If you look deeply at a flower, at its freshness and its beauty, you will see also that there is also compost in it, made of garbage. The gardener had the skill to transform this garbage into compost, and with this compost, he made a flower grow…Sorrow, fear, and depression are all a kind of garbage. These bits of garbage are part of real life… All you have to do is learn how to transform your garbage into flowers.
—from “You Are Here” by Thích Nhất Hạnh
It’s spring again. Although March 21st marks the official beginning of spring, it rarely really feels like spring where I live in Winnipeg, Canada until the middle to end of April. This year, however, spring has come early. Most of the snow has already melted, and the warmth of the sun soaks into the frigid earth to reveal… well, mud. March certainly isn’t the most beautiful month around here, that’s for sure. There are no buds on the trees yet, the grass is mostly brown and there are no flowers yet to be seen.
Last year, March was undoubtedly one of the most difficult times of my life. It marked eight months since my son Landon had died, and although the passing of time was allowing me to slowly pick up the pieces of my life, my arms still felt unbearably empty. I wanted another child so badly, but as much as I wanted a baby I was terrified by the thought of enduring another loss, and even more afraid that we wouldn’t be able to conceive. Every day that passed felt like I was moving further and further away from holding Landon, yet no closer to holding his sibling. I felt stuck, weighed down by fears about the future and the sadness of my past.
The one thing that gave me hope, even in many of my darkest hours, was faith that the best things do in fact grow out of the most difficult of circumstances. One only has to look into nature to see this is true. Lotus flowers blossom from long stalks rising high from their roots anchored in the muddy waters below. The caterpillar spends weeks in a dark cocoon, and when it emerges it has completely transformed into a beautiful butterfly. After even the darkest and coldest of winters comes the light and warmth spring, always. What we consider “garbage” transforms into fertile soil to nourish healthy, colourful new growth.
Loss, heartbreak, depression, anger, injury, illness… at some point or another we all experience this “garbage” in our lives, these dark hours in our bodies and souls. We also all have the power to transform these lows into new opportunities, realizations and wisdom.
Here are some questions you might ask yourself:
What can my experience help me learn about myself?
How does my suffering make me more caring and compassionate?
How might the things I perceive as “flaws” and “weaknesses” actually make me more human and more approachable?
Could I transform my outrage into inspiration and a passionate, fervent desire to make a difference in this world?
How can this difficult time in my life help me feel a deeper sense of gratitude for all of the beauty and love that does exist?
Remember that the garbage in your life might continue to look like shit, for quite awhile. Everything takes time. You might not be able to see the way the flowers will grow stronger and the blossoms will unfold with even more vibrant colours than before, but you can trust that spring will indeed come. As Lae Tzu wrote:
Nature does not hurry. Yet everything is accomplished.