a big reason I started a positivity blog.  A happy place in cyber-space. 

“Why does the world have to be so focused on the lemons, when it could be focused on making the lemonade?”  

I remember one night recently, I unloaded on my husband (I owe him one!) my concern that the world was being taken over by negativity, a bunch of lemons with no interest in making lemonade.   He said something along the lines of “Maybe, but they are not stopping you from doing what you do best. Be your positive self, which everyone appreciates and it’s natural for you.  No matter what you do, there will always be some negative folks,” aka, some LEMONS!

I won’t tell you how I reacted.  It wasn’t pretty. My poor hubby. Gosh I do love him so for putting up with me.  I think I argued something to the effect that it was a cop out for me to just give those negative folks a pass without even trying to make lemonade.

But in the end, not looking forward to another sleepless night, I had to agree my hubby was right.   My way wasn’t working.  I was worn to a nub worrying about all of the lemons I couldn’t fix, when I was doing so much good with those who were open to positivity.   

And truth be told, not a one of the stubborn lemons I had come across, either in my past nor in my present, was permanently stopping me from doing anything I wanted to do, least of all creating a successful positivity blog, talking about positivity, BEING POSITIVE! 

It was me that was stopping me!  Me that was so focused on bringing all of the lemons over to my side that I lost sight of the fact that I didn’t have to do that.

“Not all lemons make lemonade.”

I finished my morning coffee and looked out at the lone dove, work complete, sitting quietly on her nest, trusting life in the face of all of those lemons above and below and all around it.   In fact, the more I looked at the bird nest, I began to notice the beauty in the lemons surrounding it.  Their brightness of color, their different shapes and weights.  Their importance in providing a cover and safety for the doves and at the same time a reminder of their vulnerability.

Maybe the doves are a little smarter than me after all.  We all encounter lemons in life.  Some will make lemonade sweeter than we’ve ever known, but many, and in some cases most, will only serve to remind us that we need to stay focused on our goals, on what makes us happy and positive.

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photo:  Lemon After Storm by PositivelyAnne

Sometimes, we just have to let the lemons be and build our nest the best way we know how.  One positive step at a time.

You, Me, Us. Together.

PositivelyAnne

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Time to put “The Fixer” on ice

I take great pride in being a problem solver. A helper.

I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.

-Abraham Maslow, Toward a Psychology of Being
Waiting for “The Fixer”
photo by PositivelyAnne

I take great pride in being a problem solver.  A helper.

I enjoy the puzzle like quality of problem solving and the sort of “high” that comes from seeing a problem resolved and the happiness it brings not only to myself, but to others.   Over the years, besides working through my own personal problem arsenal, I have solved literally hundreds of problems for individuals, groups, companies and organizations I have been associated with.   My track record of success is pretty darn good and so it’s not a stretch to say that I am one of those “go to” people when the junk hits the fan. 

But as I entered my 50’s, I noticed that some of the shine was starting to wear off the challenge of tackling problems day in and day out. At first, it was nothing more than a little irritation or a few bouts of indigestion.

Take a few Tums and move on.

But after my cancer diagnosis and especially during my treatment, I found that tackling any problems, outside my own set of health issues, set off a vicious cycle of anxiousness in me that left me feeling so tired I could barely function some days.  The joy of problem solving was gone!

I talked to my physician.  “Fatigue is a common side effect of cancer treatment and that can lead to a level of depression that can compound that fatigue.”   In other words what I was feeling was totally normal and expected.

But I wasn’t buying that explanation.  Something else was going on with me.  Yes, I did understand that cancer fatigue was real and I was experiencing it, but I was also feeling more blessed and positive about a lot of things in life since my diagnosis.  The little things.  In fact, I was feeling so blessed that the idea for starting this positivity blog bloomed and I began to take pictures and write, engaging my inner muse in a way I had only dreamed about pre-cancer. The only thing that seemed to rob me of energy was solving problems…something I used to love.

So, what the heck was happening to me?

Recently a friend, (who is also a terrific problem solver) and I were discussing the fact that a program at our church was not going to happen this year because a critical volunteer had dropped out and a replacement wasn’t readily available on the horizon.   

 “You and me, we are “The Fixers”, she said, “And, I guess we can’t always “fix things”, can we? “

I remember I stood there rather stunned that she had recognized this “Super Hero” label in herself and more importantly, in me.  

You see the dictionary definition of Problem Solving says this: 

A thinker who focuses on the problem as stated and tries to find a solution.

Merriam-Websters Dictionary

Notice it says ABSOLUTELY NOTHING…NADA…ZIP…ZERO about implementing the solution to the problem.      

That’s where I got off track.  Somehow, I moved from being a joyous problem solver to embracing being “The Fixer”, the implementer, if you will, of the solution, all day, all the time.

And there-in lies the reason WHY I WAS SO TIRED!!!

Why had I let my life as a successful “problem solver” morph into that of a tired, overworked, “problem fixer?”

A negative in my “positivity tool kit”.

Upon reflection, I think it was a combination of a lot of things:  I’m good at team building to solve problems and people know it, so I get asked all the time to help in some pretty dire situations; I’m willing to take on tough problems and stick with it until a solution can be found; and I’m not afraid to do battle with people (who are unreasonable, egotistical, lacking empathy and tact) to achieve a solution.  

All of this can be quite stressful, especially if it’s a daily thing.

But I think the biggest reason problem solving has become such a tiresome chore for me, is that I lost sight of the fact that just because I can provide a reasonable solution to a problem, doesn’t mean that I AM the right person to implement it.  

I do not have to be “The Fixer!”

You might be thinking, why not just say “no?” 

That’s a valid point! I agree, many times I should have said no.  But it’s also true that we live in a culture today that values one stop shopping, in business and in pleasure. How quickly we can get from point A to point Z has morphed problem solving and problem resolution into a single mouse click.

Maybe I got caught up in that mindset.

But let’s face it, sometimes a single click isn’t that satisfying. Sometimes our skill set is better suited to only certain aspects of problem resolution.

In layman terms that translates to:

Not every problem solver is meant to be the implementer of the fix!

I know I am not.  When I think about problem solving, what excites me about it is that I love being the catalog; the wealth of ideas and possibilities that others can peruse, take bits and pieces from and make it their own.

That brings me happiness. It brings others happiness too and that’s important for me not to forget, but to make clear to those I agree to help.

Sure, I can implement solutions, but I’m happiest when I’m number two or even in the shadows.  When I’m the person behind the scenes engaging others to take a solution and implement it into action.

That doesn’t mean that I won’t step up in life. Stepping up is as much a part of me, as problem solving, especially with something I’m passionate about.

But I know I need to be more comfortable putting out the “stop sign” without fear and taking back control of my own narrative when my plate is full. Fighting cancer seems just as good a time as any. But really it doesn’t have to be that dramatic. When it stops being fun, it’s time to stop!

Just as not every problem is mine to solve;

Every solution is not mine to implement!

Sometimes we all need to put “The Fixer” on ice for a while, including me!

Maybe you are feeling the same way?  I encourage you to take the time to think about whether your current approach to “problem solving” has evolved into something that is leading you down a road to negativity and unhappiness.   And I can assure you, that if you choose to put “The Fixer” on ice for a while, you can trust that it’s going to be o.k.

The wonderful thing about ice is that it melts; so, when it’s time to jump back in and become “The Fixer” again, opportunities will be there.

They always are for talented people like you and me.

Positively Anne 

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