Alzheimer's / Creativity / Lifestyle / Making Lemonade / Travel / Writing

Making Lemonade #23: Lemon equinox

What would life be without lemons

Cross-posted from SubstackView original post.

Hey friends,

We’re five days out from the autumn equinox here in Australia. It’s one of my favorite days of the year – not necessarily because of the day itself but because of all the things it symbolises; how it’s a reminder of the binaries and polarities that we live our lives by.

Dark and light. Day and night. Lemons and lemonade. And how we need one to appreciate the other.

And so today, I thought I’d write about that.

The Earth’s equinoxes happen twice a year (in March and September) when the sun sitting over the equator means that the length of night and day are almost equal, no matter where you are in the world.

I love how equinoxes feel like a stilling of time, like a threshold, waiting to be crossed.

Along the same theme, sunsets, which were for a long time my favourite time of day, have now been replaced by dusk. I just love that brief window in time where the sun has not long set but darkness has already closed in, and the first stars of night meet the last dregs of colour in the sky.

On a quiet evening, I can almost imagine I can see Nyx, the Greek goddess of night, driving in her chariot across the sky, chasing away the last of the light, while Helios, her counterpart, brings daylight to those on the other side of the world.

If you read into this a little more, maybe you can see that this is a natural reflection of how I feel about life at the moment.

Dusk, equinoxes, and the turning of the seasons are all physical manifestations of how polarities and dualities exist in our world, and how so many things can exist at once; like joy and suffering.

I know life is lived on a spectrum between both – albeit often slightly more weighted to the negative – but, like how we need darkness to appreciate light and winters to appreciate summers, I believe suffering also makes joy – and life – even more exquisite. Especially if – and it’s a big if – we can see the bigger picture and not find ourselves too bogged down in the suffering.

Which I know is easier said than done.

I can’t remember whether I read or I heard it, but a few months ago, I stumbled upon someone posing a “would you rather” style question about life and the way AI is going. I’ll probably butcher it, but I think it was like:

“Would you rather spend your days in an alternate made-for-you paradise where everything was wonderful, but your physical body is just lying in a bed on Earth being fed and washed and taken care of by someone/something else.

Or, would you rather go out and create your own paradise on Earth in the body you have, knowing whatever you create is your own and you’re in total bodily autonomy”

It was a different reframing of the San Junipero episode of Black Mirror, which I loved, and, like many, if I hadn’t thought too much about it, would probably have been happy living out the halcyon days of my life over and over, until the end of time.

In my case, it would’ve been my life on the beach in Cambodia, circa 2014-2017.

But if I’m totally honest, part of the reason my time in Cambodia was so good was because it wasn’t always that good all the time. My favourite thing about living in Cambodia wasn’t the place, although it was beautiful, but the people, and how we became a community, forged (literally) in fire, floods, death, and life.

If it were an AI-made replica, like walking into a video game that was designed to only showcase the good forever, I don’t think I’d be so happy.

I – we – need the darkness, the bitterness of the lemons to balance out the sweetness of the lemonade.

Every Friday night, we’d have dress-up parties as a way to keep morale high and get us through even the toughest times. This was a superhero party to celebrate our bar bunny’s birthday. He was called Humbaba.

This was the poster I made to celebrate the occasion.

The human experience was meant to be hard. It wasn’t made to be easy. We need to face challenges to give our lives meaning, to be able to grow and to give us the highest capacities for joy.

Take birth, for example. It’s not something I’ve been through myself, but I’ve read enough about it to know that the physical challenges of birth help to create an emotional investment that helps to ensure a child’s best chance of survival in this world.

While I’m sure there’s little about parenthood that could be described as easy, many of my friends describe having kids as the best thing they’ve ever done in their lives. Like it’s cracked them wide open and given them a higher capacity for joy and wonder, and a greater tolerance for suffering (hello sleepless nights!)

In my case, death has been my greatest teacher. Knowing that life is short and tomorrow is never guaranteed has given my life more meaning.

Losing my friend when I was 21 sent me on a quest to live beyond the status quo and seek out a different path. It led me to Cambodia. It led me here, to write these words to you now.

And so, when faced with a choice between a manufactured utopia or real life, I wouldn’t struggle to pick real life.

But, I would use it as an opportunity for reframing. A time to draw a line in the sand that says:

“Yes, life is hard. But… “

And it’s all the things that exist on the other side of that “but” is what makes life worth living.

  • Yes, life is hard. But it’s also full of stars and sunsets, and good songs and good books and good food and friends and love and all the things that make it worth living. All the things that fill up our cups enough to get us through those hard moments, and keep showing up, day after day.
  • Yes, life is hard. But it’s also full of potential. Potential for joy, potential for growth, potential for wonder, and potential for all of us to enjoy life just a little more, no matter how much we’re suffering, too.
  • Yes, life is hard. But…. Fill in your blanks.

Yes, life is hard. But right now, like the equinox or that dusk window, I feel like I am in a liminal space where light, dark, joy, and suffering all exist together. A threshold where all the wonders and struggles of the human experience are laid bare.

I almost feel like I too am caught in the rotation of the Earth.

Like I’m straddling the equator, while my mum is slipping further into her winter, Alzheimer’s carrying her closer to the end of her time on this planet. And on the other side of me, my niece is entering her spring, a month into her time here; her whole life ahead of her.

These last few weeks, I feel like I’ve skipped the making of the lemonade entirely, and instead, I’m just dipping a lemon in sugar, trying to find ways to live with the sweet and the sour.

Trying to hold it all, to live it all. Trying to trust in the rotation of the Earth, in the slow, reliable journey of night and day, light and dark, and the changing of the seasons.

Trying to trust in the joy and the pain, and to live in the cracks of both.

Whether you’d choose the fictional utopia or the real world, I believe all of us have the potential to live better lives and to be happier with our time here. We all have a choice to seek out the answers that live on the other end of the “yes, but…”.

A choice to keep seeking out all the things that give our lives meaning and purpose, that fill our hearts and our cups, despite all the pain, despite all the suffering. Or maybe because of it.

Because we need lemons to make lemonade

Happy equinox week.

All my love,

Cassie x

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