What I do with lemons

When the Trickster throws me lemons, I can do better than make lemonade.

A week ago, my operating system, Win10, seems to have decided I had worked it too hard and went on strike. Stopped functioning. Kaput. And didn’t want to repair, nohow.

My honey spent days installing, wiping out, re-installing the system and all my programs. At least three times, it crashed again. Meanwhile, I had sporadic access to my PC, and when I did, I spent endless hours resetting defaults and customizing programs to my liking. Not my favorite way to spend my precious time.

It could have been enough for me to want to pull out my new post-chemo-baldness curls!

But it wasn’t, and I didn’t.


Because I had a choice. And I chose not to.

Remember, it is not enough to be hit or insulted to be harmed, you must believe that you are being harmed. If someone succeeds in provoking you, realize that your mind is complicit in the provocation. Which is why it is essential that we not respond impulsively to impressions; take a moment before reacting, and you will find it easier to maintain control. 

Epictetus (The Art of Living: The Classical Manual on Virtue, Happiness and Effectiveness)

I agree with this ancient Greek Stoic philosopher (italics mine). And it is equally true if I replace someone with something (ie, an event… like my computer repeatedly crashing).

Everything originates in the mind, including our emotions and the meaning we give to them.

It’s a basic psychological principle that a significant part of emotional intelligence (EQ) is the ability to feel an emotion without having to act on it. Self-awareness is key.

I’ve learned that when something occurs to raise an emotion in me, especially one we (erroneously) call negative (anger, frustration, impatience, anxiety, etc), I can choose how to let that emotion develop. I can let it take over my brain—that’s the simple choice.

Or, I can stop, mentally step back, feel the emotion fully throughout my body without judging it, and, by leaning into it, let it dissipate. And then I can calmly choose a more rational way to respond.

Read that Epictetus quote again. Better not to respond on impulse. That’s giving others or circumstances the power to push your emotional buttons.

When I was much younger, people could send me into a tizzy whenever they spoke with sexist, racist, or unjust words. There were even people in my life who got their jollies out of pushing those buttons in me; I was that transparent.

I eventually twigged their game. It made me realize that impetuous emotional retorts would not change minds or hearts. They only served to aggravate the conflict and make me look foolish.

So now I laugh. When people taunt me. When the Trickster throws lemons at me. I laugh.

Many native traditions held clowns and tricksters as essential to any contact with the sacred. People could not pray until they had laughed, because laughter opens and frees from rigid preconception. Humans had to have tricksters within the most sacred ceremonies for fear that they forget the sacred comes through upset, reversal, surprise. The trickster in most native traditions is essential to creation, to birth.

Byrd Gibbens

Laughter. Best medicine ever. Laughter is infectious, too… so my honey laughs with me.

Then I have the wherewithal to find effective ways to do what I need and want to do, like getting on with setting up my computer and supporting the causes that matter to me. While keeping my good humor and peace of mind intact.

And that’s better than lemonade.

What do you do when lemons come your way? Do you feel good about how you regulate your emotions?

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  • Funny, I’ve spent many hours in the past weeks listening to philosophy discussions and had heard something that makes this resonate with me (and conflict mapping) so strongly. I had just typed this out about an hour ago:

    Arthur Schopenhauer quote: Arthur Schopenhauer – Bryan Magee & Frederick Copleston (1987) – https://youtu.be/pwJXVmbnfnI?t=540 (starts at minute 9, with this) : “these ideas that we’re dealing with are really so difficult…(Schopenhauer) argued that for anything to be different from anything else at all this idea of differentiation only made sense with reference to time or to space or to both. If two things are identical in time and identical in space, then they’re identical. Period. They’re the same thing. So, the notions of there being different things in the plural can only apply to this world of our experience; this world of space and time. Outside that world, it could make no sense whatever to talk about anything being different from anything else and (…to complete this thought) therefore whatever there is outside of this experience must be one and undifferentiated.

    …He’d reached a conclusion that was similar to that of the Hindus and Buddhists”

    – we could so easily see something like a crashed system (as so many are these days) as disaster – and so many may differ from seeing it this way, but to not see it as so is so HEALTHY. Do you remember Reader’s Digest – it had a regular feature “Laughter is the Best Medicine” and I’m sure my folks subscribed to it to encourage that we read and of course I started with that section first…always!

    I’m so glad we can laugh together!! XO

    • I echo your sentiment that it’s a delight we can laugh together, Joan. XO. I did listen to that mind-bender discussion on Schopenhauer’s philosophy and am not familiar enough with it, or their comments, to give any meaningful response. Throughout my life I’ve had periods of reading philosophy, but my brain seems incapable of integrating what I read, at least not consciously. Perhaps I’ve adopted certain worldviews (philosophies) unconsciously. I do know some of that is Buddhist (don’t know much about Hinduism). 🌸🙏🌸

  • Boy does this resonate, but on a different level. I watch my partner be driven to impulse by our nefarious neighbor who has tried and lost legally to take our right to an easement. The neighbor taunts him almost daily by yelling at him. It is difficult while in the moment to calm him down. Unfortunately it is legal to harass here, and the neighbor knows what he can get away with. I intend to share your writing with him. Hopefully he’ll be open to hearing your voice. Thank you. And I apologize if I’ve over shared. Apparently I needed to vent. Lol.

    • I would NOT say that was over-sharing, Toni. I’m so glad you found my post relevant, and the situation you describe is exactly the kind my approach would help with. I’d be tempted to tell your partner that as long as your neighbor can get a rise out of him, he’ll keep going. Stop reacting and soon enough the neighbor will lose interest in taunting. I kind of like the idea of killing with kindness. Give the man some muffins. LOL. Thanks for stopping in. 🌸🙏🌸

  • I love the part that you have to laugh first before you pray. Very insightful!

  • Yes, I agree. For decades I tried to understand why any God would create a universe like this one. Finally, I came to the conclusion that God must have done it on a whim, and the essence of the universe is, therefore, whimsical. We are, closest to the essential nature of the universe when we get the joke. 🙏🤣

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