A version of the following post was previously published in The Fresno Bee on March 31, 2018.
This winter was long. Extra long. Like, crying-in-the-bathroom/kitchen/shower/car/den/bedroom every day long. I know it’s normal, part of the process. (It’s also exhausting.) Give yourself a break, everyone tells me. I know. I do. I’ve never been scared of crying, so it’s fine.
So, even though my tears refuse to stop (for the time being), I keep forcing myself to keep on with the activities that are, as the experts say, “life-giving.” I’m trying to exercise regularly. I’m trying to sleep more. I’m trying to step back from work in an effort to release extra stress from my conscious. I’m continuing to water my garden.
One thing that tends to surprise people about me is my mini-obsession with tending to roses in my backyard. I inherited them from the previous owners of our house and have developed an unlikely hobby over the past years. Frankly, I’m surprised how peaceful I feel when I water, prune and sometimes snip them off the stems to drop in vases and brighten my kitchen with a pop of hot pink.
My daughters have watched me tend to our flowers since they’ve been babies. As toddlers, they’d roll around on the grass while I playfully sprayed them with the hose. These days, they stick to their swing set while I make my rounds in the backyard. Spring has always been my favorite time of year and the anticipation of the Easter holiday always marks renewal in spirit… and flowers in our garden. (And hello, Southern California weather means we can sometimes wear our swimsuits!)
Like every year, we cut our rose bushes down [months ago] so they can bloom again after winter. This year, it looked like our gardener cut them too low, too late. I was worried. Can they come back from this?
And now, here comes spring. Every day, I’ve been looking outside to check my roses’ progress and… NOTHIN’. No sprouts, no green. Only dull brown stumps of stems bluntly stare back at me. They’re never going to bloom again…
At one point, I looked at them and laughed and shook my head. And then it dawned on me: I’m being tested — just keep watering.
For my whole life, I’ve been scared each time I’ve personally been between blooms – between boyfriends (thank goodness that part of the program is over!), between jobs, between kids, between decisions, between homes, between choices – I’ve consistently feared the end of one thing and the beginning of another, for fear there will never be another new and colorful bloom in front of me. I’ve never enjoyed change, and this year is no different.
Dealing with loss is no joke. There is no deeper change than that — especially when it blindsides your entire family. We were all cut down to our stems, lower than we’ve been cut before. Through these cold months, I kept pushing to get through what I’ve been referring to ‘the dark tunnel’ – to will myself into the light for family life, career, friendship and beyond — to speed up the healing. I mean, have you ever seen a flower grow in a dark tunnel?
It hasn’t been working as well as I’d hoped. Why? Because: “Nothing in nature blooms all year round.” I have been absolutely naïve to think that I could leap over that reality. (If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll recognize that quote…)
Yet for some weird reason, I’ve been beating myself up for not being able to leapfrog nature’s ways and bloom all year round.
This last weekend, my daughters and I attended Palm Sunday church service with my dad. Everyone was adorable.
In the Armenian Church, Lent and Holy Week (leading up to Easter) is recognized as not only a time to grow closer to God but also an opportunity to become a better person. It is a time of renewal and resurrection. I went there wanting to feel it, but didn’t. I couldn’t feel much of anything. I’m still cut down to blunt stems… (and, apparently angry about it — I’ve never been one to tolerate patience for these kinds of things).
The next day, my girls and I visited Great-Grandma and picked oranges on the same property where my late Grandpa farmed raisins. I looked down the miles and miles of vines – they were brown, bare and fruitless. They were basically a bunch of stems twirling and twining through the weeds at their roots, coming back up for air from the earth without any kind of bloom in sight.
I found myself pushing back tears so that my daughters didn’t catch me and ask, “Mommy why are you crying?” I wasn’t sad, but relieved. Not one thing in nature blooms year ‘round.
When we got back to Los Angeles, I went in my backyard. My poor roses had been neglected for several days so I turned on the water and dragged the hose to my planter. I spotted tiny green sprouts flourishing from a few stems. “Look girls!” I cried. They ran over from their swing set.
They will bloom again. Welcome, spring.