Signposts of Joy
Last night I found myself crying. Like a lot. I’m not exactly sure why, but it might have had something to do with all the darling pregnant mamas and newborn babies in the park yesterday.
As I cried and then tried not to cry, at one point, I sat down on my daughter's bed with her. She looked up at me, put her hand on my shoulder, and said, “Mama, I know how you feel.”
Which made me cry even more, touched as I was by the sweet tenderness of her gesture.
Of course, she doesn’t know how I feel, but the meaning was there. She saw my pain, and reached across the void to make it better.
Just so, so sweet.
Growing up in a very dysfunctional home, parenting is a bit of an emotional minefield for me. Not the least of which because I have ridiculously high expectations of myself.
I don’t want to cry. I want to be happy and strong- all the time. I don’t want to be sad and wounded. I want to be positive and resilient- all the time.
And little kids often remind us of our own innocence, how we come out of the womb whole and kind and pure, untainted by the marks of what’s to come.
I once heard a quote that went something like this- you spend the first half of your life hiding the real you, and then you spend the second half getting the real you back. And sometimes that feels true.
The real me, that sweet, tender innocence, feels buried under the weight of a way of being that doesn’t fit for me anymore. I’m a grown-up, and the scary people of my childhood no longer pose a threat. But the hyper-arousal and vigilance persist.
Sometimes those scary people seem like wraiths, somewhere out there pacing the perimeter of my life. Waiting for an opening, to come in and feed on the health and positivity I’ve created.
This summer I planted a bunch of sunflowers in my garden. And not your average, run-of-the-mill flowers, but the giants. I got the biggest ones I could find, and watered those suckers like crazy.
I planted them along the perimeter of our little yard, so that they grew like sentinels. Providing a barrier of sunshine. Holding the line. Guarding the gate. With all the fierceness and beauty they could muster.
I loved those flowers. They attracted birds and squirrels and bees, and tilted their large, open faces towards the sun with all the openness of children.
They’re gone now. They didn’t last long. Their bright, shiny heads became so heavy that they drooped from the weight and faded away. And then they became giant dead trees that had to be chopped down and torn out of the ground.
Their roots came out in mammoth clumps, taking nearly the whole bed with them. Almost as if they still couldn’t let go. They were still trying to protect me.
I miss them, because they acted as a talisman on my journey. They were these giant signposts of joy, saying, "Greatness, just around the corner. Signs of life, just around the bend."
They meant something beautiful, because often in life there are great expanses of road in between, with no markers, and no signs. No indication of direction, one way or another.
In the garden, life changes with the seasons. And each bountiful creature is replaced with another in its time.
This week, we planted tomatoes. And I still don’t know what to put in place of the sunflowers.
But here’s the thing. There are no accidental blooms here. I planted those flowers. I tilled the dirt and sowed the seeds and watered the ground until they popped open and burst into life. I didn’t create the life, but I did have to create the conditions for it to thrive.
And I think sometimes that’s all the assurance we get, on the long stretches of road in between. No signpost. No markers. Just the belief and hope of tilling the earth. Tending the soil. Watering the seeds.
And waiting. For the next blazing talisman to appear.