07 April 2009

We Are Sometimes Lemons


You’ve seen that overworked, trite little phrase a million times haven’t you? On bumper stickers, t-shirts, and greeting cards. Plastered on a beat-up photocopy of a photocopy with some irritating little graphic and hanging on the pockmarked tack board that is screwed to the wall in the employee break area, hung there by that overly perky office mate with the truly annoying habit of saying things like “Well, now, someone’s got a case of the Mondays!” in that murderously chirpy voice that makes you want to jam pencils in your ears, or run full speed into a brick wall if only it would make them STOPPPPPP…. Yeah, I’m on it, Chirpy McMoron, here’s a big ol’ glass of bitter and sour, just for you.

“Make lemonade”. Sounds great, ha-ha, gee whiz…but totally ignores reality. The cold, uncaring reality that is life sometimes. More precisely, this platitude ignores pain. When handed lemons, make lemonade. Pffttt. Tell that to the displaced refugee living in a camp, running away from machete-wielding thugs calling themselves an “army” protecting “the rightful government”. Begging your pardon, sir, if I give you this glass of imaginary lemonade, sir, please, could you not rape my sister? Or at least not kill my parents?

Hey, Mr. Terrorist-That-Just-Blew-Up-A-Building-And-Killed-People-Who-Didn’t-Deserve-It-And-Spread-Death-And-Misery, by some chance are you thirsty? Really, really thirsty? Are you? You look thirsty. ‘Cause as the son/daughter/father/mother/sister/brother/child of those victims, by some great fortune I have come into possession of this ginormous sack of mighty fine lookin’ lemons, straight off the tree; after I wash the blood off and dress the wounds, how’s about we share a tall cool glass of the finest lemonade on God’s green earth? Nothing better to wash down the big bolus of Pain that was just rammed down my throat. And, hey, killing innocents is thirsty work.

I remember the day I was away at college, and I received a phone call from home, my dad telling me that my beloved G-maw had finally succumbed to the nasty set of cancers that had been eating away at her for months. I remember being in shock, numb to it, not being able to cry until I was actually standing in the church gazing at her casket. The scene repeated itself a few years later, this time it was my uncle, my mother’s younger brother, who had died from HIV infection. I loved both of them dearly; both of them were relatively optimistic people, somewhat accepting of the crap that life had dealt them. They knew there was nothing they could really do to stave off the inevitable.

But at no point in the downward spiral of the awful diseases that ravaged them, took their lives in such nasty fashion, could I conceive of either of them saying “Wow, this sucks, but I think I’ll make a big glass of lemonade. I may be dying but who doesn’t love a cool summer drink?”

Job loss. Car crash. Divorce. Bankruptcy. Loss of a loved one or loved ones. Sorry, mate, not making the connection to refreshment. Ask yourself: how often in life am I the squeezer or that which is being squeezed? No, ‘squeezed’ is too mild a word. ‘Squeeze’ lacks the necessary violence that is implicit here. Crushed is better. Or flattened. Smashed. Pulverized. Words that connote extreme violence or disruption; these are the ones that offer a better fit. Too often in life we are the lemons, the poor bags of juicy pulp that get mangled by circumstance and random nastiness. The result is a rind crushed into a sheet, lifeless, bereft of juice.

A smashed rind: is that what we really want to be? I think not.

If I am going to endure tremendous pain and disruption, I don’t want to be the leavings of a crushed lemon. That would be pathetic and sad. I have to believe there is something better to be had out of all the misery. Otherwise, all the pain and suffering is for naught.

A lemon rind, no. For my pain and suffering, for being trapped between the hammer and the anvil, I expect to be something better. Something better and stronger, perhaps with strongly defined edges. A scalpel or a shield or finely crafted wrought iron gate. Like this one:

With all due respect to the Hallmark crowd, lemonade is for pussies. Gimme wrought iron, instead.


  1. I love this! I mean, I do love everything you write on your blog, but rarely do I comment. It's shameful, I know, considering I do so love comments of my own, but I am slack. :(
    Anyway, this moved me to comment because it is so true. Life is hard for all of us, in different ways, at different times. So many would tell us to search for the positive in it; sometimes there is nothing good in a situation, but we can grow stronger through it. Anyway, I don't think I can put it better than you did, so thank you, and I may link back to this in the future. (:

  2. Well put my friend. I certainly don't feel like making lemonade in tough times. On the other hand, if life handed me water, malt, barley and hops I would make me some Guinness!

  3. Hear hear (and a splendid bit of wrought-ironery that is too).

    I know that violence begats violence and all that but people who say that make me want to punch them in the throat. "How d'ya like them lemons?? Boo-ya!"

  4. Raspberry vodka in lemonade is awesome! Just sayin.

  5. I have always hated lemonade.

    Great work, Irish.

  6. Considering that "making lemonade" can be a very apt metaphor for pissing, I think it's quite appropriate.

    "You want lemonade? I got your lemonade right here, asswipe."

    It's so nice to see you, m'dear.

  7. Another terrific post! I like the way your mind works.

  8. Well put. I think the phrase means to me… when given a difficult challenge, be resourceful. I tend to find that many people either cower or face their challenges. I think the phrase encourages us to face our challenges and think outside the box to make it through.

    On the lemonade side though, have you ever made lemon shake-ups. Makes good use of your cocktail shaker and gives you good practice making a mean martini.

  9. Great angst!
    So, how's that job treating you?

  10. I think you need to add a little vodka to your lemonade...just sayin ;)

  11. But have you ever met someone who was the lemon, and you would say no thank you and they just keep rolling at you, but you know if you make the lemonade out of 'em; then you yourself becomes just as bitter as they the fruit is...I am waiting for that lemon to just rot in the summer heat, and bio-degrade back into this thing called life...Lemonade, no thank you as well...

  12. I guess that I'd rather add a little sweetner to the lemon. I'm an optimist. Guess that I was born that way. I don't like sucking lemons so I'll take the lemonade. But I also have a core of pretty steely stuff too.

  13. I know that in the end, you won't be a crushed up, leftover lemon rind. Not that I think you're looking for the assurance, but I'm dishing it up anyway.

  14. Keep the lemons, cut themup, and use them for tequila shots...while setting a hallmark card on fire :o)

  15. Glad to see you back. Hope your job is going well.
    Oh, and nice post.

  16. I've not much liked being a lemon this year nor drinking the lemonade of life. I hope the 'thing' you are working through can be resolved or worked on.
    Great post.

  17. Nobody likes having their lemons squeezed. Well, squeezed too hard. I'm with Mo.

    Wait. I freakin love lemons. Lemon anything. Wife makes a lemon cake that I would eat in its entirety in one sitting if I could get away with it. Still, anybody who drops that crap on you deserves a knee in the package, regardless of their good intent.

    That is an awesome gate.

  18. Some phrases are so well-worn and trite. The one I hate is when someone says, "Cheer up, it might never happen." How do they know it hasn't already happened! A good upbringing has, up to now, prevented me from telling them to mind their own bl**dy business!

    Enjoyed the post Gumbo. :)

  19. throw some good vodka in the lemonade? i'll drink it....otherwise it's crap.

  20. Great post. How about "Everything happens for a reason." One of my all time hated phrases.

    Is that Stephen King's wrought iron gate?


"Let your laws come undone
Don't suffer your crimes
Let the love in your heart take control..."

-'The Hair Song', by Black Mountain

Tell me what is in your heart...