“Take a Ride Down Your River of Lemonade”
When it rains, it seems to pour. This can leave us feeling overwhelmed and even drain our joy dry. How do we tackle these situations and what choices do we typically make? Do we fall victim to the perceived weight of the challenges or actively seek the silver linings that pull us up?
As I continue to self-reflect along my transformational journey, I recall a game we use to play in my childhood that encapsulates how my friends and I viewed life at that time. When it rained, we wanted it to pour. Who would ever want that? I guess we saw the beauty in the rain. It produced a temporary playground in which we could create new games we hadn’t seen as possible before. We invented a game that only came alive in the rain that required the following simple list:
- One box of multi-colored toothpicks
- Rain jackets
- Rain boots
- At least a few willing participants looking to find joy along their journey.
When it began to pour, I would get calls from my Sylvan Avenue friends to go out and play. Each of us would pick a toothpick from the box and it would represent their team color. We would start the race right at the halfway point on the street, where two streets met and a downward hill began. As it rained, there was a small river of water raging down the right side of the street. “On your mark, get set, DROP” and the games would begin. It was a blast to root on your toothpick as it navigated down the street. The battles were always close, as our toothpicks bobbed back and forth. Each of us took the lead at some point during every race and at some point in the race, each of us felt we had a chance to win.
The toothpicks would be going so smoothly and then get caught on a leaf, a small rock or a bump in the road. Unable to touch and release the toothpick until everyone else’s passed, the other players cheered on their success and poked fun at one another. The best races came at the end of winter. Ice chunks repeatedly got in the way and the toothpicks would go under several ice jams where they disappeared for moments at a time, as we held our breath until they came out the other side. We kicked and splashed all the way to the finish line. We embraced the natural beauty of what mother nature gave us and made rivers of lemonade.
In the current day, the street we live on now has just the right pitch for toothpick races just like Sylvan. I didn’t realize this until my daughter and her friend from Charlotte, NC recently asked to hear all about these toothpick races from my childhood. Days later, it started to pour and my daughter asked if we could try it out. We did a virtual toothpick race with her friend, rooting for our chosen color via FaceTime over 750 miles away. Even at age 50, it was thrilling to spark the inner kid again and shed the guarded shell I often hide behind as an adult. With lightheartedness and joy, the toothpicks floated forward as we tackled another rainy day.
Similar to the toothpicks navigating through obstacles, each of us has struggles and gets stuck at times too. Many of us wait for something else to set us free or even give up and say “it is what it is,” rather than take the intentional actions we need to take ourselves from feeling powerless to becoming limitless. My message for all of us is to welcome back the kid inside and seek positive solutions to help us move forward down our path. Too often, we lose our sense of creativity and imagination in the daily slog of adult life. We become overwhelmed and lack the natural ability to try new things or invent solutions, like a “toothpick race” when it rains.
Begin by believing that solutions are possible in every situation. Keep an open mind lit with an intentional curiosity to commit to seeking joy on your journey. Embrace being imperfect and accept not getting things right all the time. It also takes a willingness to be vulnerable to see things differently. Remember, your happiness is never far away and is within reach. Have empathy and take the time to feel the transcendent joy you deserve to feel, even during the stormiest of days. Live your possible.