Sunflower Number 38

It started with a couple of potted plants on my balcony. They made me happy every time I looked out my window so I wanted a couple more. And then a couple more again.

There are now eight pots filled with various mostly-shade-friendly plants on my balcony. And they delight me. Sometimes on sunny mornings I’ll go sit cross-legged in the patch of morning sun and drink my morning coffee with my plants. Well, I don’t actually drink coffee, but it feels like what I imagine a morning coffee ritual feels like, just sans the coffee.

The reason I’m telling you this is so that you understand that I’ve become somewhat of a plant lady this year. I saw somewhere that plant lady is the new cat lady and I’m so on board for this because I am a cat lady in so many ways except for one key problem: I don’t like cats. They scare me. Also I’m allergic. But plant lady is something I can get behind.

So I’m becoming this plant lady.

I come by it honestly because my mom has a beautiful garden. But when I asked her towards the end of May if she was planting sunflowers this year she realized she had forgotten about them. And so I, in my new role as plant lady, decided I would make the sunflowers happen.

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Plant lady. Overalls. Sunflower seeds.

I bought some seeds, I put on my overalls, and on May 22nd I planted 40 sunflower seeds.

Yes, I have overalls. I learned this year that overalls are back in style which is most exciting because I went through an overalls phase as a child, around 6 or 7 years old, and I am sad about the lack of overalls in my life the past 20 years. My overalls phase was followed by my cargo pants phase, however I am not sad about the lack of cargo pants in my life since then.

Alright. So plant lady. Overalls. Sunflower seeds.

The packet said it would take 7-14 days for them to come up but you guys I must have planted magical seeds or else wearing overalls is the secret to gardening because they started coming up on May 26th!! 9 of them!! After just 4 days!! There were 27 the next day, 35 the day after that, and by the 29th, 37 of the seeds had sprouted. I was not expecting such success!

I was pretty ecstatic. And totally enamoured with my little sunflower sprouts. Anyone reading this who also follows me on Instagram can attest to this because I was posting a lot of story updates about them. Still am, actually.

So my sunflowers. All 37 of them.

Except!!

On June 2nd, when those 37 sprouts were now a couple of inches tall, guess who started to pop up out of the soil?? Sunflower Number 38!

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I was having a horrible day that day. It was a Sunday and I was barely able to move due to severe side effects from an infusion, but when my mom told me she thought she saw another one sprouting, I slowly and painfully hobbled my way outside to see for myself. Sure enough! There it was! In all its unexpected glory! 38 out of 40 seeds? That’s a 95% success rate!

(These detailed field notes are courtesy of the photos saved on my phone thanks to the previously referenced Instagram oversharing.)

I almost cried in excitement. I might have actually teared up. It might have actually been from the pain. I know it will probably sound a bit weird, but I was so proud of that 38th seed. I was proud of all the seeds-turned-sprouts! But especially Sunflower Number 38.

When I realized how proud that last sprout made me, it gave me pause.

Was I supposed to see myself in that last sprout? Making its way more slowly than everyone else, at times not sure if it would ever find its way out of the dark soil, fragile but feisty…? Nah. This is not one of those it’s-okay-to-go-at-your-own-pace-don’t-worry-about-what-anyone-else-around-you-thinks-or-is-doing posts.

The pause was because I realized I was more easily proud of a sunflower seed-turned-sprout than I usually am of myself. Not just more easily proud, but maybe even prouder overall.

I’m a very loyal cheerleader. For other people. I’m not just talking about the big achievements and the milestones, but the smaller things, too. Like when someone prioritizes their mental health or makes time to learn something new. I love when the people I love do cool and meaningful things, of large or small magnitude, and I don’t care about the pace they’re going at or what the people around them are doing.

But when it comes to my own life, I do get caught up on the timeline and the dark soil and the fragility. I am bothered by the slow pace and distracted by the seemingly bigger and better things the people around me are doing.

And I can’t help but wonder if maybe you’re the same way? Maybe we’ve all forgotten how to cheer for our own new leaves, and our own tiny but steady increments of growth, or even just the fact that we managed to avoid getting eaten by squirrels for one more day.

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Sunflower transplant day. All grown up moving from the planter box to the ground.

I said this was not one of those it’s-okay-go-at-your-own-pace-and-don’t-care-what-anyone-else-around-you-thinks-or-is-doing posts, and okay maybe it is a little bit, but not because that’s what Sunflower Number 38 did. It’s not about how and when Sunflower Number 38 made its way out of the soil, it’s about how proud I was of it for doing so, how much excitement I felt watching it. I want to start seeing myself more in the way that I see Sunflower Number 38, and Sunflowers Number 1-37, and the people in my life for whom I am a cheerleader.

Everyone deserves to have someone root for them and celebrate with them the way I root for and celebrate with my plants. And we owe it to ourselves to be that someone.

And so I’m going to make an effort to be my own proud plant lady, to look at myself more the way I look at my sunflowers. With care and concern and wonder and excitement. And pride, even if it seems like all I did was not get eaten by squirrels.

Because that’s enough.

I am enough. You are enough.

Seed to sprout to stalk. At any pace. We are always enough. And we see that in each other.

So now let’s put on our overalls and get some dirt on our hands.

And start seeing it in ourselves. 

Graduation season periwinkles

It’s graduation season. I have the graduation season blues. I thought that once all my peers finished their degrees then graduation season would go away. The problem with having been in a rather rigorous program, however, is that a lot of my peers went on to graduate school. And so graduation season didn’t end, just now it’s full of master’s degrees, PhDs and MDs. Now it stings even more.

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Me, probably talking too fast.

Ten years ago today I stood in front my of high school graduating class at our commencement ceremony and I delivered the valedictory speech. I don’t remember what I said, just that I almost certainly said all of it too quickly.

I do remember the day I found out that I would be giving that speech. Our high school determined valedictorian and salutatorian solely on academics and so the top two students gave the two speeches. I knew it would come down to me and one other guy, so when a few weeks before the ceremony the phone rang in physics class asking both of us to come down to the principal’s office, we both knew what it was about. I remember the gleeful chorus of, “Ohhhh you’re in trouble!” that followed us out the door. The two smartest kids getting called to the principal’s office was apparently very exciting to a class that was 83% grade 12 boys with senioritis and a gong show on the best of days.

But as I said, we knew what is was about. And we knew it was a close, but in the end I had come out a little bit ahead.

It felt really important at the time. And remembering this story ten years later, it admittedly still feels quite important. Which I feel pathetic about, by the way. It was just high school, after all.

The other guy probably doesn’t care anymore. He got his undergraduate degree, and then I’m not sure what but he’s in med school now, so he’s done just fine for himself. And the student who academically rounded out the top three of our grad class, she’s a doctor now.

Look at where they are now, their success. And look at where I am.

I think highly of those two classmates and I genuinely wish them the best. Them and all my peers who have worked hard to earn their degrees.

But as my best friend so eloquently put it last week when I was talking to her about my graduation season blues, “This is crappy and you’re allowed to feel crappy about it.”

I feel crappy about it.

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Quick pause for a photo of me and Best Friend at our high school graduation, ten years ago today!

I wasn’t able to finish my undergrad let alone go through the master’s program I was working towards. I’ve put in a lot of hard work over the last ten years, but my high school commencement was the last time I reached an end point for years of hard work. I know it’s not for a lack of trying that I didn’t accomplish what I set out to. I know what happened with my health is outside of my control.

But still.

High school doesn’t feel like “just” high school because high school was the last time I was healthy. It was the last time I believed that hard work was always rewarded with success. It was the last time I felt like I was in control, like I could do anything and be anything.

And now, realizing that it’s ten whole years since I felt any of that, it just gives me the blues. I want that back. Not high school itself, but the potential for my life that existed when I graduated. The version of me that got to give that speech. I want to be what she was set to become.

Speaking of that speech, I just went and found a copy of it and I read it. My theme, coincidentally, was success. Here are a few things I said:

“As we stand before you on our high school graduation, we are all hoping to reach that great place in life: success… but you see, true success is measured by impact. It is achieved by learning from your mistakes…And it is achieved by making yourself a better person every day so that you can help to make the world a better place…And our success is not who we are now, but how we have journeyed to this place. It is through perseverance and conviction that we have become the people we are today. We have worked hard and our work ethic will continue to lead us towards further successes.”

Well then.

Basically, current me, feeling bummed out because my life didn’t turn out the way I thought it would, just got schooled on the definition of success by 17-year-old me. That speech was a bit of a “snap out of it” tough love talk from my former self.

Don’t you hate it when those young’uns know what’s up?

When I said all that ten years ago, I had no idea how my life was about to change, but the last ten years of my life have still been full of learning from mistakes and intentionally bettering myself. My circumstances have changed but my work ethic has never faltered. It doesn’t matter where I am, or rather where I’m not, it’s about how I got to where I am, and there’s a lot to be proud of in how I got here. And 17-year-old me, while she would be surprised and probably sad about the way things turned out, by her very own words she would see me as a success.

And if that’s how she would see me, why shouldn’t I see myself that way?

Here is one more quote from my speech:

”My hope for every graduate here today is this: may we continue to push ourselves to our fullest potential, may we continue to find the joy in giving from our hearts, and may we never lose sight of who we are.”

I work within different limits now, but I have done just that.

I know who I am. I like who I am. 17-year-old me would be proud of me today, and I am proud of how she became me. It hasn’t been in the way that we had hoped, but she and I, we have still succeeded.

I can see that now.

I still have the graduation season blues, but they’ve softened. They were navy blues, but I guess they’re graduation season periwinkles, now.

I can see the flowers, now.

And that, well that is a success.

Saying things

Hi friends! Happy spring! Welcome to April. I guess we’re more than halfway through April now, but when I first started writing this it was still March, and apparently I unrealistically expected to publish this early in April.

Sorry for the radio silence around here. I don’t even know what that means, radio silence. It’s an expression, but radios aren’t silent so where did it even come from?

Okay. I looked it up. Literally it is absence of radio transmission. As an expression, it’s a period during which you don’t hear anything from a normally talkative or communicative person or group. So it’s true, radios aren’t normally silent. That’s the point.

Alright. So sorry for the radio silence around here. Although am I still a “normally communicative” blogger when last year I only published six posts? My frequency of posts has definitely decreased since the first few years of this blog. I don’t really know why quite honestly. I think mostly life has just gotten messier. I blog a lot in my head, and I start writing a lot of posts, but it feels harder to put together a coherent summary of things than it used to. Maybe I just have less energy than I used to.

I definitely have less energy than I used to.

And then like, do people even blog anymore? Do people still read blogs? A lot of people seem to “micro-blog” on Instagram but I don’t want my personal Instagram to be public. And I don’t want to have two sort of personal Instagram accounts.

I don’t know. I have things I want to say still and I still want to connect with the people who relate to the things that I want to say but I guess even when I do know how to say what I want to say I don’t know where to say it so then I just don’t say it.

But I’ve been reminded on a few occasions recently that saying things can be important.

Two friends this year, while telling me about challenging situations they were going through, have told me, “but I could hear your voice in my head saying…” followed by something I’d said to them at some point in time over the years. It’s a cool thing, knowing that even when you’re not with someone, you can still be there with them, simply because of words you shared with them in the past.

And then. I was tagged in a comment on Instagram, on a post of someone I didn’t know. This person was about to undergo a procedure they were nervous about, and my friend Lindsay was sharing words I had shared with her before she had undergone a major “this might help but it might not but even if it helps it’s still going to be far from perfect” surgery.

But it wasn’t just that Lindsay had remembered what I had told her. I learned that she had actually written what I had said down on a piece of paper and looked at it all the time before her surgery. Learning that really touched me. It actually made me tear up a little bit. My words had helped her, been there for her, encouraged her through a scary decision.

Words. They matter. They have power. And yes of course, as with any form of power, words can hurt. But words can also help. Words can heal. Words can connect.

Words matter. Saying things matters. And Lindsay reminded me of that.

I want to start saying things again. I want to keep saying things. No, I’m not exactly sure where and when and to whom and how much; these are things I’ve been thinking about a lot over the last few months, and I still need to do some more figuring out. But what I have figured out is that I do want to keep saying things.

And so. I’m going to start right now and say some things right here. In fact, I’m going to say what I said to my friend before her surgery, that she then told her friend. It’s what I’ve said to other friends before big decisions. The reason I started saying it to anyone at all is because it’s something I’ve said to myself on more than one occasion. Here it is:

It’s always going to be hard. But maybe it doesn’t need to be this hard. And you’re worth that chance.

We’ve all got our problems. Like our big problems, not our “my hair straightener stopped working” or “the grocery store didn’t have the cereal I wanted” problems. I’m talking the big, life altering problems. We’ve all got them.

It’s really easy to get stuck in one of these problems. Life hands you something you don’t want to deal with but you have no choice so you just learn to live with it. You deal. And when over time the problem gets worse and worse you just keep dealing.

And sure, sometimes possible solutions come along, but all the solutions are accompanied by their own potential problems. And you’ve been dealing with this problem so long that you don’t even remember what life was like outside of it. Plus, you’re used to this problem and surely that’s easier than adjusting to the new problems that could come along with the solutions.

We get stuck. And we let ourselves just be stuck sometimes because getting unstuck is scary and unknown and overwhelming. And hard work. And because we minimize just how hard things are, just how hard the work already is. And, because we invalidate our big problem by comparing them to the big problems that other people are dealing with.

Life is just hard sometimes. We all know that.

But what if it doesn’t need to be this hard? What if there’s an easier way? What if in and amongst the unknown and overwhelming is a chance for a life that ends up being a little less hard?

A chance.

I just wanted to come here and say that you are worth that chance. There are many reasons not to take that chance, many valid reasons, just please do not let your perceived self-worth be one of them. And do not use someone else’s big problem to trivialize your own. When there is a chance, you are worthy of it.  

So yeah. Those are the things that I came here to say to you today.

Also hello, long time no see.

Hopefully see you for more saying things soon.

Okay now bye.