Yesterday, Morgan answered a reader question about wedding planning in the face of illness, and it made me think of nothing so much as human resilience. (Having a baby proved this resilience to me right quick—a body can grow to twice its size, produce a new human, and then heal itself? That’s nothing short of miraculous.) Sometimes, we need to clear a bit of space in our day-to-day life for resilience, to allow space for faith in the miraculous powers of healing. And if there is any area of our lives that needs this faith, this hope, and this ability to give things space, it’s our marriages. Today’s anonymous post illustrates that more beautifully than I ever could.
Six years ago, I bought a small tea rose plant from the clearance rack. It didn’t look like much—branches, some leaves, a mostly dead flower or two—but I picked it up with optimism, hoping that it would start to recover once it had a drink and got in the ground.
It didn’t do well with the shock of transplant, though. Some leaves fell off; the rest were more than a bit… sad. I realized that recovery was going to take a while, if it ever even happened. Months later, I was excited, and also surprised, to see some new leaves come out. Then more leaves, until it looked like a respectable (albeit extra-diminutive) tea rose plant. Maybe soon, flowers?
Then it got run over by the undiscriminating weedwacker of our rented apartment’s landscaping company, along with our tulips, hostas, and lilies. (“Why did you mow down our flower garden?” “Weed, weed.” “Those were not weeds!” Not a good day for either communication or plants.)
I figured it was dead. After all, the plant had only just recently put the effort into re-establishing itself, and it had now been entirely chopped off; nothing visible was left but a splintered greenish toothpick of a stem sticking an inch out of the ground. But against all expectations, it came back—tentative branches, tiny baby leaves, growing into a beautiful, lush, green little plant. Only to be weedwackered down again. (Note: The landscaping company has either improved in their botanical identification, or possibly has just gotten a bit less weedwacker-happy in general, and has not leveled even part of our flower garden for two whole years!)
Then, it came back, and with it, after its first few tentative leaves, one bud, which eventually unfurled into a flower. A flower! After the entire plant had been chopped literally to the ground, twice, it didn’t just settle down to grow leaves for a year and attempt to recuperate, but it actually flowered. I was stunned. Another year, and it flowered over and over and over and over again, all summer long. Bare survival had seemed entirely impossible when I had first looked at the razed ground post weedwacker, but now this little plant was flourishing.
Then some sort of mold took hold; the plant shed all its leaves down to bare twigs in late summer. I thought it was probably dead this time. Although I now knew this plant could survive pruning to a remarkably drastic degree, disease can be a different story. I left it in the ground anyway over the winter, looking kind of naked, just in case it could, once again, come back. It did. Leaves; flowers; more flowers.
Now, I have more confidence. It was a bare stick in the fall after the combined forces of, I think, an aphid attack and a new, creative variety of mildew, but at this point, it has proven that it takes a lot to actually kill this plant for good. It’s aggravating when it gets dragged backwards, and I’m happier when it’s a healthy plant producing lush green leaves and flowers than when it’s a mostly dead twig, but now I know that it can recover. It has made it through worse and has come back before to flower and flourish, with more strength from its roots each time. So, once again, it probably will.
Almost nine years into marriage (three moves, several conversational dry spells, many misunderstandings, and a lot of challenging times later), I’m starting to sometimes see new rough patches, like mildew on a tea rose, in the context of past things we’ve gotten through and in the context of the future: the unpleasant parts can get pretty horrible indeed, but we’ve made it through things in the past and have grown together and flourished, so maybe we don’t need to be entirely daunted by this particular adventure. We have been taken care of before, despite ridiculously stacked-up combinations of circumstances, and that brings confidence that we will be taken care of again. We have looked at how we naturally respond (sometimes rather poorly) to certain circumstances, have learned better ways to deal with them, and from that foundation, we have tackled hazards better the next time (usually).
And if we put in the work, this time, to learn and to trust and to build up instead of ignoring problems or shutting down, then we continue to grow out good, solid roots of mutual trust and understanding and communication, so there’s even less fear in the future.
But I still don’t like weedwhackers.
Photo by Corinne Krogh