Broken, Blooming

March 22, 2024

Recently we had some small dead trees cut down, leaving open space we’ve never had before in our naturally-landscaped backyard. The fall of those trees crushed the ferns growing beneath them, and that whole area of the yard wears a shocked look, like it doesn’t know what happened to it. Nearby, a tall pine, uprooted and left leaning by Hurricane Irma, continues its slow decay, occasionally dropping branches onto the ground. Even though we have mild winters in Florida, there’s a lot of dead stuff. While it’s never pristine, our yard currently looks, shall we say, disheveled.

Yet at the same time, new growth is everywhere. Pale green oak leaves burst out beneath their canopies of Spanish moss and some of my favorite flowers are blooming. Simultaneously beautiful and a mess.

That’s kind of how I feel.

As time does its healing work, the internal walls I put in place to keep going when I had to, even though it was unbearably hard, are collapsing and the emotions and questions I have about that surreal period when both my mother-in-law and mom were dying (it’s a blur) are bubbling to the surface.

I find myself with questions and regrets about how my adult relationship with my mom played out. In particular, how far away we lived from each other. I missed out on frequent, “ordinary” things, like going shopping together, and I worry that I neglected her in ways I didn’t understand because I wasn’t there to see her struggles. My mom was my bedrock person, the one who loved me best. Though we had differences of opinion and viewpoint, I never doubted her love, and I did not have to do anything to earn it. I’m coming to terms with what it means to lose that.

At the same time, I’m deeply enjoying creative projects; delighting in beautiful spring weather; feeling love for my family, friends, and animals; savoring simple pleasures and everyday adventures whenever I experience them.

Even while I was going through my mom’s decline and death, sitting by her bedside daily, watching her slip away, even as I felt such great sorrow and grief, I noticed that I could still find comfort and even joy in certain things…many of them small. It was like the dial of my emotional sensitivity was turned up high—even though I was excruciatingly sad, I could take deep pleasure in a walk in nature, eating a favorite meal, or using an app to identify bird songs. I could be both sad and happy—broken and blooming. 

As I wrote in the October 2023 edition of the Happy Little Thoughts newsletter, “This year has brought home to me the truth that even though we often perceive the world in extremes of either/or, life is really more a case of both/and. 

“We can feel multiple emotions at the same time: sorrow over losing a loved one and relief that they’re no longer suffering.

“I’m working on making my thinking more flexible. Allowing myself to feel joy and grief, without judging either one. Allowing life to unfold as both wonderful and challenging...because, frankly, that's what it is, and what it's always been.”

Even though I’ve outwardly held it together and “been strong” for what feels like forever, inside I have broken and tender places. But there are also blooms pushing their way upward, little tendrils of joy reaching for the light.

There is no question that this world holds unfathomable heartache. We see it on our screens, and in the eyes of those we love, and sometimes in our own faces in the mirror. But don’t forget that this world also holds joy, love, pleasure, and beauty, too.

I came across these perfect quotes from @motherwortandrose on Instagram this week:

“You get to experience enchantment even if you are deeply heartbroken by the world.”

“You are allowed to experience beauty and pleasure even when you are heartbroken.”

My mission on Catching Happiness has always been to focus on the simple pleasures and adventures of a happy life, rather than the heartbreak. Over the past year, I’ve found that increasingly more difficult, but I’m still committed to that goal. I hope today holds more enchantment, beauty, and pleasure than heartbreak for all of us. If you’d like to share something that lifted your spirits recently, we’d love to hear about it! Please share in the comments below. 

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  1. Sending peaceful thoughts your way. The California poppies that are blooming now and the simple bunch of unopened daffodils that I bought at the grocery store and are now cheerfully blooming have definitely brought some joy to my recent days.

    1. Thank you for your good thoughts! Flowers are always spirit lifters for me, too.

  2. Kathy I think we all go through a time of regrets when we lose someone we love. Having lost both my mom and dad I can tell you I do have regrets. Yet there is peace in knowing both of them are in heaven and are not suffering. By God's grace and his grace alone I will be reunited again and all those regrets will be gone. God's word and His love is what makes the difference for me. They are what lift my spirits and give me hope. What is so beautiful is that His Love is for everyone and each person matters deeply to Him. Sending you Hugs friend.

    1. Thank you for your comment, Debbie. It is indeed comforting to know our loved ones are at peace and no longer suffering, even as we miss them. Sending you hugs, too :)