PART X: DILUTION (AND A LITTLE DELUSION)
If life gives you enough lemons, you're bound to get down. And I don't mean, get down in a James Brown "Get On Up" get down kind of way. I mean, downtrodden. Filled with despair. Hopeless. Beyond disappointed. Even after gleaning the lesson from your lemon, you might be angry - either at yourself, or the world, or at God - and unable to snap out of it. The bitterness, the sourness of the experience might feel so fresh, it stings without abatement. When you're in this place, even reminding yourself that "a lemon is just an unexpected disappointment" might fail to lift your spirits.
The thing is, you can't make lemonade with just lemon juice and sugar. It's too strong to drink straight up, even with sweetener. You have to water it down and dilute its bitterness. How do you do this? By widening your perspective.
When we finally get the lesson in a lemon, the realization is apt to make us feel foolish, ashamed, resentful or depressed. We start to tell ourselves the wrong kinds of stories - that we should have known better, that it was some kind of sick justice that brought a lemon into our lives, that our future will only hold more lemons, so we'd better get used to them. When you hear this soundtrack playing in your head, you must remind yourself that it's just a story you're telling yourself, and it's not true. Start looking for evidence that it's not true if you have to. Build a case that a lemon is just an unexpected disappointment, nothing more. It's not a sign that happiness, joy, and contentment aren't in your future.
The worst part about lemons is this phase - the one right after you squeeze them - because what you've distilled from them is so raw, so bitter, and so fresh, it's hard to imagine it could produce anything palatable, let alone refreshing. Our habit of gathering evidence struggles against our desire to see things differently, and it's hard to change perspective. If you look for evidence that tells you a positive, constructive, forgiving story, though, you will find it, even if it takes a while.
When life hands us a lemon, we sometimes think that it means happiness is no longer available to us, just because things didn't work out as we'd hoped. It's like we have this idea in our head of what our happiness should look like, and when life doesn't serve it up, we assume, not that THIS version of our happiness is no longer available, but that NO version of happiness is no longer available to us. It's crazy, but we still do it!
The first step in diluting the bitterness of a lemon is convincing yourself that there isn't just ONE kind of happiness, or joy, or contentment available to you. This is a big step, and your mind will fight against it, but if you want to make lemonade, you HAVE to believe it. Entertain the idea that happiness comes in more than one form than the one you imagined.
The second step in watering down lemon juice involves... a little bit of dilution by delusion. Let me explain: people have a tendency to compare themselves to other people. The thing is, we always seem to compare ourselves to people who are more fortunate than us - people who have more money, better jobs, younger wives, smarter kids, healthier parents.... the list goes on and on. And what happens when you compare yourself to people who have it better than you? Naturally, you feel like crap! Everything you have seems LESS impressive, LESS valuable, LESS worth having. You start to feel deprived and denied! Add a lemon to the mix and it's a recipe for bitterness and resentment.
This process, of "dilution by delusion" starts with one phrase: "It Could Be Worse." Now, fans of the Law of Attraction stay away from this phrase because they fear they will "attract" bad energy by thinking of how it could be worse, BUT this phrase, to be frank, has saved my sanity, time and again! It is a phrase that will allow you to change your perspective in an instant.
When you find yourself with a load of lemon juice and it seems like things can get no worse, instead of comparing yourself to people who are MORE fortunate than you, who have FEWER lemons, deliberately compare yourself to people who are LESS fortunate than you, who have MORE lemons. Don't go so far as to tell yourself that it will get worse, simply acknowledge that it COULD be worse, but it ISN'T. Imagining how it could be worse, you might appreciate how good (by comparison) you have it, lemons notwithstanding!
You might say that using your imagination to "trick" your mind into appreciating minor misfortune is nothing short of delusion... but that's exactly my point. You have already deluded yourself into thinking an unexpected disappointment is the end of the world; why not use your storytelling powers for good?!
Thus, the way to dilute bitterness (aka, lemon juice) is simple: put things in perspective by appreciating what IS good in your life, what you CAN be thankful for and happy about. If you cannot do this successfully, try imagining how things could be worse and see if that helps (but, don't go so far as to tell yourself things will GET worse, which will only depress you). Lastly, if you want to take things a step further and cultivate an appreciation of your life, so that lemons have a lesser effect on your peace of mind, I recommend keeping a gratitude journal: once a day, write down five things you have to be thankful for, that you cannot attribute to your own actions - good things, that are beyond your control. They may be as simple as lights turning green when you approached them, or finding a penny on the street, or getting an unexpected visit from a friend. Remind yourself how fortunate you are, to be who you are, where you are. There is always something you can be thankful for, even if it is only waking up this morning without a tube to feed you or help you breathe. Keep this practice and over time, you will come to see life as a series of happy accidents, instead of a litany of misery. You will start to see yourself as blessed instead of cursed.