For more about Allison and her books visit her website at For now, please relax and brace yourself for the occasionally coherent ramblings of Allison's mind.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Life, Control, and Lemon Zest

Sometimes life comes at you hard.

The boat doesn’t have to snap in half to go down; a few small holes will do the trick. It doesn’t even take a massive a tragedy to watch your days spiral into weeks of overwhelmed exhaustion. 

Maybe it’s a function of our culture which expects us to manage every aspect of our complicated world virtually on our own. Gone are the networks of community to solve individual crises and provide collective support. Gone are the days of satisfaction at mere survival to see another day.

No, in today’s world you have to grow, achieve, manage, cultivate, nurture, resolve, fight, and model, all while keeping a spotless house. It’s no wonder most of us feel our lives launch into chaos at the smallest unexpected obstacle. How can we absorb new challenges when “normal” is a packed schedule of maxed out expectations?

It’s our culture of control. Our destinies are in our hands.

The problem is, we’ve transformed our freedom to make choices into an illusion of control. We’ve taken on responsibility for the entire vast organism of circumstances surrounding us. And it’s an impossible burden. It’s why so many of us reach the brink of collapse.

When life gives us lemons, we’re supposed to make lemonade. Right. Sure.

No, when life gives you lemons, you shave off a little lemon zest, stare at the mangled remains, and wonder what to do with the rest. Maybe you squeeze some juice into your glass of ice water. Maybe you cut off a slice to garnish a piece of flounder. Maybe you just shove it back in the refrigerator for a later time when you feel ready to file away at it a bit more. But you don’t make lemonade.

So what do we do with life then? Is that it? We’re doomed to a complicated existence that owes us no favors and offers no quota on the amount of obstacles we have to face? Yes.

Does that mean we should just push against an insurmountable boulder until we’re too bloodied and weak to go on? Of course not. We can function pretty darn well against anything if we do it right.

It helps to start by approaching the lemons a little differently than most of us are accustomed to. We need to get over this illusion of control that puts debilitating pressure on us to manufacture an impossible world where everything goes as planned.

The way you survive this life is to step back and focus on the humbling reality that there’s only one thing you can control unconditionally.


Your actions. Your choices. Your thoughts. Your emotions.

It may seem like you can control the rest, but that’s only because in a spat of coincidence the massive organism is cooperating with your impotent will for a brief moment. It’s a dangerous mistake not to recognize that the cooperation will shatter at any second, leaving you in that chaotic place where lemons are mass produced.

So don’t go there. Your actions. Your choices. Your thoughts. Your emotions.

Control those and do your best with the lemon zest.

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