PART XI: LA DOLCE VITA
You've squeezed the lessons out of your lemons. You've watered their bitterness down by adjusting your perspective. Now, it's time to add one more ingredient: sweetness.
All of us have our own definition of "the sweet life" - some existence where work is easy and we haven't a care in the world. The wonderful thing is, you can find sweetness in your life now, if you look for it. You don't have to win the Lotto, or be famous, or marry a prince. The sweetness you need to transform your lemon water into lemonade is right here, all around you.
Throughout this book, I've talked about our gift for storytelling, our tendency to collect evidence, and our ability to combine the two to make cases that support our beliefs. If you think life sucks, it's not because life sucks - it's because you believe it sucks, and you seek out evidence to support that belief, and ignore or dismiss evidence to the contrary. The process of making lemonade out of lemons requires you to shift your mindset, to entertain new beliefs and look at the world with new eyes. You have to use your evidence-gathering skills to build new cases that are completely contrary to what you're used to. It may be difficult at first (old habits do die hard), but with enough practice, you will get good at it. This final step, the step that turns a semi-bitter tonic into sweet refreshment, will require all your investigative skills and the full commitment of your imagination.
Remember when I talked about how we sometimes make a case that we are living the "wrong life," the "worse life"? To make lemonade from lemons, you must make the opposite case - that you are living the "right life," the "better life". If you've gone through the process of diluting your bitterness, you will have the perspective that comes from being thankful for what you have (having "an attitude of gratitude," as they say). If you've been journaling your appreciation, you have pages of evidence that the world is a place where you are exposed to blessing after unexpected blessing. Now, you must take it a step further, be seeking out and truly relishing the sweetness in your life.
You might say, "There is no sweetness in my life. I have cancer. I'm underemployed. I'm broke, in debt, and I live in a small house in a boring town." To that, I would say, "Wow, you're really good and finding evidence to support your belief that your life sucks. What if you used those investigative skills to find some evidence that your life doesn't suck, and that it is, in fact, filled with sweetness?" You might look around you and see chemo nurses who work hard to make sure the four hours you have to be in Infusion Services are comfortable and stress free. You might appreciate the warmth of a blanket you're lucky enough to have, when there are people sleeping on the street in cities across America. You might look around at your $10 an hour job, and see a coworker who makes just as little as you do, but manages to make you laugh so hard you nearly pee your pants. Even a moment watching a child dance to Rick Astley with a popsicle in his hand can make you appreciate that you have eyes to witness him, that you are able enough to have a job in a tough economy. Every time you laugh, every time you are moved experiencing the natural beauty of the world around you - a sunrise, the smell of rain, a snow-covered mountain or a clear blue sky - you have a chance to taste the sweetness of this world, of your presence in it. Your small house, seen through refreshed eyes, might not look so disappointing, and your boring town, re-examined, might not seem so boring. They might, in fact, seem like Heaven, when you compare them to a collapsed apartment in an earthquake-ravaged Third World country like Haiti.
When you catch yourself in a moment of thankfulness, hold onto it. Drink it in. Make it last. These moments of gratitude sweeten your newly-adjusted perspective, but only if you really pay attention to them, and recognize them for the opportunities they are. They are sweet because of bitterness of the lemons life hands you. Without sugar, lemonade is just an astringent. Without lemons, it's just sugar water. You need both elements to experience true refreshment. Practice being glad for your blessings, and you will find the sweetness in your life, to balance the bitterness it gives you. This is the way to make lemonade out of lemons.