The 7-Up Lesson

I love how sometimes the seemingly smallest and simplest things can so perfectly portray the grandness and complexity of life. Take for instance, the lemon. But, before I get to the lemon, I have to start with the lime.

Jason and I met and fell in love in Austin, Texas where limes reign supreme. It isn't a large or often recognized throne, but if you think about it, the lime plays an important role there. Austin is very much a drinking culture, and what goes better with your favorite mexican beer, tequila, or margarita than lime? Austin is also very much a mexican food culture, and there are very few mexican or tex-mexican dishes which cannot be made even better by a little cilantro and lime. In Texas, limes are not only plentiful, they are cheap! Surrounded by good food, good drinks and good friends and family, Jason and I were living in the lime light, and we didn't even know it.

So when we first came to Australia we were dismayed at the fact that limes are hard to find and when you do find them, they will cost you. But lemons! They are everywhere and are one of the cheapest things you can buy. We went to a "Mexican" restaurant here and they actually tried to serve us lemon margaritas. Lemon?! We started to snub the lemons because they weren't limes. The lemon-lime issue became for us representative of how we were not seeing Australia as Australia but seeing Australia as Not the U.S. And that, my friends, is a dangerous game to play. As they say, you can't compare apples to oranges. Or lemons to limes. Which brings me to the lemon...

Lemons have an interesting and varied reputation. A lemon can have the connotation of something full of life and vitality and happiness:

Think of the color lemon and what comes to mind? Probably sunshine and happiness. Think of how a bowl full of lemons sitting on a table can change a room. Or how a sprinkle of lemon juice or zest can change a dish. How a tall, cold glass of lemonade on a hot summer day can revitalize your body and your perspective on the day. I recently started drinking green tea, and a little splash of lemon juice makes that tea sing! I cannot eat a lemon drop without thinking of my Grandma, who almost always had an old jam jar full of lemon drops handy. And anytime I hear or think of lemon drops, I automatically think of the song Somewhere Over the Rainbow where troubles melt like lemon drops... All of these lemon memories, tastes, and thoughts are happy and positive ones. Now, because I try hard to live on the bright side of the road, this is my preferred view of the lemon. Sometimes, I like to pretend like this is the only reality of the lemon and of life.

I hate to break it to myself, but that isn't the whole truth, and let's face it, a half-truth is no truth at all. Truth is wholeness. Just when I start thinking that life is all roses and lemon drops, I wake up sucking a lemon of a different variety. The truth is that lemon can also mean something negative or defective. When life gives you lemons means life is giving you trouble. That car is a lemon means that car is defective. On this side of lemon life, there is pain, there is suffering, there is greed and selfishness and defectiveness. Lately, I've been more aware of this side of life. Maybe I've read one too many articles about the plight of the planet and its inhabitants and who is to blame for that plight. As a member of the guilty party and as an active participant in its destructive tendencies, I have been feeling weighed down, with a barrel full of sour, sour lemons bearing down on my chest. But then I remembered, that without this side of life, there could be no transformation.

"The most important lesson that man can learn from his life is not that there is pain in this world, but that it depends upon him to turn it to good account, that it is possible for him to transmute it into joy."
-Rabindranath Tagore

"I am the poet of the Body and I am the poet of the Soul,
The pleasures of heaven are with me and the pains of hell are with me,
The first I graft and increase upon myself, the latter I translate
into a new tongue."
-Walt Whitman

Some people say, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Atmosphere says:

When Life Gives You Lemons,
You Paint That Shit Gold

I say, yes, let's make lemonade! let's paint that shit gold! But before we do, let's look that lemon in its pimpled, yellow face and ask it what it wants from us. Accept it for what it is and let it teach us something.

". . . . perhaps all the dragons of our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us once beautiful and brave. Perhaps everything terrible is in its deepest being something helpless that wants help from us. So you must not be frightened . . . if a sadness rises up before you larger than any you have ever seen; if a restiveness, like light and cloud-shadows, passes over your hands and over all you do. You must think that something is happening with you, that life has not forgotten you, that it holds you in its hand; it will not let you fall. Why do you want to shut out of your life any agitation, any pain, any melancholy, since you really do not know what these states are working upon you"
-Rainer Maria Rilke

Our time in Australia has not been ideal. Literally and figuratively, it is as if life has been giving us lemons over the past year. I didn't find a job, we haven't really made many meaningful connections with others, Jason is not all that impressed with his school here (which is the reason we came here in the first place,) we have missed our friends and family like crazy, etc. We have often analyzed and criticized our decision to come here. In many ways our time here has been difficult, but mostly just plain weird. We think it's appropriate that Australia is referred to as Oz because that's certainly what it feels like. But as our time here draws to an end, I can't help but be overwhelmed by the transformative experience of being here, by the beauty of this country and its people. And while I don't think we've really made lemonade out of the lemons we've been given here and we definitely haven't made gold, or even an Australian dollar for that matter, we have learned a thing or two about life, and if you ask me, life lessons are worth more than gold. What we learned is that sometimes you have to go to Oz to see the beauty of Kansas, er Texas. Sometimes you have to go to lemon land to appreciate the lime life. And sometimes, just when you think you've taken a wrong turn, you wake up to find that everything is in its right place.

And besides, now we have 7-Up souls. ;)

Taken in the Yarra Valley
Victoria, Australia

Here is a two song lemon mixtape for you to enjoy with the songs I alluded to above, which also happen to be two of my favorite songs of all time and which I have named Yesterday I Woke Up Sucking a Lemon Somewhere Over the Rainbow:


Ruth said...

God I love this. And you.

I get a little annoyed though, because as soon as I read a phrase or a line, and recognize instantly what I was feeling, I wish I had made the connection and said it so brilliantly first. But that is just the sour-grape lemon in me.

As happens at least half the times I come here (I bet it's more like 7.5), I want to weep. I want to go out on the meadow bench, lie back, and weep. For the beauty of limes and salt (and avocados), lemons, culture, countries, Rilke, yin and yang. And most of all because of you.

I would write a book about it, if I weren't sitting in a room where I can't concentrate very well. I'll come back, but I'll try not to write a book. I'll probably just read it again a few times.

Ruth said...

If you hadn't gone to Australia, I wouldn't have met you. And well, it's all about me.

Seriously though, you paint a supreme lesson here. That in the yin and yang, something is created, or transformed. Translating hell into a new tongue is a life changing concept, and metaphorically so beautiful. Your lemons and limes are so beautiful, because of your insight.

And frankly, the same things as you said that I was feeling (how to take any more in from this broken world?), get healed just knowing a person like you is there, and able to express these very things.

My heart is now likely to break, from fullness though, not from sadness.


Pauline said...

Came here via Ruth who was puzzling things out in her post. Love the 7-Up souls conclusion and the idea of transformation you write so beautifully about. Your blog is a new treasure to add to my blog gems. I hope you never stop writing!

Kate said...

Like Pauline, I got to you thru Ruth's post. I am so happy to have been led here. You make me think and you've made me smile.

It will take some time to catch up, but I went thru a couple of posts and love the one called Like this: Lessons from Strangers.

Thanks so much for showing up here like you do.

rauf said...

me too, walked here from Ruth's. i walk. A long walk to Australia ? i have made no attempts to walk on water. Before i try i know that i would sink. i believe in the laws of physics.

Largely out of frustration i have not written anything from past 7 months, nearly 2 years actually.

As an outsider i can be offensive, but i am not an outsider if you look at me from the sky. if you care to.

Coming from India where it is nearly impossible to turn away from the sights of suffering and pain, i have no right to be offensive to others. From the sky again, i fail to understand poverty, and how it was created. i fail to understand the trap of money we got into. i look at the monkey who has no credit card.

i will not shake hands or do any business with a crocodile, i know what it will do to me so i stay away. Same assessment can't be made of my friend, a human. We are so unpredictable and we have been a very disappointing species.

The 7 up lesson suddenly woke me up. i am still rubbing my eyes.

Ruth said...


I like . . . ok, love, the photo of you and Jason on your sidebar.

Anonymous said...

7 Up SouLs? ThAts NiCe! SouNds LiKe You NeEd SuMoNe 2 pLug yOu In yEr buTt! Or Stuff SuMthiNg In yEr Mouth Or whAteVr mAybE I ShOuLd juSt SHUT THE FUCK UP!! eVr gEt ThAt fEeLiNg! LIKE YOU SHOULD SHUT THE FUCK UP?