I follow National Geographic on Twitter. Just as has always been true of their magazine, they publish amazing snapshots, including this photo (click link, at site go to April Week 3, sunflower photo April 12) of a sunflower in mid-bloom. When I saw this, it seemed such an apt metaphor for so many things: those moments when we are on the cusp of something new, when we are being born into a new self – whether that is due to a new perspective, a new relationship, a flowering of potential we’ve carried within and are now expressing.
Tuesday, it seemed the metaphor for an unplanned moment of revelation. We were to have a speaker for a motivational presentation at 9:00 a.m. Unfortunately, our speaker woke with a fever and was forced to cancel. There wasn’t time to call off the event, so we regrouped with the ten or so people in attendance and asked them to share what inspires them. In a wonderfully serendipitous moment, a woman in the group chose to share her life story. It was one of transformation and self-discovery after a painful beginning which included alcoholism and low self-esteem. Her turning point came after watching her daughter succeed in breaking the example provided by the two preceding generations of her family. This woman revealed, fresh petal by fresh petal, the new person she is becoming, the beautiful new life she is creating. It was both inspiring and moving to be part of that moment.
Which offers a real contrast to my current state, because today a flower frozen in mid-bloom feels like an appropriate metaphor for where I am in my life. I was like a tightly closed bud, carrying the potential to bloom, but waiting for the right combination of sun and rain and nutrients to open. In the past year and a half, I have felt myself opening, one petal at a time. Most of the time in recent months, I have felt the energy of new life in my veins. I have literally felt growth and movement.
But not now.
This week, I feel like I’ve run out of juice or as if there isn’t enough sunlight to produce the necessary photosynthesis (I’m sure I would be applying this metaphor more gracefully if I had paid attention in high school biology). The petals that have opened are lovely and I am proud of them. I very much wish the rest to open so I feel both wholly lovely and more complete. Less unfinished. But I suddenly find I am casting a shadow over myself, blocking my own sunlight: through procrastination, through permissive self-talk (“go ahead, eat that donut/cookie/whole package of rice thins, it won’t hurt this once”), through choosing not to follow through. By letting myself off the hook.
I’m not sure how to unfreeze from this weird stasis I’ve entered into. Perhaps I just got distracted by how pretty those first open petals are – like Narcissus, who fell in love with his own reflection, I’ve spent too much time in awe of myself, congratulating myself on what is done. And now, realizing that I still have half my blooming to do, I vacillate between impatience and paralysis.
One thing I do know for sure from sad experience as a child: you cannot force a flower to bloom by prying its petals open. Just wanting it isn’t enough, either. I will have to get back to holding myself accountable, though right now that feels almost insurmountably hard. This isn’t going to be one of those blog posts where I tie things up neatly with a final statement of what I’ve learned or an inspirational quote. Instead, it is one of those posts where I end with a shrug and say, I’ll let you know what happens next.(Note: sorry I couldn’t show the photo in a less a clunky way, but I understand National Geographic’s need to maintain control of their incredible images. Hope you are able to find the sunflower!)