December 8, 2014

On Blooming Where You're Planted

Walking through a crowded outdoor mall on an intolerably hot August day my eyes caught hold of an unlikely sight. In the middle of the concrete jungle, snuggled up to a white post was a lovely, boldly pink Petunia. (see pic above) It was hard to imagine how a Petunia seed could have even found it's way to this inhospitable site, much less how or why it had taken root and thrived despite the deplorable growing conditions that surrounded it.

Immediately upon seeing this, the phrase I've heard repeated nearly to death came popping back into my mind. "Bloom you're planted." Ever notice when you hear something repeatedly it seems to lose it's initial impact? Maybe it's me. But here it was again in front of me - not in written or verbal form this time but in a stunning visual. Do you think there's a lesson in here somewhere?

I'm a firm believer that every day should be filled with rainbows and flying ponies - that all stories should have happy endings and that suffering should be voluntary and rewarded immediately. To my great disappointment, things just don't always seem to go that way.

In reality there are trials. Some days are hard and others are just plain brutal. People can be hurtful. Our dreams can be dashed to pieces in front of our eyes and even our own bodies can betray us and not act as we expect them to. If trials come - wait- did I just say IF trials come like it's a remote possibility? I meant WHEN trials come, it can feel to us like others are planted in a nice sunny corner of the world with their roots firmly planted in the perfect mix of Miracle-Gro soil and watered to perfection while we have somehow landed in the rocky cinders along the roadside in a drought stricken region.

During challenging times, blooming is not on the short list of things on our minds. How then can we bloom where we're planted when that spot wasn't one of our own choosing? Is it even possible for us to find a silver lining to the clouds we didn't ask for and certainly didn't want? I believe it is.

If it weren't possible, that would mean that no one who found themselves thrust into unpleasant circumstances would ever be able to do much more than wallow in self pity and whine. That however is not the case. There are heroes all around us who rise from the ashes, and overcome seemingly insurmountable odds to become successful and deeply inspirational to others. They're the ones that somehow manage to turn the tide to their advantage. Are they special? Do they have super powers that we aren't blessed with? No. I don't believe that's true.

What they have is the ability to put circumstances into a different perspective. They opt out of victimology. They don't let their circumstances become their identity. They understand that obstacles are opportunities to learn to do something differently than originally planned, not as a sign to give up and go home.

I'd like to share a story with you about Aaron. Aaron was someone I accidentally fell into a friendship with. By the time I met him, he was already confined to a wheelchair by M.S. and had lost all mobility except that of his right arm and hand. With that right arm and hand however, he was living the fullest live possible.

Aaron wasn't a complainer. He didn't whine and bemoan his situation. He lived by the mantra that "It is what it is," and was thrilled with whatever "it" was even as he was losing more of "it" slowly as time went by.

Far from being needy Aaron was a giver - not a taker. During one of the darkest periods of my life, I visited Aaron regularly. We watched movies, listened to music, had long and deeply probing conversations about life, the world, religion, politics and any other topic that happened by. I wasn't the only one who sought out Aaron's company. He was a counselor to many -  handing out advice when he thought it was warranted and just listening when he sensed that was more appropriate. Aaron's quick wit made me laugh when crying would have made a lot more sense.

One day Aaron said, "I appreciate your visits." I told him "I don't come out of pity or because I think of you as a charity case. I thoroughly enjoyed your company." to which he replied, smiling broadly, "Oh I know! You're the charity case." (and he was right!)

Aaron was released from his infirmities on Halloween of last year, and I've felt the emptiness of that lost companionship, but his life - as limited as it became toward the end, had great meaning. The impact of it will ripple on through the lives of those fortunate enough to have known him.

My point of the story is that Aaron was not potted in Miracle-Gro and placed in a sunny windowsill. The cinders at the side of the road might have looked good to him from where he was many times, but he not only found a way to grow where he was planted, but also found a way to help others around him grow as well - and we can do the same. It means checking our self pity at the door and being willing to accept "what is." I didn't say LIKING what is, but accepting "what is" is a necessary launching pad for "what more can be."

I've mentioned this before, but I'll say it again in case you're visiting my blog for the first time. I believe there are messages - guide posts - directions put before us all the time when we're willing to pay attention and look for them. Maybe for you it won't be a maverick Petunia growing in the midst of chaos but lessons are there for you, waiting to catch the corner of your eye and give you hope and direction just when you feel like giving up. Keep looking for them!

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