Making Lemonade, the Patient Pause

“What else might this mean?”

Recently, I came across the question in this context: how different the world might be if we asked that question when facing a tense moment, when feeling anger or aggression, whenever there is pain.

To ask the question is to pause, creating a distance from the situation, preventing an immediate and perhaps pointed reaction.

We have given ourselves the opportunity to make the compassionate response.

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Rather than clinging to the pain of the moment, we release it. We are not boxed up in a mindset or limited in our choices. In the compassionate response, we are open to the unimaginable.

We are not relinquishing our beliefs or changing our goals. We are not giving up or accepting less. We are standing in the reality we have, taking a moment to step back and make the choice that suits the moment.

We find ourselves less concerned with identity, the beliefs of “I,” and more concerned, maybe even intrigued, with how we might offer more to many.

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Asking what else might this mean reminds me of a well-worn meme—when life gives you lemons make lemonade— there was a time that I would roll my eyes whenever I was told this, which was rather often.

At some point, and I have no memory of any “aha” moment, I considered what it might mean to experiment with life’s lemons. It is an exercise in patience. In making lemonade, I found curiosity and grew to trust it.

Was I lowering my standards?

These days, I live a routine of no routine, relieved of the stress of tasks assigned to specific times. There is enough freedom so that on the days when life is one lemon after another, lemonade seems more than sufficient. I never know how tart or naturally sweet the lemonade might be.

I sip and stay curious.

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In the last two months, I produced more solid writing than I have in the last year and a half.

Physically, I am markedly different. I am not referring to walking with a cane or wearing a soft neck collar. These are temporary conditions of myelopathy.  Once again, the question of lowering my standards drifted through my ego. That required more than one glass of lemonade.

In short, myelopathy relieved my suffering for I had no choice except to slow down. Myelopathy accomplished what nearly 40 years of autoimmune disease could not. That is the difference.

In slowing down, I gained life anew. I have just begun to consider what this might mean for me.


Although my pace of life is slow, more measured, it is now possible for me to comfortably complete two or three errands in one outing, something I have not been able to do.

In rest, I find awareness, options never imagined. No longer am I pushing through to the end of a task, exhausting all of my resources.

In exhaustion, I find energy. To me, they are opposite ends of the same spectrum. I aim for even. The day does not dawn to certain tasks, it lights up with curiosity.

Still, there are the daily lemons.

My biceps feel as if there are weights on them; little has changed since the spinal cord surgery. The same is true for the numbness/tingling in my hands, particularly my index fingers and thumbs. They are unpredictable.

I use voice recognition software so that the frustration of typing does not impede the writing. My thumbs and index fingers have difficulty pinching or picking up small objects such as pens or pills, a mushroom slice, coins for the laundry.

Daily, I do dexterity exercises for my fingers and thumbs, a bit of yoga for my arms as well. There is no pushing just gentle flexibility. There is a lot of lemonade as well.

For all those moments when the world rages, as it does for all of us, if I ask, “what else might this mean,” I choose the compassionate response. It is not about having an answer. It is about asking the question.

13 thoughts on “Making Lemonade, the Patient Pause

  1. Oh I hope I can remember this. ‘What else might this mean’ takes us out of our own head, which is so often all it takes. Love this: “The day does not dawn to certain tasks, it lights up with curiosity.” Thank you.


  2. “what else might this mean”, Karen, what an excellent way of viewing things. With all the lemons life gives us, it is so easy for us to feel defeated and give up. Yet, this has not been your path, even though you have had enough lemons to make gallons of lemonade. Love your positive attitude girl. You’re a wonderful example of perseverance! ((Hugs)) 🙂


  3. In the year before I left for Peace Corps, I did a writing exercise for a few months in which I’d write something, anything, then choose a sentence, circle it and write “What did I mean by this?” each time, going deeper and deeper. We take so much for granted, including “what we mean.” Yours is a variation on an important theme and I thank you. I also want to thank you, Karen, for shedding a little more light on what it’s like to be you, on the struggles you face every day. How quickly I forget. I send you a warm (and very gentle) embrace.


    1. Thanks for your kind words, Janet. Asking “what else might this mean” seems an important practice to develop for it colors how we respond to life’s experiences. I like the idea of a writing exercise as way to look at the words that go around in the head before they get to the heart. Much appreciated, Janet.


  4. “What else might this mean?” sounds like a useful pause when we are about to react as we have always reacted, especially in response to other people. Could what they are saying or doing be interpreted differently? Is our trip-wire response to what we see as their motive be wrong because our interpretation of their motive is wrong or outdated? We dance very familiar steps with those we are closest too, even if the dance, with a little thought could be improved.

    As you say, the pause to consider the meaning of a situation also allows us to see a range of possible responses, such as making lemonade. In my family, at our darkest times we always trade this punch line. “Other than that Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the show?”

    Even at the worst times you can find something to like about the show.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Asking “what else might this mean” seems worth the practice, doesn’t it? I am thinking if the practice is developed within, then it will be at the heart of how we respond to other people for how we treat ourselves is how we treat others. It is also how we something to like about the show. Thanks, Adrian!


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