People, Flowers And The Flaws We Share

Most of the spring flowers at Franklin Park are spent but there remain a few patches here and there. I scurried across the way to get a closer look at this cluster.

It looks nice enough from a distance. The colors remain vibrant and the flowers stand up straight.

But look a little closer. Most are starting to wilt and look a little rough around the edges. They will be gone in a matter of days.

It’s a natural process, the fading of spring bulbs. The petals will drop and the leaves will brown before dying back. These bulbs will lie dormant beneath the ground for the next three seasons before they begin to push through the earth into the sunshine where they will bloom, starting the process again.

Their lifecycle is ruled by the seasons. It’s an elegant, complex process that we take for granted.

I walked away a little disappointed but thinking about how much these flowers have in common with the average human.

The average person looks fine from a distance. They appear to move through their day, doing what they need to do and to be ok. It’s when you take a closer look and get to know them better that you notice the cracks in the veneer, the flaws.

Stick around very long and you’ll notice that almost every person has insecurities, quirks, anxieties and annoying habits they have developed through the seasons of their life.

We all are changed by what happens around us and by what happens to us. Sometimes we are made stronger, smarter, more resilient. Sometimes we are irreversibly damaged or broken.

These flaws are often harmless but can be destructive both internally and to other people around. We become tired, impatient, scared and vulnerable. We lash out, shut down or simply walk away.

While humans experience seasons of life the same as those spring flowers, we don’t have the luxury of receding into the ground to rest and recharge. We can recede into the darkness – both the literal of our homes and the figurative of our minds. Tragically, we tend to judge or worry when we see someone doing that.

If only we were more forgiving of ourselves and others as we cycle through difficult seasons or find ourselves stuck in a place that is unhealthy. I hate to say it but the flaws are often what make us interesting. Many have hard earned emotional scars, remnants of trauma that have helped shape us into who we are. As I grow older, I’m more conscious of my own and am more likely to own them now than ten years ago. I am proud of my resilience and that I have chosen this path.

If you are struggling for some reason, give yourself some grace. Don’t deny yourself something you want or a future you deserve because of your weaknesses. Weather this season, no matter how long it may be, allow your mind to rest, and trust that you’ll have the opportunity to grow again if you want to try.

Let’s face it. Life would be easier if we were flowers.

All You Have To Do

“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

J.R.R. Tolkien

Use yours wisely. Tomorrow is a gift, not presented to everyone.

Get out of your house. Do what makes you happy. Smile. Spend time with people who matter. Ignore the ones who don’t. Put down your phone. Look at clouds. Take deep breaths. Take a road trip. Relax in a hammock. Read the book. Eat the ice cream. Buy the dress. Do the thing. Whatever it is.

Just use your time well.

Notes From The Field

A walk in nature is good for your physical health but it’s equally important for your mental health. I especially like walking alone when I can allow the stream of my consciousness to flow at will.

Yesterday morning took me to my favorite local bike path. It starts in a state park, hugging the shore of a lake before veering off into a nearby town. It’s about six miles round trip.

I walked four but my mind wandered a million miles off path.

It was 73 degrees with a swift breeze that rustled the leaves and created waves across the lake. The path was sun dappled through the canopy in places while it positively beat down in others where no trees provide shelter. It made me sad to think of all the people who live in places with no trees.

Can you truly be happy without the magnificence of nature nearby? My friend Johnna lives in Wyoming and often sounds emotional when talking about how green Ohio is and how rare it is to see trees in the high plains where she has made her home.

That made me think about Johnna, how I miss my friend and how we need to get busy planning our fall western adventure. If I intend to visit all fifty states in this lifetime, I also need to get busy with those plans. There’s a huge swath of this country that I have not seen.

This reminded me of a recent conversation with a man who claimed to be an avid international traveler but who doesn’t believe there’s anything worth seeing in the United States. Maybe he would like to see Yellowstone but the rest is a boring waste.

I didn’t even have a response to that. Our nation is huge, the geography varied and the people who make it home have created magnificent places worthy of our time and attention. This is probably where I began humming “America the Beautiful” and reliving my first desert sunrise.

Most of all, I felt sorry for him. What a boring life it would be to find your own country passé and dull. Maybe I’m easily entertained but I have walked this same bike path for twenty years and continue to find wonderful changes in nature each day. I’m grateful for these small gifts.

This person clearly is not part of my tribe.

It was here that I found myself somewhere between summer and fall. It was only August 1 but cool in the shade and the locusts were noisily buzzing as leaves of all varieties swirled and drifted lazily in the breeze.

I couldn’t help but wonder what our fall will look like. It’s been a little lackluster the last few years as the high temperatures have caused the leaves to just dry up and fall before they can even change colors.

A world without fall seems unimaginable to me. What a glorious season where a bright blue sky provides a vibrant backdrop for the brilliant reds, yellows, oranges and browns along the hills. A light jacket will suffice and a cute scarf and hat will pull together any outfit. Accessories make the season, after all.

Cider and donuts will give you a sugar high and bonfire smoke drifts through the air most nights. It’s my favorite season and one that’s far too brief.

There’s a downed tree in the edge of the lake where you will often see a number of turtles sunning themselves. There were none yesterday but I recalled a story from earlier this week. It was about some boys who have devoted their summer to helping turtles cross a busy road. If you’re like me, your faith in humanity could use a little boost. This tale of kids volunteering to help these small creatures that can offer no payment in return is just what I needed. Click here to read it now.

Sadly, sometime in the last few days someone defaced my favorite rock at the park. Yes, I have a favorite rock and now it is covered in idiotic graffiti.

There were two family reunions underway by the time I left. A handful of people were cooking out, gliding along the lake in boats and standing along the shore with their fishing poles. There were shockingly few people on the bike path and I was glad for the solace.

I helped my parents prepare for a family reunion on Saturday. I am what they call an empath, meaning that I recognize people’s emotions better than most and have a bad habit of absorbing them as well. This makes many situations, particularly crowded ones, anxiety inducing.

So I needed this walk to help me recharge. By the time I got back to the car my mind felt much calmer and I was pleased that I had prioritized my own wellness with this walk.

We all need to do that sometimes. We deserve the break. After all, if we don’t make time to be healthy, we’ll be forced to make time to be sick later.

How This Story Ends

Last month I wrote about listening and comprehension. Telling that story reminded me of something I witnessed on vacation last year that could have turned deadly but seemed to end well.

It was listening and understanding that saved the day.

My adventure pal and I were enjoying breakfast at a Denver diner when I noticed her watching something over my shoulder and then suddenly heard raised voices.

There were two men arguing and a waitress trying to calm the situation.

To be more accurate, one man was refusing to wear a mask and the waitress was handling it when another man decided to step in and take charge. The dispute escalated quickly and the cops were called.

I hate to say it this way but these are relevant details to the story. One man was black. He refused to put on a mask while he waited inside for a carry-out order. I’m convinced that his issue wasn’t just about the mask.

The other man was white. After hearing some of the names he called the other guy, I’m convinced his issue wasn’t the mask either.

At one point, they both started taking off their shirts and yelling about taking it outside. The waitress was doing her best but she was small and these two large men were not listening to her words of reason.

We were finishing up our meal but felt trapped as the scuffle was happening near the door.

I didn’t think that it would get out of control but you never can tell these days. You don’t know what’s on the hearts and minds of the people around you and you certainly don’t know about strangers.

The waitress somehow took charge. She got the white guy to back off. She convinced the other man to sit at a table and began talking to him in a calm tone, explaining the mask rule.

The cops came. One black and one white. Both calm and respectful. The aggressor left. The other man maintained his seat at the table. He had some choice words to say to one of the cops about being a sell out.

They listened. They asked questions. They were respectful while remaining alert. These guys were clearly trained, well trained on how to deescalate a bad situation without using force.

They used those skills and brought the temperature back down to a manageable level.

Paramedics came and so did a clipboard toting woman who looked like a social worker.

I don’t know what this man’s real problem was or why it was manifesting itself in a petty argument over a mask. I hope that he got the help he needed and is doing better now.

I have turned this event over and over in my head. This all came in November, on the heels of a turbulent summer that informed us just how far we have not come in the realm of race relations.

In another city, with another person leading the response, this very bad situation could have turned lethal.

We paid our waitress and snuck out the door when it seemed safe to do so. There were adventures to be had and they didn’t need us rubbernecking when there was a man clearly under duress.

We stopped to snap a couple of pictures outside and then we saw it. Across the street, the most beautiful mural of all that we saw in a city that is known for incredible public art.

This stunning mural depicts George Floyd. This is the man whose violent death, whose desperate call for his mama, sparked protests, conversations, and we can hope – reform.

It was a magnificent moment of clarity on that cool November morning. I am grateful to those officers and to the others who responded to help this guy.

I am grateful to be telling you a story of success and potential rather than one of tragedy.

Listening. Communication. Respect. It made all the difference in how this story ends.

Victory In Surrender

The final days before vacation can be painful. Sometimes it’s because we work to get ahead so our vacation doesn’t inconvenience coworkers or so our house is clean when we come home.

Sometimes it’s because we are so overdue for a break that the suspense of waiting for said break is almost too great to manage.

I’m officially on vacation now and can honestly say that it came not a moment too soon.

I was starting to feel put upon, irritated by people who rely on me to be the planner or the grown up when they could do things for themselves. I found myself complaining and feeling frustrated about things that shouldn’t bother me.

Our society tells us that being busy is important. Many Americans leave vacation time on the table because they feel weak for taking time off, because they feel judged by a supervisor or because they don’t want to leave coworkers short staffed.

Luckily, these aren’t issues for me. I just tend to horde time off for fear I might need it later, consequently waiting too long to take breaks.

Lying in bed one night, it occurred to me there is actually victory in surrender.

Read that again.

There is victory in surrender.

It is winning to know when it’s time to take a break. Trust your body and mind to tell you when you need to rest. You wouldn’t deny yourself a a cold glass of water on a hot summer day. Why would you deny yourself a few days of rest and relaxation outside the confines of your normal schedule?

I’m hoping to return to work better rested, more organized and less temperamental about life in general.

I know. It’s a vacation, not a magic trick… but a gal can hope!!!

Do you have vacation time in the table? I promise you will feel better after a few days of R&R.

When Your Body Asks For A Break

There are some lessons that bear repeating.

1. The emotionally unavailable man will never change, not even for you.

2. It is impossible to open a package of Oreos and eat just one. You have to do an entire row or none at all.

3. Your body deserves better than you likely give it in an average day.

There are more but these are the big three.

I seem to swing between being ultra aware and responsive to what my body needs or I tune it out altogether. For the last couple of weeks, I have ignored my body as it has screamed for more rest, less stress, better food and much needed quiet.

I have this inner voice that’s constantly pushing me to keep going when I don’t want to, that tricks me into not hopping on the treadmill when I know exercise would be invigorating, and that tells me to eat the fries because that’s what I really want even though I know I’ll be sluggish tomorrow.

Meanwhile, my body is asking for a break, begging for good nutrition, movement and rest. And I ignore it.

I rely on my body to get me through the day. It takes me everywhere I need to go even when I’m mean to it. It has never failed me but I fail it all the time.

How to do better? That’s the $64,000 question.

This week has been stressful and tiring. Healthy eating, exercise and stress management are really just a pipe dream, something to be put off until the weekend when I undoubtedly will crash.

We all go through times like this and the best we can do is the best we can do. I’m trying hard to remember that good choices breed more good choices and that what I do to my body today will effect how I feel tomorrow.

I know that I’m approaching a breaking point when I simultaneously want to run away on a trip and also hide in my quiet house with a package of cookies.

A trip may be in my future but the cookies will not.

For today, I’ll just keep pushing forward and make the best decisions possible. And then tomorrow, I’ll wake up and do it again.

Things will be better soon.