News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Making Lemonade

The first time I heard the adage, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade,” it was the early 1980s during my third year of college. We were required to do a case study on a patient. That fall my clinical rotation was at a large VA hospital, rife with possibilities. Imagine my dismay when I was assigned to the mental ward, to a patient with bi-polar disorder, also referred to as manic depressive illness. I went to my nursing instructor and begged to be reassigned. The patient himself was a clinical psychologist, who had twice attempted suicide. I was very intimidated and felt totally out of my league with the assignment.

I was told to make lemonade. There would be no reassignment.

I spent eight weeks with that patient, and in the end wrote a case study that was eventually published in a medical journal. Quite a surprise, as my instructor had, unbeknownst to me, submitted it as a nursing student case study. It was a clinical study written more like a biography. I had made lemonade!

During this most stress-filled time in most of our lives as we struggle with job loss, isolation, illness, rents due, food shortages and more, I wondered how some people are making lemonade. With time on my hands I set about interviewing family, friends, neighbors and acquaintances. Here are a few of the answers:

One friend laid off from her job has been walking every day to relieve stress. She has had more time to prepare healthier meals at home rather than grabbing meals on the run. She has lost over 20 pounds and her blood pressure is lower than it has been in years. A bonus is that for the first time since her last child was born, she can fit into her “skinny” jeans.

Richard, from Richard’s Produce says that he is making lemonade by offering more organic produce, fruits and veggies at his place this year. People want that and he says he has never been busier. Judging by the check-out line — people six feet apart of course — I would say he is right.

A neighbor on my block who sells fresh farm eggs and volunteers at Habitat for Humanity says that she is discovering new ways to connect with friends and family. Things are moving at a much slower pace for us all. Trying to stay connected is a challenge, but she is doing it.

A friend with school-age children has been struggling with the home schooling of restless kids, limited resources, and a computer with a mind of its own that often is not operable. The kids become frustrated, cannot concentrate, and do not want to be in school at home. The alternative is, take this time to teach some life skills. Teach the kids how to make their beds. Teach them how to wash a load of laundry, how to boil an egg. Give the dog a good brushing.

My friend Diana has taken this time to at long last install those hardwood floors she has been yearning for. She is doing it herself! When I asked her how she was making lemonade from lemons she laughed and said I must have been thinking about Judy, our nursing instructor of so long ago.

My daughter, a preschool teacher turned librarian, has been using this time off to make masks. She and her sewing circle friends in Georgia have made hundreds of masks.

Each of us is finding some joy during this hardship, helping others, reconnecting with our families, slowing down from that fast-paced life we have come to accept as normal. Hopefully, we can keep this lesson alive and continue to appreciate just being. We do not always have to be doing something. There is an art to doing nothing.

Possibly the funniest story I heard, when I asked a young family member how she was coping with being unable to connect with and play with her friends, said she has been working in the garden, trying to train a praying mantis with a toothpick. To do what? I wondered. To PRAY she replied. I am certain the praying mantis assumes that posture without the aid of a toothpick, but I did not want to dilute her lemonade.

The resilience of the human spirit and the willingness to help one another during difficult times is amazing. When we look at the chaos occurring in larger cities in this country, I am so thankful to be part of the Sisters community. We will keep on keeping on, we will get through this and we will keep on making lemonade.


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