Photo by Kaizen Nguyễn on Unsplash

How to Make Lemonade Out of Lemons

(and really want the lemonade you’ve made)

Christmastime has never been the same for me since my mom died six years ago. But this Christmas, which I celebrated on my own, was a pretty good one. Instead of dreading the day, I thought about and planned for what I wanted to experience, given my circumstance. If I was going to spend it alone, how could I make it a day to which I looked forward and enjoyed?

I did not let the idea of being alone on Christmas day interfere with all the potential that could bring. I didn’t allow it to limit my creating a happy experience. Consequently, I accepted this holiday, and this time of year, instead of dreading it. And I celebrated in my own unique way.

Instead of traveling, like I had considered doing this year or trying to find a Christmas dinner to be invited to, I decided to lay low. At the beginning of December, I bought myself several gifts and wrapped them beautifully, with ribbons and bows. Then I purchased a plant arrangement with a Christmas cactus, amaryllis, and a mini evergreen tree to put them around.

I had heard of people doing this sort of thing but had never done it myself. I thought it a bit odd. Why go to the bother of wrapping something you bought for yourself? But I enjoyed seeing the gifts wrapped. They created a holiday atmosphere. And even though I knew what was inside the presents, I’d forgotten exactly what the things I bought looked like. So when I unwrapped them, there was still an element of surprise there.

Instead of needing to be around a festive holiday dinner with a group of people so I wouldn’t feel left out, I had planned to cook a nice meal for myself. But somehow I got a sincere, heart-felt invitation to have Christmas Eve dinner with a friend I’d met only ten days earlier. Perhaps it happened because I was focusing on feeling grateful and satisfied with my situation instead of focusing on what I didn’t have.

I decided to go to that dinner. I had no expectations for it, and my purpose in going was not to avoid being alone at Christmas. I had a good time.

And, fortunately this still left me alone on Christmas day so I could celebrate as I had planned. I slept in. I went on two long walks. I opened my presents gradually throughout the day. And I spoke with a new friend who suggested we meet in Greece, where she’d be traveling on vacation. After sleeping on the idea, the following morning, I booked a trip to Athens for New Years Day, entirely out of the blue.

This Christmas was undoubtedly different from Christmases past, yet surprisingly good, and maybe even a bit magical.

But for the magic to happen, I had to let go of my previous images and beliefs, and the commercial stereotype of what this time of year should be like and I made it my own.

In life, in general, when we need things to be the way we planned or the way others say they should be (explicitly or implicitly), we set ourselves up for trying to control or force things to go our way. We lose sight of the wonder in the situation’s unfoldment.

I remember when I was a project manager for an Online Account Servicing system. I worked on the business side of the house, and we always had ideas of how we wanted the system to function. The developers were always pushing back on us, saying, “Just tell us what the requirements are, what you need the system to accomplish, but don’t tell us how to design it. That’s our job.”

Then, with requirements in hand, they would go off and do their thing, coming back to us from time to time with questions about our needs to help them design the process and system. When they finished their work, the solution they had created was ten times better than what we had suggested in the beginning.

It’s the same with life. When we know what we need or want and are open to how we get it (timing, how it comes to us, its wrapper, etc.), then life can hand us something even better than we imagined. Sometimes we get something that we don’t recognize as what we need, but which is setting us up for that thing which is better than we could have dreamed.

I’m not sure how my trip will turn out next week. I’m not tied to it going a certain way, and I’m excited to explore and see how it unfolds.

When you roughly outline what you want to experience and are unattached to how it gets accomplished, then you can enjoy its creation, appreciate how it develops, and live life in flow.

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Patricia Brooks

Patricia Brooks

Bold, fledgling entrepreneur, author, podcast host Discovering Courage, Finding Freedom, Living in France! Adventures.Insights. Stories. thecouragecatalyst.com