Lately I've got a real thing for lemons which I'm pretty certain is because life keeps throwing them at me.
For instance, I bought a lemon-bedecked tablecloth for the kitchen, matching lemon-flecked napkins, and a package of very pretty faux lemons I plopped in a white soup tureen and placed in the center of the table. I added several touches of lemon to my gray and white living room too, and I can even foresee a time not too far in the future when my lemon love will spread through every inch of this place including my seventeen year-old son's room, which I plan to "decorate" with the strongest lemon-scented air fresheners I can find.
"Go ahead, life," my growing fondness for the bright yellow fruit seems to be saying, "take your best shot. Bean me right in the kisser. But beware, I make a mean lemonade."
I've got several dear friends who've suggested I throw them back and demand chocolate. Or diamonds. Or a weekend with Robert Downey Jr. But that's not how it works. Life smacks you upside the head with lemons and you don't get to say "no thanks." You do, however, have two choices. You can put them in your pocket, crawl under your desk and shrivel up and die down there together, stinking of rotted fruit and ruining a perfectly good pair of pants not to mention any chance of ever spending the weekend with Robert Downey Jr., or you can pull on your big girl bloomers and make the best of it.
Sure, I've been tempted to burn the bloomers and beg God to take the damn lemons and put them back in the produce section where they belong, but He's got bigger fish to fry and frankly? I'm just happy He's not beaning me with fish. That would add insult to injury. "Hello, my name is Susan and my life's a mess and that stench flowing from me like flatulence? Is rotted salmon. Thanks for ignoring it."
Oh the lemons. They just keep on coming. This year I got them as Christmas gifts. In December I parted ways with my agent and, shortly thereafter, my husband.
Losing my agent sent me into a tailspin. Before she came along I was just another one of the millions of moms with blogs. But then she stumbled on my rants about farm life and thought they were funny. Thought I was funny. I'll never forget how she pitched my first book left and right while I sat at home fretting and memorizing entire sections of Self-Publishing for Dummies. And then, shock of shocks (to me, self-confident Suzy), she sold it, and my next one, too.
And now she was gone.
In the days after our conversation, I sat at my desk wondering if maybe I had nothing left to say. If maybe I'd never had anything to say. If maybe my worst fear as a writer was coming to pass: that my beloved words were joining numbers on the list of stuff at which I stink.
2. Straightening my hair.
4. Remembering why I walked into a particular room.
5. Reading a map.
6. Have I mentioned math?
Since then I've thought a lot about why she passed on the idea I pitched, and I've come to the following conclusion. The book I proposed wasn't memoir. It wasn't even creative non-fiction. It was a story of how I wanted my life to be and, frankly, that's called fiction.
Which brings me to losing my husband.
It sounds trite to say but it's true: sometimes no matter how deeply, desperately you love someone, how the mere thought of waking up without them beside you makes you physically sick, how all those days and nights the rest of the world faded away and it was just the two of you in your happy little couple bubble were the best times - the best times - you've ever had in your whole life, sometimes it's just not enough. There are things you can't fix or wish away. Reality bursts your happy couple bubble and the only thing you can do is take your head out of the sand, see things as they really are, and walk away.
And then, despite the grief that threatens to flatten you while you're working, or burning dinner, or driving your kid to school, you have to reach deep down inside and pull that big, fat lemon out of the hole it's left in your heart, say "You suck!" straight to its shiny rind, and go get the sugar.
It took a veritable village of girlfriends to get me into my apartment. One to find the place, a second to deal with the movers and make me pack, and a third to help unpack and put things away almost as fast as they came through the door and to give me the most spot on housewarming gift I've ever gotten: a framed, cross stitched martini glass that says, "I'm not drunk enough for this shit." On those days the lemons leave me feeling particularly bruised, I look at it and laugh and am reminded that I'll live. After all, I've survived worse.
That little quote inspired me to fill the entry way of my apartment with lots of my other favorite sayings. Things like, "Life is what happens while you're busy making other plans," "Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken," and "Life doesn't have to be perfect to be wonderful." My favorite though is the one that simply says, "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade." Every time I see it, I smile and think, my apartment is lemonade.
And you know, despite everything, it's delicious.