I thought I’d remember everything about that moment when it finally came.
I would have bet anything that I would notice the song that was playing in the dressing room. I thought that it would be a moment that would go down in a cinematic fashion. I was sure that when it finally came I would see my heart fall right out of my chest and that I would go sliding onto the cold tile floor and pull my tangled brunette hair through my tiny hands.
But when my phone buzzed and told me what I already knew was coming, I just kept trying on clothes. I took a deep breath and I pulled another floral shirt over my head. I didn’t crumble into a pile on the floor; I simply slipped on a bright turquoise dress and spun in front of the mirror.
I realized it while bargain shopping during a rain storm, crunched between four little walls; it was always about perspective.
This week made me think about being seven years old in summertime and eating sandwiches and sitting under umbrellas and being completely unaware that life gives you lemons. And you know, sometimes they’re crushed and dried up and you can’t make lemonade. Sometimes, you just don’t have the juice, the sugar, or the pitcher to mix it.
There are just some things that won’t ever taste sweet.
I think it’s about noticing which lemons you can use and which ones need to go flying into that blue laundry basket your Dad calls a trashcan. Some things are meant to be thrown out with the week-old Italian leftovers and the spoiled milk. Figure out what is worth keeping, what has purpose, what you can use. Throw the rest of it away.
Because there are things that happen that just don’t make you stronger, faster, better, fuller. Sometimes you only become those things when you’re able to wash your hands of the junky, useless, bitter lemons that life smacked you in the face with.
But it’s your choice, and isn’t that just absolutely glorious? You decide what to keep and what to heave into that hunter-green bin that you’ll pull to the edge of the driveway.
Let me add that when you stop apologizing for your decision of what you keep and what you toss, then you’ll finally be able to make some darn good lemonade.
And when someone says to you, “all of this will make you stronger” you can absolutely tell them; “No, this isn’t the kind of thing that makes me. This is not what I’ll use to become the person I know I was born to be. No, this is the thing that I’ll toss in that big black bag over there; the one that holds phone calls that never came and words that seemed to be dripping with honey, but were manipulative and poisonous. Yeah, I think I’m going to throw this and all its wrapping and ribbons in the garbage; because that’s where it came from and that’s where it belongs.”
You know exactly what I mean when I say that. I’m not telling you to throw out people, or relationships, or hand-written notes that were written with affection (even if that affection isn’t there anymore).
I’m talking about the words that were said to cut off your legs and break your back. I’m referring to the text messages that were typed to sink you knee-deep into pain and anger. The situations that you couldn’t fix, the lies that said you failed, failed, failed. The glares and whispers that came right after Thanksgiving when you decided that you were done taking a backseat, a number, a raincheck. The snarky comments that crept up behind you when you said I’m puttin’ on my best dress and dancing to my favorite song and ain’t nothing or nobody gonna rain on my parade.
Throw it out. Because it’s never gonna taste sweet, it’s never going to refresh you on those long, hard days. It’s never going to satisfy what it is that you’re really thirsty for.
You can’t use it. You can’t use the lies, the bitterness, the rage, the screams, the slammed doors. They’re spoiled, sour, rotten, tacky and distasteful. Don’t mix that together with the love, the encouragement, the growth, the laughter that sits there in that beating thing between your ribcage. Don’t let that stuff come close to the core of who you are.
Like I said, what’s going to make you better, stronger, happier, wiser is your ability to separate it from who you are. The willingness to throw it over your shoulder and to never look back. You’ll want to. You will want to turn around and remember it. You will want to put on a song, or drive down that street or sit by the window in that coffee shop and let it replay in your mind. But it won’t make you better. It won’t, I can promise you that.
So, just keep trying on the dresses, or the suits. Keep baking cookies or planting flowers. When those pointless, hurtful, useless, dried-up things come at you, keep doing what you’re doing. Don’t give it a second thought, a nod of acknowledgement. Keep thinking about the people who make you laugh, the good day that you had leaning against gray walls and seeing love pay off. Sit and replay the moments that sent joy sliding all the way down to your size 7 feet.
Let the good make you. Let the joy be what sits on your shoulders, follows you home, wakes you up.
Just take a deep breath, pull it together and know when it’s time to take out the trash.