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A Quiet Struggle: Lessons from an Orchid

by Anne Taylor

[photo credit]

Last April, I received an orchid as a gift from my office. I’ve always heard people talk about how much plants can liven up a room, but I never took my chances at acquiring one out of fear that I wouldn’t be able to keep it alive. When they presented the gift to me, I was so touched and equally surprised at how much I enjoyed having it’s beauty in my little corner of the building.

At the beginning, the blossoms were beautiful and in full bloom. They had a beautiful soft pink color, and it made me smile to think that I was able to take such good care of this lovely plant. I doted and fretted over it, asking my colleague who also had been given one how much she watered it or how much sunshine it should get.

Over the course of a few months, though, the blossoms started to wilt and fall off of the stem. I worried over when it would blossom again, wanting the beauty to come back. I brought the orchid home, and it sat in the corner all winter long, somewhat forgotten without it’s blossoms to catch my eye.

In the spring, when the air started to warm and the trees started to bud along the creek I live beside, I decided to check on the orchid. It had no signs of budding flowers, and though the leaves and stems were still green, I doubted that it was alive. I twisted and bent the tall stem, wondering if it was too brittle and dry. As I mentioned, I’m no gardner, so I asked the florist at the market how she tended to the orchids in the store.

“You need to trim down the stem where it last blossomed,” she said. “When the blossoms fell off last year, the stem remained even though it doesn’t have the nutrients or energy to blossom there again.”

I asked her how far down I should trim it.

“Trim right where it shot off the main stem. Then the plan will have more energy to grow new shoots.”

When I got home, I followed her instructions and gave it a good drink. I picked it up and brought in to sit on my dresser so that I can see it every morning when I am getting ready for the day. And as the days and weeks passed, I’d check for buds and signs of new growth. Nothing. Not one sign.

This seemingly inconsequential story of my orchid popped into my head yesterday afternoon as I walked by it, sitting proud and tall on my dresser, and realized what a strong metaphor it is for my life.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve struggled so deeply with body image, intense anxiety, panic, and loneliness. It seems that the last two years of transition and change have finally bubbled up into one big thunderstorm of anguish. Between graduating from college, moving back across the country to my home state, not being able to find a job in my specialty, getting married and leaving my friends behind, I’ve had a lot to cope with.

I’m like the orchid.

When I was in college, I was like the orchid in full bloom. The blossoms were my budding academic life and my successful friendships. I have never felt so alive as I did in those years. When I graduated, the blossoms fell off and, ever the impatient person, I immediately began searching to find out how I could get them back. From job to job, group to group, I fretted around how to bring the beauty back. And then over time, I set the memory of my former self in a corner, and forgot about it for most of winter.

The last few weeks, I trimmed off the excess and decided to begin anew. And lo and behold, that hurt. Though I had been putting so much energy into keeping something that was gone alive in memory, I had been functioning as I always knew. And trimming off what should have been gone years ago was so uncomfortable that I completely broke down.

Coming to terms with anxiety and depression can be very difficult. Often times, it is a lonely road. We just want everyone to look at us and see us in full bloom, beautiful and healthy. Saying that you are a bare stem, dry of water and in need of help from a professional Gardner is no easy step. And the thing I am realizing is that once you start to open up, it hurts.

Yesterday, I walked by my orchid and it had small buds forming on the new shoots. I realized that all the compassion and care I have poured into it over the last few months is starting to pay off. I let myself day dream about what the blossoms would like when they finally open up. And I allowed myself to expect that I will surely blossom again with new passions and opportunities that are as beautiful, or maybe more beautiful than before.

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” (John 15:1-2)

How is God pruning your life? How do you think your life will bear more fruit as he does so?

Anne Taylor is 24 years old and lives in Denver, CO with her husband. She is currently preparing for graduate school where she will pursue a PhD in American History. When she isn’t reading, studying or cycling, she writes about her everyday adventures on her blog, Anne the Adventurer. Anne is passionate about people and storytelling, and seeks to inspire people daily to reflect on their past so as to live and create better futures.

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