Archive for the Category » Myths & Cliches «

Tuesday, January 13th, 2015 | Author:

I have a tattoo that you don’t know about.

It is on the bottom of my foot, so you only see it if I am barefooted and have my feet up with the soles facing you.

But I sit barefooted with my legs crossed often, so it’s often visible to me, an important reminder:

“enough”

Simple word. Weird spelling. We use it in mostly negative or neutral ways. It’s hardly ever a positive thing when we breath it.

“I wasn’t driving slow enough.”

“I didn’t realize soon enough.”

“I didn’t tell her I loved her enough.”

“I’m not thin enough.”

“I’m not healthy enough.”

“I don’t have enough money.”

Often we use it in ways that connote that there could be more, but we’ll settle for this.

“I guess that’s good enough,” When we just want to be done.

“No, that’s fine, that’s enough,” when we’re conceding half-heartedly, like a bartering salesman over some agreement.

Or maybe you heard it a lot as a child when your mother/babysitter/teacher was so annoyed she couldn’t take another minute of your playing/fighting/arguing/crying: “Enough!” they would yell.

But the word, it’s real meaning, lends itself to the idea of being content. Which is not a thing we’re taught to want or seek. To just have enough sounds like settling, like you’re too lazy to go for more. Too apathetic to get the things ambition could earn you.

And it causes this “not enough” complex in us. Come time for New Year’s resolutions, they take that tone, too. I’m not skinny enough – so I will work out more. I’m not healthy enough, so I’ll eat better. I don’t read enough – I’ll read more. I don’t have enough money — I will save more. My life isn’t exciting enough – I will travel more.

But too often at the root of all of those thoughts and great goals is an ugly belief that I think the majority of us have learned to hold close to the chest, like a security blanket that chokes out the light of possible contentment — I am not enough.

Not good enough, thin enough, pretty enough, fast enough, strong enough, rich enough, powerful enough, friendly enough, sexy enough, funny enough, spiritual enough, important enough.

We have the gluttonous mentality that always wants “more.”  There’s always some way we could and should have more or be more. Which in all honesty, is true. There’s a world out there, and it could be your oyster. But what I’m finding is that the people I know who are happy are content. The people that I know who are successful are ambitious.

But the people who are both successful and happy — those people have learned something that doesn’t seem to come naturally: How to be content with what you have, yet still imagine that more might be attainable. It’s not the same relentless, never-ending drive that compels them. It’s curiosity, determination, true drive, not need.

The desire to better themselves is not based in a need to do so to feel valuable. It’s not because they’re not “enough” already. It’s the ambition that says “I could do even more,” not, “I have to do more.”

So if no one has ever told you let me do so now: You are enough.

The very fact that you’re alive and being, that means you’re enough. If you have goals to be more ______, by all means go for them! The problem is, many of us chase those goals out of a desire to feel more valuable as a human being at the end of the day, and that will always leave us dissatisfied.

When you start to finally forgive yourself for the ways you’ve claimed you’ve fallen short, and you start to believe that you are enough just as you are, you can begin to find contentment. It’s one of the most elusive currencies in our society. Contentment can drive you to want to better yourself without feeling like you’re not enough as you are.

Being content starts with accepting yourself, and being more than OK with what you have. I’m on a journey to strip the stigma from the word in my life.

“enough”

It sits there on the arch of my foot as a reminder: I am enough. You are enough. You are valuable, beautiful, loved. It says we’re valuable, just because we are.

Jo O’Hanlon is an adventurer and storyteller. She tries to be honest about the ugly and hard parts of life, and the beautiful parts too. This blog is one of the places she shares her thoughts and stories.

Other places are

instagram: @jrolicious         twitter: @jrohanlon

storyofjoblog@gmail.com
Wednesday, January 07th, 2015 | Author:

“We need to talk,” she said to me in a serious yet conspiring tone.

We walked with rushing feet to our personal conference room — the Children’s Church room at the back of the church where we’d hang out before church. We were two rambunctious 8-year-old girls who got to church early with our parents when they had to do something or another for the service.

Once within the confines of our private scheme-building room, we stood in the middle of the room, near the wall with the old piano that I’d play for us sometimes.

We stood facing each other, and I was not nervous as adults are when someone says to them, “we need to talk.” — I was eager to hear what was so important.

“Did you hear that his parents are getting a divorce?”

“I know,” I said, looking down, not knowing what that really meant or entailed, but knowing it was bad. “My mom told me.”

He was a boy in our grade who we’d known for the past few years. He was our number one enemy. His life goal was to annoy us. And our lives’ goals were to make him look like a fool by pulling pranks and such. This was the essence of most of our friendships with kids of the opposite sex, as seems to be the norm. But he and one other boy were our particular enemies and we paid each other more mutual attention than we paid the other kids.

medium_301168593photo credit: rolands.lakis via photopin cc

“I think we need to be his friend now,” she said to me, the decision already made.

“Yeah. I think you’re right. That would be good,” I replied. I hadn’t thought of that, or realized it was needed until she said it. But once she did, it was decided. Third-grader conference of the year over.

It was one of the most important, efficient, and impactful conferences I’ve ever been a part of, and the decision stuck. We started that day at church. We didn’t drop the enemy act, but we had changed our heart toward him, and he changed his toward us. We continued to be frenemies all through high school.

When we were in junior high, he gave me one of the best christmas gifts I’ve ever received — he bought, with his own money, the movie Princess Diaries for me on VHS. He knew I loved it, and that was far above the $1-5 gifts we had sometimes exchanged in the past. He told me I couldn’t tell anyone he had gotten it for me because that would show that we were friends, so I didn’t, but we watched it together nearly weekly for about a year until we moved onto other fixations.

I’ve seen him a couple times this past year, and each time, I’ve thought how much I enjoy him as a person and a friend. But I may not have been friends with him had she not pulled me into that children’s church room and presented her idea for what we needed to do.

She saw disaster on the horizon and proposed a plan of action. I just followed.

We were in high school when her parents divorced as well. I was still friends with her, but in the of-course-we’re-friends way, not in the I-am-here-for-you-in-daily-life way. Our paths had started to take us in different directions, and I’m sad that I didn’t have a conference with anyone, declaring “we need to be friends with her.”

The truth is, a lot of people stepped away from her in that painful time. The girl who intentionally stepped in at 8. The girl who recognized the severity of the pain of divorce before she’d ever felt it. The girl who put aside sacred cooty-laws and annoyance-wars to be a friend. She was pushed to the outskirts and left alone in her time of pain.

It is a hard thing to see and recognize that you do not always reap what you sow. Mean people sometimes prosper and good people sometimes get left. At least it feels that way sometimes.

But the thing is, the girl who has heart enough to decide to be friends with a hurting enemy at 8 years old, she will be a woman who will live life well. She will be the type of woman who has deep friendships with people she’s met in passing. She will be a friend even when she is in pain. And some of those relationships will give back to her as well. The humility that lets her put aside childhood feuds also strengthens her to reach out to people who need a second chance in her life.

And that gives me hope about life and about the world. Because, almost two decades later, I still remember her as the girl who decided to be a friend when she didn’t have to be, and she got me to do so too. And the woman I know her as now still has that same understanding, supportive, caring heart.

I don’t know about the whole reap what you sow thing, because life has dealt her a crappy and painful hand several times.

But I am confident that when you have that goodness inside that she does, that everything will be okay. That you will continue to make a life worth living. That you will continue to build friendships worth having. That you will continue to find your way, and choose your path. That while life may be ugly and painful and hard, you will be the type of person that responds, that works through it, and that decides to love life again.

And that is really what matters above all else. You don’t always get to choose what happens to you or those around you in life, but you do get to choose how to respond. When pain shows up, will you step in? Will you give up or keep trying. Will you choose to love life again and again and again?

Life may not always be easier for good people, but it is more beautiful and more worth loving when you’re the type of person who steps in.

Jo O’Hanlon is an adventurer and storyteller. She tries to be honest about the ugly and hard parts of life, and the beautiful parts too. This blog is one of the places she shares her thoughts and stories.

Other places are

instagram: @jrolicious         twitter: @jrohanlon

storyofjoblog@gmail.com
Monday, October 20th, 2014 | Author:

Tackling myths & cliches: Everything Happens for a Reason

“She’s not going to die,” she said to me, her eyes wide, her hands on both of my upper arms, desperation and edge in her voice.

“What are you going to say to me when she does?” I wondered silently.

My sister passed away the next day.

That was just the first of the misguided things people said to me in the wake of her death. But my absolute least favorite thing that anyone could ever say in the wake of death or disaster is this: Everything happens for a reason.

The reasons are that pain and sickness and sin and death exist in our world. Not because it was part of God’s plan. Not because God needed another angel. Not because this was something that me or my family had to go through for us to where we ended up. Not that our story needed this plot-twist.

When my older sister died, I was 14 and I was devastated, but I remember daring God on the day she died, thinking he wouldn’t be able to come through: “If you can, show me one good thing that comes from this.”

That was my deal, my plea to God. One good thing. I didn’t believe that even one good thing could come from such tragedy.

I realize now how naive I was, because God is big, and good, and the way the world works, redemption can come forth, and when you press into pain it changes you and reveals you in ways that would’ve taken years otherwise.

I don’t even know who I’d be today if my sister hadn’t died. I can see how much things changed because of her death, and I can see all kinds of growth and beauty that has come forth in my life as a result of walking through that valley of grief and loss.

large_774419510photo credit: Jimmy_Joe via photopin cc

So why do I still want to give people nose bleeds when they say everything happens for a reason? Because it’s too easy. It’s too easy to minimize the devastation of tragedy if we choose to believe that it was somehow some part of a divine or cosmic plan. The puppet master at work again, killing off characters for character development of another player. No.

There is a very real aspect to tragedy that demands the admittance that this was never supposed to be this way. That is what our souls cry out, and that is what we silence when we do not let that truth breathe, but try to console ourselves with cheap consolation of the cliche’s “it’s Ok. It’s in God’s plan. It’s supposed to be this way for some unknown reason.”

No. I know a God who cries out the same thing. IT WAS NEVER SUPPOSED TO BE THIS

WAY. I know a God who weeps with me over the loss of life, over the breaking of hearts, over the destruction of what was good, over the abuse of the innocent.

And while my naive dare to God was really a “F— you, God” challenge, He was faithful. He has shown me how much good he can bring forth from the things that were never supposed to be this way. He has proven faithful to bring beauty of our ruins. But I don’t for a moment believe that it had to go this way. He could’ve developed me another way. I could’ve had other paths in life that were different, perhaps better than this one. There were other ways.  I don’t believe my sister’s death had to happen for a reason.

I don’t believe that death, divorce, abuse, disaster, devastation happen for a reason other that this world is not always good. But I have come to trust that God is good when the world isn’t. God weeps with me while trying to make beauty rise out of the ruins. That’s what people confuse — they think that everything has to burn so beauty can come from the ashes. Which is as nonsensical as saying that fires happen so that firefighters can be heroes. We see the result and we call it the reason.

I am heavily shaped by my experience with grief. I grew up much sooner, and knew grief much deeper than I would wish on any teenager. And the good is that it has deepened my spirituality, my emotional capacity, and my maturity in mounds, I am positive.

But I would give all of that to have my sister back. To have my family whole again. To know what it’s like to experience 9th and 10th grade without the devastation of pain and depression. To not know that gut-wrenching acid of grief in the back of my throat, to not know the loss that weights you like lead in your bones.

This is not how it was supposed to be. It didn’t happen for a reason. There have been some beautiful results that have come of it. But at the end of the day, I am accepting of the way life has been, not accepting that it’s the way it had to go.

This is not how it should be, but this is how it is, and once I grieve that I can begin to see the ways that life can be beautiful again.


Jo O’Hanlon is an adventurer and storyteller. She tries to be honest about the ugly and hard parts of life, and the beautiful parts too. This blog is one of the places she shares her thoughts and stories.

Other places are

instagram: @jrolicious         twitter: @jrohanlon

storyofjoblog@gmail.com
Tuesday, September 30th, 2014 | Author:

Tackling Myths & Cliches: Whatever Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger

50 MPH speed limit. That seems fast for this road. But OK. I’ll go 50.

Shoot this hill is long. I hear my dad’s mantra: “Don’t ride your breaks. They’ll burn out.” Ok, I’ll keep it near 50. 53. 54. 55. 54. 53. 54.

Green lights all the way.

Intersection.

Large truck turning into our path. Going fast. Too fast. We’re going fast.

Break. Break! BREAK! My foot can’t move that fast.

This is it. We’re going to die.

I see the panic on the blond girl’s face through the passenger side window of the truck.

My world goes black as I hear the deafening sound of metal colliding.

Silence. I am gone.

I come to in a car filled with airbag dust. I look, horrified at the passenger seat. What will I find there?

I see Kate. Her eyes like deer in headlights. Staring at me. Alive. Conscious. In shock.

I see smoke starting to fill the car. More and more. I’m still looking into Kate’s wide eyes. She does not blink.

I look around at the smoke, and back to her. “GET OUT! GET OUT OF THE CAR NOW!” I order her. Movie scenes of cars exploding in flame race through my mind. No.

“GET OUT OF THE CAR!” I say again.

Our doors open. I step out of the car and struggle to stand. Something is wrong with my foot. I hobble to the median of the broad intersection. It is at Kate’s side of the car. She is there already.

I slump down. People flood to our sides. Are we OK?

What’s my name?

Who can we call?

I don’t know. We don’t live here.

Where are my shoes? I get up to walk. Can’t. You, fireman. Can you find my shoes? Where is my phone? Can you find my phone?

Ambulance. Kate and I laugh lots of shocky laughs that make us cry out from the pain of moving. Emergency Room. Exams. Long, painful night.

Two years ago I was in a head on collision at around 50 MPH. I broke my foot, and suffered what we later learned to be a concussion which began giving me daily migraines.

My foot healed within 8 weeks. My migraines, though I have made MUCH progress, still punctuate my life several times a month.

It is one of only two times that I was certain that was it, that I was going to die.

But we didn’t.

__________________________________________________________

Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Right?

No. I don’t accept that. That’s BS.

After my sister died, after my car accident, after my life imploded, after I moved because of a bad living situation — people told me I was so strong. And I’m starting to see that they were right. But I thought that they were saying these things were making me strong (some did say that). And deep down I knew that wasn’t true. These things, they were testing me, sometimes they threatened to destroy me. They weren’t making me strong. I was strong through them, not because of them. Those life obstacles were revealing to me the depth of strength that I had to find to survive those times, but they were devastating me in the process.

Pain doesn’t make you strong. It reveals your strength. You don’t actually need the painful things of life to be strong. But sometimes you don’t realize how strong you are without them. It’s the revealing that has value.

We should be honest that pain sucks. Bad things suck. That there are things that we wish we never had to live through.

It’s not about the positive spin. It’s about the true revealing of who we are so that we can go forward as the person we want to be or become.

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photo credit: mcandrea via photopin cc


But whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger is false.

The first person to ever run the distance of a marathon was actually running to the city of Marathon from the battle field to tell that the battle had been won. He ran the whole way, and the myth says that he died immediately after delivering the message.

Many strong people run marathons all the time now, but marathons don’t make you strong. Actually they temporarily damage your body, having pushed it so far. But they reveal the strength you’ve built up in training.

In the wake of the things that are destroying you, it is OK to not feel strong.

Sometimes, the strength that is revealed doesn’t feel like strength, it feels like taking one ragged breathe, one faltering step at a time, one after the other. And we slowly move forward. We slowly discover how much strength there is in us. And undoubtedly, we all have times where we feel too weak to carry on, and we have to sit down and take a break, or sometimes collapse and weep. But then we discover that we might have another morsel of strength. So we continue.

That is the true strength that is revealed when we think we might just die.

Marathon runners make it to the finish line, and their body takes a toll.

Broken bones, when re-healed, still ache sometimes, even years later. Strong people walk through the ache. But when they walked without ache, they were just as strong.

Our lives would be better without conflict. But the conflict reveals us to ourselves. And when we live as revealed people, we use the strength we’ve always had more fully.

Jo O’Hanlon is an adventurer and storyteller. She tries to be honest about the ugly and hard parts of life, and the beautiful parts too. This blog is one of the places she shares her thoughts and stories.

Other places are

instagram: @jrolicious         twitter: @jrohanlon

storyofjoblog@gmail.com
Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014 | Author:

Recently I was with a group of people and we were talking about what was going on in our lives and the topic turned to one of the girls there who is leaving her job soon. “I know it may be bad,” she relayed, “but I’m really giving it my all now. I want them to miss me when I’m gone. I want them to be sad to see me go, and not think ‘Oh, she was leaving, that’s why she was slacking those last few months.'”

Other people in the room chimed in saying they felt the same way. It was quickly clear the desire to be hard to replace seems to be almost innate. Except in me.

For a long time now, I’ve been trying to make myself replaceable. And it’s just been the last few months that I’ve really realized how this mindset has sunk in to most every area of my life.

I create “truck binders” for projects I work on so that if I were run over by a truck, someone could use the binder to carry forward. I delegate tasks and responsibilities to teams and train others how to do my job in my absence. I plan ahead and I make notes about what I do and how I do it. And I’ve realized, I keep people at bay in my life, and I try to get them close to other people who could fill my role when I leave.

When I left for college, I didn’t want to be replaceable, because I wanted to stay in my hometown. But because I left, I wanted to see my people taken care of. I was happy for her when my best friend began to be good friends with another girl who is her best friend to this day. I was glad that someone could fill the hole I left in the day to day life of my friend. I’ve been tentative to sign art pieces that I make for people as gifts, because I want them to be able to enjoy the art piece regardless of what happens to me. I don’t want them to have to remember me with each glance at it if they don’t want to. (I know this is poor logic, and not healthy, but it’s the truth.)

In my self-realization that I do this, this is what I’ve found.

***

I mentioned in my “write your own eulogy” post that I always thought I would die young.  As early as I can remember I just assumed this to be true. I told this to my friend recently and she said, “see… that’s why I’m scared to have kids. How do you know that your toddler is thinking about death? That scares the crap out of me.”

And really, she’s right. How would anyone have known? I never bothered to mention it. I just thought it was a given. I was extremely happy and adventurous and risk-taking. I was well socialized. I connected well with people of all ages. But I’ve always thought my time was limited.

The only thing I can think of that I believe made me assume my life would be short was this: My mom always used to tell us stories about her and her brothers as they were growing up. One of my uncles was older than her and one younger. But the thing was, in the story I had two uncles, but in life I only had one. Her younger brother had died before I was born.  I only knew him through the stories.

And somehow I think that my little mind drew a lot of similarities between myself and my Uncle Randy. We were both the youngest of 3 kids. We both had allergies. We both got manipulated by older siblings, but still loved them. Just typical stuff. But somehow I believed that my fate would be like his – I thought my life would be short. So I lived that way.

When I was in 6th grade I started to have medical problems. They couldn’t figure out what was wrong but I underwent test after test, with no results giving an answer. I had my blood drawn weekly for a while for these. I saw specialists. I missed lots of school. I was just waiting for what I knew would eventually be a fatal diagnosis. I could manage life 5 or 6 days out of 7, but I missed at least one day of school a week. But  on my good days I would play hard, laugh hard, study hard, and be who I wanted to be. I knew time was short.

And then, when my medical problems were still going on, but were becoming less demanding, and almost seemed like they were fading, my older sister died suddenly.

I felt like the universe had gotten confused. She was supposed to live. My brother too. They were supposed to live long, full lives. They were both so accomplished. So smart. Smarter and better than me, I always thought. It was supposed to be me. I had always known. It was supposed to be me who died young. I was supposed to live an entertaining full, short, life that she could tell stories about to her children. It wasn’t supposed to be her.

I was ready for the fatal diagnosis. I wasn’t ready for the fatal call of someone else’s death, though. Cancer, some weird disease, “You have 3 days to live,” I could’ve handled. But watching the life go out of my brilliant, vibrant, feisty, 21-year-old sister who had so much promise for the world and for the people around her — that ruined everything I thought I knew about how to live well and die well.

This death was not like the movies, with time to prepare and goodbyes properly said. It was her birthday 3 days before. We didn’t get to say goodbye. She didn’t get to graduate college one month later like she was ready to. She didn’t get to celebrate her one year wedding anniversary that summer on the cruise they had already bought. There were no tears of parting on her part. It just ended. Like a book that just stops a quarter of the way in, leaving you hanging, knowing there was supposed to be more.

My poetic notions of short life well lived were smashed. This was not like that. This was a life-halting, heart-breaking, “WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO F***ING DO NOW!?!?” chapter. It was not poetic. It was horrendous.

origin_2594318333photo credit: mugley via photopin cc

And what had once been a decision to live fully so that I’d soak up all opportunity and so that people could remember me in their stories they told, turned to a desire to minimize collateral damage. I know the pain and ache of someone dying. And I, still subconsciously believing I would die young, was determined to lessen that pain for others as much as possible.

I wanted to be replaceable. I wanted to be able to die and have everything go on without me as smoothly as possible.

I wanted to prepare people for my death — living like a cancer patient without the diagnosis. I wanted people to know how I loved them, cared for them, and that they didn’t really need me. That there were others who could fill my slot in the program of their life.

The first time I talked about “when I die…” to my friend Kate, we were roommates in college. I don’t even know what I said, but probably something flippant like “when I die, I want to have “Damn, it feels good to be a gangsta” on my tombstone. I didn’t know it then (this is just how I talk and think), but she got really angry with me for thinking about death, and talking about it so frankly.

A couple of years later, I had just attended yet another funeral for someone I respected, and I wrote an email to Kate. I told her if I died I wanted her to speak at my funeral, and there were certain things I wanted her to mention: One, namely, is one time that I had the best parallel parking job in the world, on the first try, in golden gate park in San Francisco, and we took a picture that she made me promise I wouldn’t use to brag. I asked her to show said bragging picture, because hey, I’d be dead.

It was in her gracious response that she’d let me in on her reaction to my candor about death. She understands now that it’s part of how I live, but I had never known before that it had angered her and made her sad when I brought it up the first time. Which is understandable. There I was, getting to be great friends with someone, and simultaneously trying to keep a distance, to prepare her for life without me, to make myself replaceable. I believe I may well live a long life now. But I’m still scared of hurting people. I’m scared of leaving a wake of pain should the unexpected happen.

But the thing is, I’m not replaceable. I work hard to make sure I am replaceable in my jobs and roles in life. Because those things you can be replaced in. But I cannot be replaced as a person. Nobody can. I’ve believed that about others, but I thought I could be the exception if I tried hard enough.

I’ve had other people who have stepped in and acted as big sisters for me. But nobody will ever be Julie. And the fact is, if her death had happened like the movies, and we’d had our time for goodbyes, it wouldn’t have made it hurt less. It wouldn’t have lessened the loss. She would still be gone, and still be irreplaceable.

Positions are replaceable. People are not.

So I am working on trying to let myself see this and embrace it in the ways I relate to the people in my life. Because I’ve realized in my efforts to minimize pain for people at my potential leaving, I’m actually stunting the joy of relationships for myself and for them.

I want to step into the fullness of who I am and embrace the value of that woman. And as much as I don’t want people to bear the hurt of loss that I so well know, it’s a lie to go on believing that I can prevent that.  Loss and pain are certainties in life. I’d like to focus from now on at caring, loving, giving, and being the kind of friend that I would never want to see leave my own life.

And it’s OK if you miss me when I’m gone.

Joanna O’Hanlon is an adventurer and storyteller. She tries to be honest about the ugly and hard parts of life, and the beautiful parts too. This blog is one of the places she shares her thoughts and stories.

Other places are

instagram: @jrolicious         twitter: @jrohanlon

storyofjoblog@gmail.com

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014 | Author:

Tackling myths & clichés: When Life gives you lemons, make lemonade

First of all, life doesn’t give you lemons.

But since we’re talking about them, you know who has a lot of lemons? The Italians. And they’re some of the warmest, happiest people out there. Go to Sorrento in Italy and tell me that you do not love all of the lemony things. I dare you. Lemon scented soap. Lemon chicken. Lemon liqueur. Lemonade. Lemon candies. Lemon paintings and tables and glasswork. Lemon towels and pottery. Whole shops full of lemons and lemon-inspired things.

Lemons are not a bad thing. But the pain of life, unfortunately, is not like lemons at all. Lemons, if eaten plain, are pretty sour, but to be honest, they still taste pretty good in the realm of things.

And that’s the reality — you can make lemonade out of lemons because they taste pretty good to start with.

You know what life gives you that you can’t make lemonade out of? Crap.

Ever heard that saying, “You can’t polish a turd?” It’s true (I’d imagine). You can’t. You also can’t make lemonade out of it.

You can’t make lemonade out of your life falling apart.
You can’t make lemonade out of your loved ones dying.
You can’t make lemonade out of betrayal.
You can’t make lemonade out of a broken heart.
You can’t make lemonade out of losing everything.
You can’t make lemonade out of abuse.
You can’t make lemonade out of poverty.
You can’t make lemonade out of a fatal diagnosis.

You just can’t. You can’t make lemonade out of those hard, painful, gut-wrenching things in life.
Nor should anyone persuade you to try.

It’s ok to let the bad things be bad.
It’s ok to let the painful things be painful.
Don’t be persuaded to try to act like the silver lining is all that matters. Because your pain, your ugly, horrible plot turns of your life that you’ve had to endure — those matter. Suffering matters.

Redemption matters, too. But your suffering matters in its own right, even before you may see any good come from it.  If you’re experiencing pain or suffering right now, I am so sorry. You matter. And this season of life may not last forever, but I am sorry you are in it right now.

Beauty does come from pain. (It exists apart from pain, too.) But it’s not that your pain has to be beautiful. It’s not that you have to use lemons to make lemonade. You don’t have to transform your grief into a sweet summery treat overnight.

The reality is that when the hard pain of life comes, and you endure, beauty and life can spring forth again. Your story doesn’t have to end in pain. But you do not have to sugar-coat those painful times. It’s ok to not be ok.

It’s ok to not be the ever-singing optimist lemonade-maker.

And there’s one more thing. While those hard pieces of life are more like crap than they are like lemons… crap is good fertilizer. You can’t make lemonade out of the crap of pain. But as you journey through these hard pieces of life — as you grieve and are honest about the fact that this feels like something you never wanted to go through — your life is being fertilized. You don’t have to make lemonade. Just journeying through your pain will fertilize your life for potential beauty to bloom forth in the future.

origin_5807957068photo credit: DanieleCivello via photopin cc

So in your own life and in the lives of those around you, let the hard parts of life be just what they are. Hard. Painful. Heart-breaking. Life-altering. I-wish-this-never-happened saddening. I-want-to-punch-a-hole-in-this-wall maddening. I-just-don’t-think-I-can-take-another-day-of-this-reality exhausting.

There is hope for healing and new life in the future. But in the midst of fresh pain, that’s hardly a refreshing drink of consolation. And that’s OK to admit.

Later, when you have grieved, when you have slept, when you have plodded forth for what felt like too long and you come into a new season of life where you’re ready to rebuild, re-dream, and to come alive again, you can plant a lemon tree later in that fertile ground of your life and make lemonade if you really want to.

Or just ignore the rules and plant something sweet like oranges or berries to begin with.

Revised saying:
I’m sorry life is so painful and crappy right now. I’ll sit here with you in the stench of heart-break and life-ache. And I’ll be here still when you want to plant something new. But no rush. Take the time you need.

It’s not as catchy, I know. I’m OK with that.

Joanna O’Hanlon is an adventurer and storyteller. She tries to be honest about the ugly and hard parts of life, and the beautiful parts too. This blog is one of the places she shares her thoughts and stories.