When Life Gives You a Lemon Tree

JoAnna Bennett

JoAnna Bennett, O’Brien Communications Group

October 20, 2022

This past weekend, I completed my 38th lap around the sun. It was a great day filled with birthday wishes from all the people in my life who love and care for me. I’m grateful so many people thought of me. And I look forward to seeing what I accomplish this year. Aging has been such a beautiful experience for me. Each year my roots grow a bit deeper, my branches grow a bit wider, and my trunk a bit thicker.

I laugh thinking of the younger versions of myself. I cared much about how other people defined my worth. I also thought my strength was defined by what I could survive and how emotionally non-burdened I could be. No matter what was done to me, strength meant keeping my chin up and moving forward. As I age, I’ve learned that leaning into my feelings, understanding trauma, and being true to myself is what provides true strength. This strength will help my roots grow deeper and give me the balance and nutrients to continue to grow. As the author, Matshona Dhliwayo, wrote, “It is in the roots, not the branches, that a tree’s greatest strength lies.”

But the branches aren’t meant to make the tree strong, they’re there to let the tree take up more space, to provide more shade, and to support more life. As I’ve aged, I’ve learned I have the right to take up space. My ideas matter. My thoughts are important. And my voice can help others. At times, the tree might lose a branch or need to be trimmed to reach a higher potential, and, well, that’s just fine too. Trees and people are not meant to age without interruption. We’re part of something much bigger.

As author Morgan Rhodes writes, “Our scars are like the rings in a tree trunk, showing its progress through life. How we heal and move forward through adversity … that is what makes the difference.” While my trunk may be the same size as last year, my scars have grown another layer. And the thicker my trunk, the more weight I can bear from others – which is good because my children keep growing and need me to take some of the weight off their shoulders.

The Lemon Tree

This year, I was given a three-foot lemon tree. The company decided to give me a free upgrade and a five-foot lemon tree now resides in my living room. I couldn’t be happier for the daily reminder of growth – both slow and visible. Life doesn’t give me lemons. I grow my own.

And I’ll love each and every one of those tart, yellow treasures.