For part I of “blooming in the desert” [click here]
Right after we were married, despite my dislike of Southern Arizona, my husband and I decided to remain here to ensure our future children would be raised around extended family. Since my entire family remained in France, our children would only be near my husband’s family.
In hindsight, was my vision of family-togetherness worth the sacrifice of residing in a place where I did not necessarily feel at home?
No, it wasn’t!
Paradoxically, yes, it was!
For me, blooming in the desert has been a lengthy process; it is a continuing process. I didn’t have an overnight attitude adjustment or a heavenly understanding I could indeed be happy here; in a place, which on the surface, and to my untrained eyes, seemed barren of any beauty.
Hindsight is Always 20/20
Had I know my intention for remaining would not materialize as I envisioned, I probably would have made a different choice. My “ever after” did not have any happy family gatherings nor the gift of a stable, open, and loving support system. This fact was pointedly driven home when, for our family, the bottom fell out. In our darkest time, when we buried our daughter, it was mainly friends and strangers who carried us through and who showed kindness, not extended family.
Likewise, my children did not get to re-experience what I had experienced as a child.
In truth, this is all water under the bridge and I am okay with it now.
I choose to believe everyone did their best.
It is what it is.
Then again, this dream of mine was an unrealistic expectation as all expectations most often are. As for the weatherman, our forecasts are usually inaccurate and most definitely joy killers. Expectations suck the life out of happiness because the “what is” can never hold a candle to “what we thought it should be.” Sometimes we are positively surprised. However, most often, we are disappointed.
If I analyze the wishful thinking of my early married life, as unrealistic as it was, I have to answer staying was NOT worth it. Our decision to remain was not worth ANY personal sacrifice.
However, in some peculiar anomaly of life, staying was indeed worth the sacrifices.
Although, if I am perfectly forthright, knowing the outcome in advance would have likely resulted in a different choice at the time. This beg the question: why despite knowing things did work out would I still have chosen a different path? Merely, because staying was a painful process for me for many years and — being human — I avoid pain.
Simple logic really.
Blooming in the Desert
On the other hand, even though my expectation was an abject failure, in a strange and wonderful paradox, staying in Southern Arizona was so worth it.
My father-in-law, or grandpa as he is better known, while not THE answer I initially wanted, was OUR answer, and what a blessed answer. We can’t plan things like this.
Grandpa has invested so much time, energy, and love into the lives of my children. He has taken them camping, fishing, for picnics in the mountains, and so much more. He has taught them all to drive — with a standard transmission no less. Additionally, he came to their little league and football games. Grandpa was their cheerleader (he still is) and he strutted as proud as a peacock when mentioning every one of them.
Now that he is a great-grandfather, he likes to exclaim with a delightful gleam in his baby-blues: “I was good before but now I am great!”
Grandpa is rather witty and he is a Godsend.
Despite being 78 years-old, he still takes the twins for sleepovers and outings. All my kids adore their grandpa.
My children could not have experienced such a fruitful relationship had we relocated to another part of the world for a better climate and a greener countryside. A more suitable location — for me — would have robbed my children of much love, acceptance, and beauty; that’s not accounting for the priceless and unforgettable memories.
For my children’s sake, staying was absolutely worth it. What about for me though, was it worth it for me?
Staying from my Point of View
At first glance, it wasn’t.
I did not get the extended family my heart desired. For me and for years, living here was HARD. I went through a gamut of emotions (mostly negative): rejection, anger, sadness, then more anger, and so it goes.
Now, the overwhelming emotion is — gratefully — peace.
Would I have been happier somewhere else?
This question is unanswerable, moreover, it doesn’t matter and it belongs to those pointless “what ifs” or “if onlies” questions which drive us batty but fail to give any satisfactory answers. In truth, these questions don’t have answers.
All we possess right in this moment is an unalterable past, an uncertain future, and a very real now. The now is what genuinely matters.
All in all, this question still remains: did I Bloom where I was planted?
Blooming in the Desert
Some days, I think I bloomed marvelously in the desert.
I’m in a very happy and fulfilled marriage, our love for each other is strong. Our children are marvelous beings I would be blessed to know even if I wasn’t their mom. I have a few deep and strong friendships. I am blessed and grateful.
Other days, I feel I haven’t bloomed at all. I feel parched and needing nourishment and I long to be somewhere else. This negative answer would more readily pass my lips during our scorching summer months when I miss the ocean and a refreshing breeze.
On a positive note, my best friend lives in San Diego. Knowing me well, she never fails to take me to see the Pacific ocean whenever I visit her. Additionally, I visit my sons a few times a year in green and lush Colorado where there is a lake nearby.
In Tucson, I have a special place where I can take refuge when the summer gets to be too much. I like to sit on a bench under the canopy of trees which provide much-needed shade. I close my eyes and listen to the trickling of running water, the buzzing of insects, and the rustling of leaves. This is my oasis in the desert where I can go to be still and nourish my soul.
At home, I have a fountain on my front porch and my infamous bathtub-pond. I also have an array of flowers in colorful planters. This is the beauty of the desert; we can have flowers in bloom all year long.
I also cultivate a dream: to build an inground pond with more pond plants and a couple of $.99 Wal-Mart scarlet goldfish as well as one colorful lily pad (or two).
I understand the blooming does need to happen wherever I currently am and sometimes, this happens to be in less than optimal circumstances.
Things could be worse, right?
If we have a roof over our head, clothes on our back, food in our bellies, and love, we should call ourselves blessed. It is also equally true that when times are hard, it can become difficult to stop and smell the roses (pun intended).
Despite my blessings, I can’t negate the way I feel when I am blue. I could paste a smile on my face and pretend all is well. Kind of like when people ask us “how are you?”, in truth, they never really want to hear how we really are. The expected answer is “fine” not “actually today I am having a hard day” or more to the point, “awful thanks for asking.”
I need to acknowledge my true feelings, and while still validating them, I can also choose to look at things from a different angle. I can take actions which will bring me joy, and I can adopt a more beneficial attitude.
It won’t be any great revelation to learn I am no master gardener, even though every year in the Fall and the Spring, I act like one. You can often find me in my neighborhood nursery, giddy, and with a cart overfull with blooms of different shapes and sizes.
Greenery brings me joy.
Nevertheless, even though I do not even qualify as a novice gardener — am I more of a wannabee — I still believe I have acquired enough basic knowledge to understand what plants need to thrive: soil, water, sunlight, air, and the occasional plant food. In fact, these requirements are not vastly different from the things humans need to thrive.
Be a Geranium
Some of my favorite flowers are geraniums. I have a couple of them right now blooming outside my window: one a vibrant scarlet, the other a glorious magenta. I think my fondness for geraniums is due in great part to my mother’s great love for these plants AND the fact they survive well in Arizona. My maman had them in all shades and sizes in various planters crammed in her pocket-sized yard.
Geraniums behave magnificently in Arizona although I have to baby them during the summer months and on the rare occasions we have a hard freeze. Like me, they do not favor the summer months. Nevertheless, they usually make it through alive although a little rough looking around the edges. They rebound rather quickly once the temperatures take a dive.
In many ways, geraniums and I are alike. Neither of us is native to this area, and neither of us relishes the heat, and yet, we both can thrive (albeit with some TLC).
When you think about it, It is pretty incredible that geraniums can thrive in the moist, temperate climate of my childhood, as well as the dry climate I now live in.
Some plants are more resilient than others. Some only thrive in one climate. Not all plants can live in the desert, and that’s okay. Variety makes our world such an interesting place.
Yes, I miss water and the lushness of bright green things. On the other hand, I’ve gained a lot by being exactly where I am today. I have a husband who loves me unconditionally and a phenomenal expanding family. I live in peace; I have a place to lay my head at night, and to shield me from the elements. Let’s not forget, I also have air conditioning (which I adore).
I could go on.
In reality, I don’t have much to whine about.
I can make a conscious choice to bloom precisely where I am planted or I can choose to be forlorn and droopy. The phenomenal news is that unlike my geraniums which depend on me for their survival during inclement weather: I, on the other hand, can take care of my own needs. I am not planted in soil unable to move, dependant on nature or on a kind soul to meet my needs.
Nourishing my Soul
I see to the feeding of my own soul as my personal responsibility and if I need help to feel nourished, it is equally my responsibility to voice my need by opening my mouth. The vocalizing is most often the part we don’t cotton to. Asking means a certain level of vulnerability and vulnerability is scary.
However, it is in the very eye of the vulnerability, at its center, we find love.
Both love and suffering reside within vulnerability and we cannot receive — nor give — love without accepting the inherent risk of pain. Neither can we shield ourselves from suffering without also shielding ourselves from joy and love. What a quandary for us humans who yearn for love but avoid pain.
What we fear the most — suffering — is precisely what we create for ourselves when we hide behind our fortifications may it be masks, fake roles, walls, or whatever we use to — falsely — protect ourselves from harm.
A Biological Imperative
We are neurobiologically hardwired to experience love and joy. By design, we crave a sense of true belonging. It is therefore not weakness which makes us look for fulfillment in relationships. Rather, it is a biological imperative for us to be intimately connected with a “tribe,” and this can only fully occur in the midst of vulnerability.
The prerequisites for vulnerability are self-acceptance and self-love. To be vulnerable, we must be willing to be seen, to show up as our true self.
Let me ask this: are you your own best friend? Do you like you?
You cannot ask for something of others you are not willing to do for yourself.
Individuals will come and go in your life, but only you will be with you from birth to death. Consequently, I would call this a pretty important relationship.
A Gardening Lesson
I believe my ultimate gardening lesson is this: to bloom where I am planted; I must first give myself love, acceptance, and grace. I must acknowledge and accept the type of plant I am. Wishing I were an oak when I may be a rose, does not nor will it ever bring me happiness. I must accept “me” before I can expect others to do the same AND before I can also accept others as they are.
Acceptance of others comes from self-acceptance.
No one will ever be able to meet my needs if I am a bucket with a hole.
We all have them, the holes that is. We can whine that they are there, blame others, complain, or we can PLUG them. Find the suckers and fix them. I know, easier said than done. Easy does not equal happy.
I must transcend my fears and show up fully authentic in front of myself and others. I must acknowledge my needs, and when unable to meet them by myself, to trust others will be willing to do so if I humbly ask.
Dependence is not a popular word, and I am well aware of this fact. In truth, we can only be fully independent when we are fully interdependent, and when there is safety. Another paradox, life is rippled with them.
Learn to accept and love the flower you are, and under no circumstances should you compare yourself to the others, ever. Comparisons are a joy killer.
Rock who you are, your petals, your shade of pink or blue or purple, your shady or sunny spot. Indeed, any of us can bloom where we are planted if we chose — and if it is safe — to do so.
I can gripe as readily as I can be grateful, can’t I? The choice is mine and it is yours as well.
Was staying in Southern Arizona worth it? In truth, it doesn’t matter, as there is no good answer to this question. All and all, this is the wrong question.
I chose to stay and it is what it is. This is my life now and I am thankful for it.
If at any point, I don’t like the road much nor the scenery, I can turn when a turn presents itself. I have the power of choice, and I can choose my demeanor as I can choose my location. When I think about it I could have had a miserable life in a grandiose location with an abundance of green things, water, and with perfect and temperate summers. Life is in great part what I make of it.
In short, I am blooming very well in the desert now that I have a mind to do so.
What about you? Are you blooming where you are?