Versions of that quote have been ascribed to various famous individuals, and large numbers of not-so-famous people have had a chance to test it out over time. Many members of The Mental Health Gym live within the area that was hit by Hurricane Irene in recent days (and some of us had that added benefit of a rare East Coast earthquake a few days before). While the Hurricane caused a lot of damage, it thankfully wasn’t as devastating as originally feared. But many of us suffered some damage in the form of wet basements, debris-covered lawns, & especially the loss of electrical power. This gave us the opportunities to make lemonade out of the lemon that life temporarily handed to us.
While my wife and I were lucky to have lost our electricity for only part of an evening, it happened pretty early – and we were too energized to go to bed after listening to the rain and wind and the scary news reports before the TV stopped working. Instead of obsessing about the weather, we tried to think in a proactive and positive manner – and we quickly found something that was working on it’s own battery – my iPad. We used it for an activity that we’d never done together before. We selected an e-book that neither of us read, and we started alternating reading out loud to each other. We found that we really enjoyed it and it enabled us to share the same experience and discuss it in much the same way that we can share our impressions of a movie that we watch together. It has been such a good fit for us that we’ve started a new family tradition and have continued reading together on an almost nightly basis.
In the days since the hurricane, I’ve learned that we weren’t unique. I’ve learned of families that used the darkness to test out how much candlelight dinners and family story telling can be. For the first time in years, some families carried on conversations unrelated to what they were watching on TV. Neighbors pitched in to help neighbors who sustained greater amounts of damage, and families who long ago handed over lawn care to professional landscapers wound up pulling together to clear debris from yards that their lawn services would not get to for several days.
These positive outcomes don’t change the fact that a hurricane is a lousy experience even when personal damage isn’t great, but if you are oriented toward thinking about what can go right, rather than cursing the darkness, even that sour lemon can produce lemonade.
If you have some other examples of positive thinking and acting under trying circumstances, I’d love to hear from you.