We have this rose bush in our backyard.
It’s been there since we moved in 12 years ago, and the most we’ve done to cultivate it is trimming dead branches every couple of years. It’s wild and unruly, like my daughter’s hair or a Dixie Chicks song come to life.
And every spring we wait for the day it blooms.
Last week, as I was changing Adrienne’s diaper, Annalyn screamed, “Mommy! LOOK!” I assumed she was bleeding or, perhaps, that the house was burning. But no, as it turns out, this was a happy scream. She’d noticed – out the window next to her sister’s changing table – that our bush was blooming.
We had roses, and she wanted to go look at them. Now. In typical mom fashion (or, at least, typical ME fashion) I put her off for a few days, but yesterday afternoon we finally braved our swampy backyard to check out our roses.
I’d been watching the tiny red buds grow to brilliant blossoms outside Adrienne’s window. Every time I changed her diaper or her outfit or her shoes, we peeked through the blinds to the flowers. They made me smile and think happy spring thoughts (as opposed to the ones about allergies and tornadoes…).
But looking at the roses through the window wasn’t the same as looking at them outside.
As we sloshed through the post-storm grass to get to the side of the house where the rose bush lives, I had one eye on the one-year-old and her now-dirty knees and one eye on the red flowers. Immediately Annalyn began picking the prettiest blossoms off the branches, and I began snapping photos of the ones left.
Even the ones not deemed perfect by a seven-year-old were gorgeous – and definitely ready for their close-ups.
It was only as I ran to pick up Adrienne as she attempted to escape through the gate that I noticed the dead branches tangled up in the bush. And as I stepped back a few feet and looked at the whole bush, I realized that it was kind of a mess.
Dull, brown branches full of thorns and no leaves.
Out of control shoots weighed down by the blossoms stubbornly blooming.
Crumpled petals and brown, curled leaves.
When I looked at the whole rose bush, sitting there on the side of my old, small house . . . it wasn’t nearly as beautiful. It wasn’t ugly, but it wasn’t pretty either. It was wild and messy and barely fit in my camera’s lens. It was out of control and overwhelming.
But when I moved closer again I got a better look . . .
I woke up today feeling exhausted and grouchy, overwhelmed by a to-do list that cannot be contained with a single sheet of paper and ill-equipped to handle everything the week will bring.
If I look at my list – or, sometimes, my life – as a whole, it can be too much. It can feel discouraging to consider all the ways I am falling short and all the places I need to try harder. It can feel overwhelming to examine the big picture and to remember that I’m leaving a legacy and telling a story and ALL OF THE BIG THINGS.
So on days like this, when I really want to turn and run far away from my wild and unruly reality, I need to do the opposite. I need to look a little closer – to narrow my focus and slow my breathing and take it one branch, one blossom, one petal at a time. One set of towels to fold, one baby who wants to play blocks (again.), one email that needs to be sent, one post that begs to be written.
When I slow down and look closer, the beauty is easier to find. I’m not distracted by the mess, and I’m not overwhelmed by the chaos.
Maybe your Monday (or any day or every day) is hard, too. Maybe your to-do list gives you a headache and looking at the big picture makes you want to cry (or find chocolate). You’re not alone. Even a rose bush looks less than lovely with a perspective that’s too big.
If you’re struggling to get going again, if you’re convinced the week is already shot, if you’re not sure you can make it through another week or day or hour, come a little closer. Take it one task, one problem, one THING at a time. Find the perfect petals hidden behind the thorny branch.
And when you find that small piece of joy, hold on to it. The big picture is still there, and life is still complicated and chaotic. But if we look a little closer, we can see the beauty and find our focus again.
of some magical rose garden over the horizon — instead of enjoying
the roses blooming outside our windows today.”
~ Dale Carnegie