Linda Lewis Griffith

When life gives you lemons: Citrus trees remind us how sweet life can be

Citrus trees offer a reminder to count our blessings and give thanks, according to retired San Luis Obispo therapist Linda Lewis Griffith.
Citrus trees offer a reminder to count our blessings and give thanks, according to retired San Luis Obispo therapist Linda Lewis Griffith. (San Luis Obispo) Tribune file

Many of us on the Central Coast are fortunate to be able to grow citrus.

Every winter our lime trees bulge under the weight of excess fruit. We squeeze gallons of juice from homegrown oranges. Even citrus trees living untended in parking lots still manage to thrive and bear fruit.

Such effortless productivity tends to decrease their value. Signs on neighbors’ driveways advertising “Free lemons!” equate citrus with kittens or guppies, excess items that are often more nuisance than not.

Yet if you talk to someone who doesn’t live in our climate, they’re astounded by our abundance of tangerines and kumquats. My brother-in-law from Michigan was speechless the first time he saw a lemon rolling casually down a southern California street.

In fact, citrus trees are actually quite rare. They grow in very few locations worldwide. It just so happens that much of our state is perfect for their cultivation.

But this phenomenon speaks volumes about human nature. We overlook blessings that are all around us. We diminish what’s right under our nose.

If something appears to be limitless, we carelessly squander it, often leading to its eventual depletion.

For instance, I never go hungry. I have enough to eat morning, noon and night. I also have a clean, dry bed to sleep in and clothes that keep me warm. Those facts might fly under my personal radar unless I were starving or drenched in a storm.

Instead, we strive for what we perceive as missing. Want smoother skin? Get fillers and botox injections. Need excitement? Come gamble at our casino.

Of course, we’re constantly nudged toward chronic dissatisfaction. Advertisers and media want us to feel anxious and unsettled so that we’ll be spurred to buy products and spend money.

“You have enough of everything you’ll ever need,” is an ad campaign we’ll never hear.

And that brings us back to citrus. What if we altered our perception of the seemingly lowly fruit?

Instead of saying, “Take these lemons — please!” we told ourselves, “It’s so special that they grow in our climate!”

We could then transfer that attitude to other areas of our lives. Start by noticing the mundane, like clean air, indoor plumbing or paved streets, and give thanks for each throughout your day.

Extend that same appreciation to members of your family. Be grateful for your children, siblings, spouses, aunts and uncles, cousins and grandparents.

Give them a hug if they’re close. Call or jot them a note if they’re not. Tell each one that their special and that you’re grateful they’re in your life.

Avoid comparing yourself to others. The very act of comparison wreaks of discontent. No matter who you are or what you’re doing, you’ll feel inadequate if you start comparing notes.

Finally, quiet negative thought patterns. Tune into the physical symptoms associated with anxiety and worry. When they crop up, take a few deep breaths and relax your hands, face and mind.

Know that you’re surrounded by plentiful blessings, and they might be hanging on a nearby tree.

Linda Lewis Griffith is a retired marriage, family and child therapist who lives in San Luis Obispo. Reach her at
Related stories from San Luis Obispo Tribune