The Year My Hydrangea Bloomed {And the Unexpected Miracles from Letting Go}

Nothing.

Not a single bloom or bud. Lush greenery, sure. But still empty. For nearly fifteen summers I have watched my Hydrangea remain flowerless. Oh sure, occasionally I did a little research trying to figure out why it Would. Not. Bloom. But still, nothing. A few times I think I sprinkled coffee grounds around the roots. Added Lime to the soil. Over-watered. Under-watered. (Mostly under-watered, if you know me.) All to no avail.

And each year, as the summer came to a close and the hot summer days gave way to fall, I would cut it back with a big heavy sigh. “Why won’t you bloom?”,  I would think.  “Where are your flowers?” All these years… not even one.

And then this past fall, whether in neglect or laziness or weariness, I left it alone. It was the first time in years I didn’t cut it back. “Nothing I do matters anyway– stay the way you are. Fine. Whatever.” {Yes, dear readers, she even has a complicated relationship with her plants. }

I had pretty much given up. I didn’t understand. Every plant around it blooms. All the other flowers are thriving– but not this one.

And so I accepted it. This plant doesn’t bloom. It just…doesn’t.

 


 

Except this year.

It did.

Big, fluffy, full, bright pink flowers.

And it didn’t almost bloom, or barely bloom. My Hydrangea is COVERED in flowers. It’s almost unrecognizable. It’s so lavish and bright and alive. It’s actually bigger and better than ever.

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And it got me thinking about other “Hydrangeas” in my life; Spaces I’ve sort of given up on after exhausting years of trying to force change, trying to control, trying to fit into my idea of the way things should be. Things I actually don’t even hope for or dream about anymore. Things I’ve just painfully come to accept: This is how it is. And certainly, that’s okay; There’s so much peace in the quiet acceptance of how things just are.

I accepted my  flowerless Hydrangea. I wasn’t going to dig it up or get rid of it or replace it. But I still always knew it was SUPPOSED to be flowering and wasn’t. And so all these years later, when I saw those luscious, vibrant blooms, I cried.

And I thought to myself,

We must let life surprise us. We must hold things so loosely and sometimes just let them be. We must graciously let go of things we so desperately want to change and then watch the natural unfolding that happens with our release.

It is not lost on me- the irony. The irony that the year I left it alone– the year I didn’t prune it or search for answers or try to somehow “trick” it into flowering, it did. I had been trying to force it for years and when I finally let it go, it bloomed.

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#Write31Days (Even if you can’t #Write3Days)

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I can’t believe we’re just a day away from October. Basically, Christmas is next week and then we’ll be saying goodbye to 2016 and welcoming 2017. What in the actual heck? But I’m saying all that to say, apparently I took the summer off from blogging. It wasn’t intentional, but it happened. Work. Kids. Life. Pool. Beach. Dating.  You understand. Writing just didn’t make the cut. But I miss it. And every October, I know what else is coming: (besides Christmas) The #Write31Days Challenge. It’s exactly what it sounds like it is- A challenge to write and post a blog every day for 31 days. (#HoldMe) Would I do it this year? Could I do it this year? Could I do it and be successful?

Every year, I have all the same fears and feelings.  I WANT to do it. But I’m afraid of failing. And like most of you, I don’t like to do things I don’t think I’ll succeed at. It’s kind of a sucky way to live- to have standards for yourself in certain areas that are so inflexible and unforgiving you’d rather not try at all than try and fail. (And yet in other areas, my behavior can best be described as unchaperoned toddler at a birthday party. I’m complicated. What can I say?)

If there’s one thing I do know, it’s that I am consistently inconsistent. But this year, there’s a new challenge within the #Write31Days Challenge: 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes. WHAAAATTT? Write just 5 minutes every day from a schedule of writing prompts and post it. Five minutes. Every day. And then click “Publish”.  I [am pretty sure I] can handle this. A huge, beautiful thank you to my author and blogger friend of all things Creative and Free, Christina Hubbard, for sending along some encouragement in the form of a totally AMAZING and inspirational video from Ryan Leaks. Leaks chronicles his tryout experience for the NBA Phoenix Suns and what he learned from it. He uses the phrase “chasing failure” and the way chasing failure changes your perspective and the difference it makes in your attitude. Says Leaks, “Chasing failure took me further than chasing success ever did.” (Wow. Reread that y’all.)

Click HERE to watch Chasing Failure 

 

(Hey wait. DON’T skip the video! If you skipped it, go back! Seriously. It’s worth the 15 minutes.  Plus when I tweeted about it @RyanLeaks, he favorited my tweet. So now we’re basically BFFs.)

Over the years, many of you have told me you also love to write. That you’d love to start a blog. Or write a book. But you don’t really know where to start and you’re not sure you’re good enough or anyone would want to read what you write.

Would you consider participating in 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes privately, as a possible jumping off point for more future writing, or just to give your writing muscles a little workout?

Maybe it’s not writing for you. Maybe you need to chase failure in another area of your life you’ve been afraid to explore. A hobby. A different job or career path. Making healthy lifestyle changes. Whatever it is, do it. Time will pass anyway and a year from now, you’ll wish you had already started.

Even for a commitment-phobe like me, I’m committed to 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes. I’m sweating through my clothes as I type that. But I’ve already accepted that with only 5 minutes to churn something out, there will be pieces I hate and pieces I’m totally disappointed in and pieces I’m kind of embarrassed to publish, but that’s part of the the whole process. Perfectionism is the number one enemy of progress. For the #Write31Days Challenge, done is better than perfect.  I’ve also already accepted that I may miss a day or two and that’s cool. (It’s not like there are trophies or prize money or new dresses or beer involved. Seriously. Get a grip.)

My #Write31Days Challenge will not be posted to Facebook every day. Because that would be annoying. If you’d like to check them out, you’ll have to visit Write31Days.com where all the participating writers have linked up.

If you’re feeling inspired, let me know if you’re going to give this thing a try– or what it is in your life you need to start chasing failure for.

Here are the topics Christina has provided and I’ll be adding the live link to each topic day by day~

Day 1~ Walk                                                                           Day 8~ Muddle

Day 2~ Paint                                                                           Day 9~ Post-It

Day 3~ Wardrobe                                                                 Day 10~ Unknown

Day 4~ Brew                                                                          Day 11~ Thanks

Day 5~ Silence                                                                      Day 12~ Sky

Day 6~ You                                                                            Day 13~ Aware

Day 7~ Five Minute Friday Prompt                               Day 14~ Five Minute Friday Prompt


Day 15~ Move                                                                       Day 22~ Off

Day 16~ Little                                                                       Day 23~ Blowout

Day 17~ Study                                                                       Day 24~Global

Day 18~Neighbor                                                                 Day 25~ Sign

Day 19~Notice                                                                      Day 26~ Confront

Day 20~ Weekend                                                               Day 27~Bouquet

Day 21~Five Minute Friday Prompt                            Day 28~ Five Minute Friday Prompt

Day 29~ Date

Day 30~ Cut

Day 31~Only

 

Your Kids are Watching You. Man Up.

Yesterday was a bad day. It didn’t start out that way, but at some point in the afternoon, it slid sideways.  Kid issues, pain from a jacked up back, the death of someone we know- by dinner time, I was done. DONE. I felt irritable and sad and just off.

And boy did my kids feel it.

I was short. Impatient. Annoyed. Quiet. They’re not used to that version of me- at least not anymore- and it was awful. By the time we sat down to eat, there was silence. And so on top of everything else, Mom Guilt over the atmosphere I had created was washing over me heavily. After dinner, I laid down with a heating pad on my back and texted each kid an apology.

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That might sound lame, but that is definitely how we handle some things around here and it works for us. Sometimes it’s a little easier to say exactly how we feel when it’s not face to face. Plus, everyone scattered after dinner, no doubt, to escape me.

My kids were forgiving and gracious and understanding and I’m grateful. And as I went to bed early to put us all out of our misery, I promised myself, “I’ll do better tomorrow.”

Here’s the thing: It’s not that there’s no room for us as parents to be human; of course there is. Actually, it’s important that our kids see us feeling and see us working through some of our stuff  (when it’s appropriate), but it was impressed upon me for the millionth time: My mood and attitude sets the tone for everyone- and it’s not a job I take lightly.

If I’m happy, they feel it and they’re happy, too. If I’m sad, they feel it and they’re concerned.  If I’m mad, they feel it and they don’t like it. If I’m worried, they feel it and it makes them anxious. If I’m overwhelmed with gratitude, they see it and they take note. When I’m proud of them, they stand a little taller, work a little harder.

You get the point. And I know you see it in your own house.

Man, that’s a lot of power. And a LOT of responsibility.

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And so when I woke up this morning, I knew I needed to regroup before the day got underway.  I made coffee, wrote in my gratitude journal, prayed for myself, for them, for all of us on this journey together. I looked over some meditations to strengthen and encourage myself and basically re-center myself in goodness and positivity. And it worked. I woke the youngest and as we sat at the table while she ate breakfast, we talked and laughed the way we always do and I knew she was relieved I was feeling better today.

So I want to tell all the other Mamas and Daddies out there today: Regroup. Do whatever it takes. Make whatever changes you need to, big or little. Get counseling. Get medication. Get time away. Get a hobby.

Your kids need the best and brightest version of yourself.

They need you to man up. They need you to find a way to push through the bullshit of life like a champ. They’re watching you and taking their cues from you. And they’re modeling much of their own behavior after YOU.

There is no excuse. There is honestly no excuse. My back still hurts. Today will bring the usual crap any day brings. But the sun is shining and today’s a new day. I’m here and I’m ready and so are they. Let’s do this.

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madamesouffle.blogspot.com

 

Taking the Long View

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One of my kids recently had to do something really hard. They had to go make something right that they had kind of screwed up. This is no easy feat, no matter how old you are. Making a mistake is so much easier than making amends. But making amends is so powerful. So much better. So freeing.

And so as my kid was going out the door to go do this thing– and just DREADING it, I looked them in the eye and said, “You are GOOD. YOU. Are. A good, good soul. You’ve got this.”

And then I cried at my desk. Tears of gratitude. Tears of compassion and humility and overwhelming love. Motherhood, personhood, is so raw and exhausting at times.

And what I’m learning right now is that it takes decades to build a person. Decades.

We expect so very much from ourselves and from our kids. And yes, it’s good to have standards and expectations; of course we should. But our character, our true selves, our best selves, our real selves…those things are built over a lifetime. An entire lifetime. And yet we expect things from each other that we just haven’t had the time and life experience to develop.

 

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Rialto’s Drift (USA) by Patrick Marson Ong

As a mom, this moves me deeply and challenges me to see my children in a different light. I expect so much of them. Self awareness and emotional intelligence are a high priority for me personally, but at 43, I’m just barely there. And it’s hard, conscious work all the time. I’m not sure how I can possibly expect the people in my house who have the distinct disadvantage of less time and less life experience (and let’s be honest- less therapy) to be even close to that.

So I’m learning to take the long view. Nobody needs to be perfect right now. Or tomorrow. Or next week. (Or quite frankly, next month or next year. Mercy.) Nobody needs to get it all right, right now. We need to keep stumbling forward. Making tiny strides and picking each other up with lots of empathy towards how hard it is to grow up and adult. Lots of forgiveness. Lots of grace. Lots of Love. Lots of acceptance. Lots of quiet conversations about who we are and who we want to be and if our actions today are helping us get there.  Lots of laughter at ourselves and with each other as we’re  trying to figure it all out. Over decades. Over a lifetime.

Because here’s the thing about the short view: It’s incomplete. It’s underdeveloped. It doesn’t tell the whole story. It’s unfair. It’s unforgiving. It’s unrealistic. It’s impossible. It’s an exercise in frustration– with ourselves and with each other. It’s harsh and uninformed.

It’s true the longview takes a long time– a lifetime– But since that’s all we’ve got, I’m going to stick around for it because I can see in the distance it’s going to be beautiful.

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The Keeper of Myself

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A few years back when I was going through a very difficult time, some people in my life were questioning my resolve. My intelligence. My ability to figure things out and handle life on my own. And they said as much. It was like a punch in the gut. I vividly remember tears burning my eyes out of anger and shame and defense.

Their words weren’t true. At least I was pretty sure they weren’t. Were they? Either way, they flipped a switch inside me and traveled down my spine like an electrical current and this was the truth they ignited:

No one is coming to save you and you do not need saving.

You are the hero of this story.

This life of yours is 100% your responsibility.

You already have everything you need to make it happen.

But even with all of that smoldering inside me, the ugly words had woven themselves into the tiresome questions my mind played back on repeat.

What if I can’t do this? What if I’m not strong enough or smart enough? What if it’s too hard? What if I fail? What if I can’t make it?

And I kept coming up with one answer: There’s only one way to find out.

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I know a few strugglers right now. People in my life who are really facing some tough times. They’re at a crossroads. A fork in the road. Their futures are hanging in the balance, if you will. And quite honestly, things could go either way. And this is what I want to tell them:238e27af68c885bf3971e30846a2cb04

Dig f*cking deep. Deeper than you’ve ever dug before. Claw your way through this rough patch so that the dirt from this life– the disappointments, the heartache, the regret– the weaknesses that so easily beset you– so that it all becomes history beneath your filthy, torn nails. Find the f*cking grit and unquenchable spirit that’s inside you and figure it out. Do the things that scare you. Whatever the hell they are. DO them: But you’ve got to move forward in this life. And you’re the only one who can make it happen.

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And the funny part is, the “things that scare you” part for me? You’d think it was something, you know, actually scary. But it wasn’t. It was only doing things I’d never done before.

Actually, it was doing lots of things I’d never done before. But nothing truly frightening. 

If I’m being honest with you, it was about transitioning from a kept woman to keeping myself.

It was about getting shit done and working hard and feeling the burn of achievement and accomplishment and independence. And nothing has ever felt  better. 

A lot of the struggles and problems we face around here are very white-bread suburban issues– but sometimes the mental and emotional resistance we’re up against may as well be slavery. We feel powerless (even though we’re not). We feel incompetent (even though we’re not). We feel worthless (even though we’re not). We feel stuck (even though we’re not).

The battle I was facing was not really against a person. It was more against myself.

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Growing up, I wasn’t really raised to think this way. Understand me: I wasn’t raised to NOT think this way– but none of this bravado was really part of my Modus Operandi. I was always just letting life happen to me and then figuring out how to navigate whatever had happened.

Elizabeth Gilbert recently said, “Bad things happen to women who wait for good things to happen” 

Man. You can’t just sit around waiting for the Life Fairy to gift you one. You gotta get after it yourself. And it doesn’t have to be amazing to anyone else, as long as it is to you.

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Debbie Harry photographed by Richard Creamer, Los Angeles, 1977.

I started to believe all the audacious quotes I was reading everywhere. Believing that if they were true for other women, other people finding their way, they were true for me, too.

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Find something that speaks to your very soul every time you read it, reminding you how you want your life to feel.  Actively search it out and discover it for yourself. Whatever it is. Grab hold of it. Every quote, every song lyric, every crumb of inspiration you can suck the life from. Hang them where you can see them all the time. Repeat them like a mantra. Repeat them until you start to smile at them the way you would a lover across the room. Repeat them until you read them and your very first thought is, ‘Huh. Sounds like me.’ The bravery. The bravado. The badassery.

Donald Miller said, “The best stories have their protagonist wondering if they’re going to make it.” 

And I’ve decided I am.

 

 

 

Life Requires Time and Space

Green Lake

I get choked up every time. Every. Single. Time. There is something about a morning walk or run through the tiny little park not far from my house. The sunrise reflecting off the water. The stillness of this tiny little corner of the world. The way the trees and branches hang out over the jagged little shoreline. And the dock. The lone, long dock looking like a pathway to somewhere else. Anywhere but here.

How many, many times I have sat on that dock wishing I were anywhere but here.

But not this morning.

This morning, I still got choked up. But this morning it was in gratitude. Gratefulness. I sat on that dock thankful that I am exactly where I’m supposed to be in life. Not because everything is perfect. I have finally learned perfection is not the goal nor is it possible.

But everything is okay. 

Better than okay. But in the very least, okay.

And what I’m learning now is life requires time and space. Kind of like the old adage, ‘Time heals all wounds’, but different. I’m not sure I believe time heals all wounds. But what I do believe is time and space help things change shape. Time and space give life a chance to sort things out. Time and space allow things to breathe a little and work themselves out.

A thousand times I’ve walked through this same little park.

I walked through it as a pregnant teenager, not sure how I would ever manage a baby at such a young age. Then I watched that same baby grow up and play baseball on those  diamonds. And now he’s 23.

I walked through that park as a young widow. I cried my heart and soul out on that dock. I could’ve filled Green Lake with those tears. I had no idea what life would look like or how I would go on. But I did.

Time and space.

I walked through that park and sat on that dock worried about my girl. How she would navigate some of the challenges thrown her way. In the next few months she’ll go to prom, get her license, graduate from high school and head to college.

Time and space.

I sat on that dock after my sister experienced several absolutely devastating miscarriages, begging God to please fix this somehow and give her healthy babies. Now they’re 2 and 4.

Time and space.

I ran through that park and collapsed on that dock during the toughest battles of my marriage, grieving everything I thought my life would be and wasn’t.

Time and space.

I sat there for 5 minutes this morning. Just to say thank you. Just to remind myself of all the times I didn’t know how things would ever be okay. And now they are. I know they won’t stay okay forever. I know there will be a lifetime of running through that park and sitting on that dock, wondering how things will turn out. But now I will take a deep breath. I will remind myself that time and space help life change shape.

And somehow, even if it takes a year, or two, or ten, everything’s going to be okay.

Starting Over on a Tuesday

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Yesterday was the first official Monday of the New Year. And it started out bright and early and shiny with so much promise. There was coffee. There was meditation and journaling. There was all sorts of positivity and optimism and good feelings. All kinds of regrouping and restarting. Ahhhh. A New day. New week. New Year.

And then it happened. Later on in the day, it happened. I totally lost my shit with someone. And I’m not telling you this because I’m proud of it. I’m telling you this because SERIOUSLY? It was Monday! Monday, January 5th! The new start! The fresh week! The Do Over! The Reset! I should’ve still been basking in the after glow of New Year’s resolutions and inspiration! Still full of hope! And I was! Until then.

But it was Yucky. It was like an Ugly Cry- Jesus, Excuse Me for a Minute, I’ll be Right Back- kind of moment. There may have been a foot stomp or two and a door slammed or so. You know the type. Yeah. One of those.  Happy Effin’ New Year. Blah blah blah. Bite me.


But luckily. Luckily, I had read this little gem of an article earlier on when I was still in my right mind. It was all about pausing in the midst of a total train wreck moment and deciding to say thank you. I know. I know it sounds totally whacked. But when I stepped away from the mess I had just been standing in and collected myself, I sat still for a few minutes and did it. With a few tears running down my face, I said to God and to the Universe, “Thank you.”

And at first, it was weird. Because, seriously, what was I thankful for? That I hadn’t just committed complete Harikari  in my own home? But Kate, the kick ass Life Coach and author of the article over at Your Courageous Life, had said this~

“What can shift in those seconds when you are in it, and deep, and you start saying “Thank you” is that you are paving a way to say that all is not lost–that there is something divine about this experience–there is something to be gained.”

And indeed, there WAS something to be gained. Besides composure. It was a very fast, very clear moment of self-awareness. I immediately was thankful that I could see exactly what the trigger point for me was. And exactly where I still have work to do in 2015. And 16. And probably 2017, 18, 34, and 52.

And in defense of my trampled little self-aware heart, the trigger was someone hurting someone I love. Which somehow makes me feel a teeny bit more justified about my fit. I don’t get worked up over traffic. Or long check-out lines. Or someone being late. But hurt someone I love and I will rip the bow out of my hair, clutch the pearls from my neck and go all Beer-drinking- Buffalo girl on you in two seconds flat. But still. It’s something I want to learn to handle better.

Which leads me to this: While I love a new year and a new start and fresh, clean slate as much as the next person, the truth is, every day is a Do Over. Thank God, every single day is a Do Over. Turning off the alarm every morning is like hitting a reset button. No need to wait for January. Or Monday. Or Spring. Or whatever it is. God knew exactly what He was doing when He divided the sunshine and moonlight into manageable blocks of time called Day and Night. He totally knew we would need time to regroup in between. Time to say, “Help.” Time to say, “Thank you.” And the continual promise of a Do Over every single day.

So here it is, Tuesday. And I’m starting over. Again.