A few days ago, I unlocked my red front door and nearly dropped the bags I was juggling as a flutter of wings brushed through my hair and into the twilight. It seems the blue and white hydrangeas of my artificial door wreath had offered a bird a tranquil resting place that day. It took a moment to regain my own inner peace; I just wasn’t expecting it.
Some surprises are delightful, and we adjust accordingly. Another bush in my garden, yet to be identified, has blossomed strawberry sherbet colored flowers. Other surprises are disappointing, and we adjust accordingly. The purple irises have wilted in a week’s time.
Still other surprises, like the bird in my wreath, are so unexpected that they put us off balance. When I drove home to write again for the first time eight weeks ago, I believed that if I could just get to my computer, I would type my way to a grand epiphany that changed everything. Admittedly, I was afraid that I would discover I had already seen the best version of me and lost her long ago somewhere between Broadway and 8th Avenue in Nashville. In reality, while one night of writing didn’t evoke a life-changing thought, the cumulative act of writing and self-reflection over the past month and a half has awakened my perception.
This weekend, that resulted in a rather surprising break up. Unlike so many long-distance relationships, my New York boyfriend and I had flourished despite the miles with daily phone calls, nightly Skype dates, and Tom’s to Virginia every other weekend. I suppose we had always been at different places in our lives, but we were so incredibly happy together that I pushed the thought out of mind. When we first met, it was he who had cultivated me like a dying rose branch snipped and replanted in a potato to take root until ready to be placed again under rich soil. With every sweet word and romantic gesture, Tom showered me with restorative rain that planted seeds of hope along with it.
In essence, it has always been more of a symbiotic relationship. In a ceramic pot of our own making, we grew together, nurtured one another, and pruned away dead wood of past wounds. Above soil, we were visibly blossoming. Beneath soil, our roots were extending. But some plants grow faster than others. Through my weekly writing binges, I’ve discovered I am ready for the next stage of my life – the marriage, the kids, the house with the white picket fence, and the front porch swing. Nearly five years my junior, Tom’s not quite there yet.
A seedling that established its existence happily in a pot will see immeasurable growth when replanted. As the roots become too tightly packed, the seedling will suffer with nutrient deficiencies, stunted growth, and wilted flowers. If denied the opportunity for transplanting, the promise of greater life will wither along with the seedling itself.
This week, my friend Angela offered me a rose bush of hers. Still an amateur gardener, I rely on research to aid me in my endeavors. As I investigated the process required to put her potted bush in my garden, I uncovered the concept of transplant shock, and I made a personal discovery that is just as shocking. I didn’t realize that transplanting seedlings that before they are ready will result in some of the same life threatening outcomes as those of one kept potted when its outgrown its containers.
While Tom and I have seen the blooms together above ground and celebrated them, my writing nights have forced me to look below the surface and identify our surprising predicament. The harsh reality is that I’ve outgrown our little pot, and Tom needs more time for his roots to fully develop. If we stay in our comfortable relationship, I resign myself to stunted growth. If we take then next step, he resigns himself to the same ill fate. It’s no fault of our own. We’re just at different places in our growths.
Some surprises are delightful, others are disappointing, and still others, like this one, are so unexpected that they throw us off balance. Just one week after toiling in the dirt to prepare my garden, we were sitting here in the same spot on the porch that I now write, while we decided to end our relationship. I was looking back and forth between Tom and my azaleas questioning my own sanity. Who in her right mind would break her own heart? Why had I initiated a dialogue that would see the demise of a beautiful partnership? And why was he agreeing with me?
My answer came in the garden. Tom isn’t a weed that needed to be ripped out in order for me to flourish — he is a seedling that would experience transplant shock if he made all his major life choices right now just to make my dreams come true. It was honest recognition of the dilemma of our roots that brought us here and a selfless parting on both accounts. He wants to see me with a son or daughter of my own as much as I do, and knowing that my biological clock is counting down, he would see himself sacrifice our relationship rather than halt the realization of my desires.
As I write these words, the memory of him sitting beside me only days ago, kissing away my tears while we reminisced on our incredible growth together brings me comfort. We packed every day full of laughter, joy, experiences, and adventures. I need not ask another unanswerable why when it comes to this ending. It carries with it no regrets or failures. Magnolia blossoms fade and azalea bushes bloom. Trees die and their wood provides warmth in fires. Irises wither and new bushes bud. The stages of our lives change in much the same way.
Tom and I have lived carpe diem. He is to be credited with the breakthrough that I did not lose the best version of myself on the streets of Nashville. His nurturing love, gently tending my brokenness, fostered my growth into a woman I believe is far more than the one I lost. He knew that there was beauty in me when I could not see it myself, just as he knows that future growth demands separation from our comfortable, little pot. Tom would make an excellent gardener.
Now, give me a moment to regain my own inner peace; I just wasn’t expecting it.