When I was a kid – and I mean, way way way back in the day – I was best friends with my Godmother’s oldest son, Mike. Mike and I were practically the same age, and with his mom and my mom being best friends, we really had no choice but to hang out.
When Mike’s family moved out of Philadelphia into the suburbs, I thought he had the coolest house and the coolest room going. It was a big room, bigger than mine, and he had all sorts of cool stuff to play with, lots of pennants and posters on the wall, and a small 3-octave electric organ. We could make all sorts of noise, play with action figures, and generally have a good time.
A few details of that room still stay with me. One of them was the strangest poster I had ever seen. It was a drawing (think Schoolhouse Rock school of drawing styles) of this dude who had a gigantic funnel on his head, and a spigot for a nose. The funnel was filled with lemons, and he was holding a pitcher of lemonade.
Of course you can guess the pithy axiom around which this poster was designed. And frankly, I was always glad I didn’t sleep in that room – the funnel-headed dude was downright freaky. At that age, though, I had no idea what the saying meant. Being as literally-minded as any kid, I thought that sometimes, you got a bunch of lemons. Really.
Years later, I collected on those lemons. Lost my job (twice!) in 2001. Up until that point, I wouldn’t say I led a charmed life, but I certainly caught my share of breaks. But for a good month in late 2001, I joined the ranks of thousands in some way impacted but that September’s events. I had never been out of work, and it hurt. I went from being a provider to being a dependent. I was on the dole, not a productive member of society but a leech – or so I felt.
For the month and change that I was out of work, I was miserable. I was withdrawn, moody, and more or less a complete asshole. I was mad at myself for taking that job in the first place. I was mad at the person who had laid me off. I was mad at my former co-workers who were still employed, especially those who I considered the real dead wood. I’m a control type of guy, and my life was out of control. I was a complete fucking mess.
There was one person, though, who muddled through that with me. She put up with my bullshit, more or less. She didn’t tolerate it: she called me on it. She never let me hit bottom, never let me wallow more that I really needed to. For a month when my life was astray, she kept me in line. I worried I would end up like Campbell Scott in Singles. She made sure I was never just “regrouping.”
Some of you read her blog. Some of you just know me. Either way, you may know that Liz took delivery of some lemons herself on Wednesday. It’s not the first time she’s been hit by the produce truck, but that doesn’t ease the pain. Not much will, actually. We both know this. Only time makes any of this any better, and only space allows the necessary perspective.
Hopefully, in the next few weeks, I can do for her what she was able to do for me. She helped me use my time, not squander it. She helped me get my space, not crowd it. She kept me focused, and let me make my lemonade.
So honey, take what you need – time, space, whatever it is. I know you’ll be fine. I know you’ll make your lemonade. You’ve got the needed ingredient.
You are the juice I need for life
You are the sweetness in my eyes