My friend posted this picture on Facebook the other day. Isn’t this the truth… you’re either waiting for an avocado to ripen or cursing it for going bad. There are many things in life that have a similar shelf life and quickly “go bad”.
I went in to Tilley’s bedroom the other day to pick out an outfit for her class project; I was frustrated to find shirts in her dresser that had never been worn. My kids wear the same worn out clothing on a regular basis, so when I find any clothes with tags and they’re too small, my blood starts to boil. I remember my pregnancy; staring at many pink and blue outfits, dreaming of the day I would meet my children. I thought about them and how they would look dressed in these little clothes. But life happens, and it’s filled with onesies and swaddles, not dresses and bows; and the inevitable sadness sets in when you realize those sweet little things no longer fit. Now in the midst of their childhood, I feel a sense of desperation for all things clothing related. These outfits, and their small window of opportunity, will be outgrown soon.
On Monday mornings, you will find me somewhere in Southern California, standing in a grocery store, choosing my favorite bouquet from an array of beautiful flowers. It’s a tough choice, but without fail, every week, one arrangement stands out among the rest. When I get to work, I clean out my vase from the week before and fill it with new, fresh water. It’s such an enjoyable ritual. I love having flowers in my office and I look at them often; sometimes even taking pictures to text to friends and brighten their day. I frequently get comments from co-workers who pass by and admire their beauty. It brings me a lot of happiness and I think it makes other people happy too; when I forget to bring them in I get lots of comments. On Fridays, I make a quick decision on whether to take or toss them before the weekend. If the flowers are healthy and strong, they come home. If not, they go in the trash.
Of course, I have also tried to keep potted flowers in my office. I absolutely love gardening, but I’m not good at it. Derek laughs every time I bring a plant home. “Dead already, but it doesn’t know it yet,” he’ll chuckle. I have to remind Derek that just because I’m not good at something, that doesn’t mean I’m going to quit! I will try and try (and fail) and try again, because one day I will succeed! In the end, so many plants will have suffered as a result of my learning, but one day I will become a great gardener! Their sacrifices will not have been made in vain!
My latest obsession is the orchid because it’s one of the hardest plants to care for. It’s a challenge for me; so I study it, nurture it and (want to) understand it so that (eventually) it will thrive in my care. But, if you’ve ever befriended a potted orchid before, you know how frustrating it can be. I can just look at it the wrong way and it drops its flowers. Only days before, it was a healthy, luscious, beautiful plant in Whole Foods; and now I’m left with an ugly stem and some leaves. It’s truly heartbreaking. Today, I have two “leaf plants” that will hopefully flower again, but no progress just yet.
Last weekend, I was looking at my Gerbera daisies, remembering how beautiful they were just days before. I reflected on how quickly a flower goes from “beautiful” to “wilted” in my eyes. Thinking; the aging of my flowers makes them less beautiful than before. Once the flowers beauty is lost, I throw them in the trash. Of course, I wouldn’t keep a bunch of dead flowers around, but do you see the problem here?
If I listen closely, all of these things quietly whisper their wisdom in my ear. The irritation I experience upon finding rotten avocados and outgrown kids clothes, the sadness over the inevitable decline of my waning wilted flowers; their short life cycles serve as every day reminders of life’s most difficult lessons. There is more to my frustration than some silly, outgrown clothing. I’m being quietly reminded how quickly life is passing by, and before I know it my kids will be grown and gone. As parents, it feels like we do a lot of waiting, but if we forget, or we are careless, we won’t get another chance. If I’m not paying enough attention, these windows of opportunity will be lost, as when I reach for that rotten avocado. The sole purpose of that avocado was to be utilized and enjoyed. I purchased it; it was my responsibility to help it achieve its purpose and I failed. Its potential is wasted, so I throw it in the trash. And my Friday flowers; they served their purpose and are no longer useful to me, so I throw them in the trash too.
Although it sounds overly exaggerated to mourn kids’ clothing, avocados and flowers, you don’t have to venture too far off to find more realistic examples of where this happens in life. Even now, in my thirties, I can look at pictures from the past and think about what I once had that is now gone; mourning my youthfulness, resilience, innocence, even my physical strength. I can’t even imagine how I’ll feel later in life. But those pictures and memories I have are deceiving. Said differently, it is confusing the pictures I take of the Monday morning flowers with the real flower. I know that the flower will wilt and die within a week, but I don’t celebrate the wilted flowers come Friday. I don’t take any pictures of them. I simply remember them as they once were and that is all.
Rather than trying to find acceptance for the flowers in every stage of life, we attach to the immortal version of the flower that we can find in pictures only. We don’t want to accept the wilted flowers any more than we are willing to accept some less than perfect version of ourselves. I think, if left unchecked, I am always striving to get back to the “Monday morning” version of myself. I don’t want to accept the lesser version when I know that an “idealistic” version has existed in the past. I incorrectly think life should be a deliberate and constant improvement from status quo and things can only get better from here. This is deceiving. We know that, physically, we are no different than the waning wilted flower. We know that we will age, get old and eventually die, yet we don’t want to accept this. Instead, we distract ourselves with superficial treatments to make us look youthful again. If you can’t relate to this, just give it a few years, I promise it’s coming.
No one wants to feel like they have wasted their potential. We are all striving to avoid the rotten avocado phenomenon. If there is purpose and potential, then it must be utilized. We cannot afford to be careless and risk being tossed out in the trash. Life is too short. Instead, be primed and ready to use those kids’ clothes as soon as they fit, cut open that avocado as soon as it’s ripe, and accept the flowers in all their forms.
This is how we improve. This is how life becomes a constant upward spiral. When we understand and cultivate a life that is ever more accepting and understanding and we strive to meet our fullest potential; and we support one another so that all of us can achieve these things. No one should feel that their purpose and potential has been wasted.
But no matter what happens, let us not forget that the avocado and flowers will find new life and purpose in tomorrow’s compost piles and those unworn kids’ clothes will go walking on someone else’s beautiful child one day. Although life didn’t go the way we thought it would, it will work out from a different point of view. There is always potential even if we are unable to see it. So don’t ever take those “leaf plants” for granted and forget their invisible potential. They will find their way into the arms of a great gardener and flower again one day.