I’m a special flower

But, aren’t we all?

A few months ago, when my California friend was in town, we spent some time reminiscing about where we met — an adventure trip in Colorado in 2012 where we got to know each other while hiking and biking (okay, okay… truth time: she biked really REALLY slowly so that I could keep up while going uphill…). What neither of us realized going into the week-long trip was that this was a very touchy-feely “let’s be vulnerable and talk about everything” kind of trip.

I never really wrote much about that weekend. I’m not sure why, whether it was because I wasn’t really writing back then, or found it too close and personal to share, but now, a few years removed from the experience, I want to talk about how that week was the prelude to me finally making some decisions and changes. And how I leaked more tears in the span of week than I ever thought were possible to produce in the first place.

The week was billed as an adventure week… at least that’s how I remember what I read on the website. It was all hiking and biking and happy, smiling faces. Sure, there were mentions of yoga and other spiritual practices, but I conveniently ignored those parts — they didn’t fit into my vision of a rough and tumble week.

After being there no longer than half a day, I realized with growing panic that there must have been about 10 pages of fine print that I neglected to put under the microscope. I was in the midst of about 20 women who were all sharing their feelings and being vulnerable, and not only that, but also subtly peer-pressuring me into doing the same. Of course, they would likely say instead that they were simply giving me a safe space and girl power encouragement to explore my feelings and that I jumped in willingly. You know, like I would jump willingly off a cliff. Or jump willingly into the chilly 53 degree Lake Michigan. Or jump willingly off a cliff into Lake Michigan into the waiting jaws of an incredibly lost shark, complete with Jaws theme music.

The entire week followed this routine: sweat and gasp for air, cry, gasp for air, cry, eat dinner, meditate, share, be vulnerable, cry. Go to bed, get up, do yoga, laugh at myself doing yoga, be vulnerable, cry, eat breakfast, almost pass out from overexertion and lack of oxygen going uphill, cry, whoop going downhill, cry, celebrate and then cry. You get the idea — a lot of water being shed, either in the form of sweat or tears.

On the last day, Colleen — the incredible woman behind the magic of the Women’s Quest trips — told us to go out to the river and find a place to be by ourselves. She told us to sit quietly, take in the beauty and reflect on the week and what we had learned.

After nestling into a tree nook, I noticed a flower not far from my foot. It was little ragged and hidden in the shade, but it was a gorgeous shade of purple, just begging to be noticed. And I thought: that flower is just like the rest of us. None of us are perfect — we’ve all got scars and torn edges, but we’re all growing and beautiful and we’re enough just as we are and deserve all the love and attention we receive.

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My special, ragged, falling apart, beautiful flower.

It was during the walk back to the lodge that I started thinking about what changes I needed to make to be happy, indeed even just figuring out why I had spent the entire week bawling my eyes out. I knew that what I wanted out of life was right in front of me, that I just needed to reach out, but I needed help — I hadn’t yet been able to do it on my own. The week demonstrated how much of life needs only some space to grow and a community of friends to grab our hand while we shed some tears. I would start therapy shortly after returning home, finally understanding that that my own journey would require a support team of my own.

And the lessons learned for the week?

  1. Every person has a beauty about them. Myself included, even though it might be easier to see in other people.
  2. After the snot was kleenexed away and breathing returned to normal, I realized that all the tears were cathartic. It was the first time in a very long while where I felt that my insides were on the outside for people to see. And that vulnerability was good for me, no matter how difficult.
  3. I don’t know how people do anything active above 8,000 feet because there truly is no oxygen up there in them parts. Really.

 


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14 comments

  1. Laura, This post reached out to me particularly because I live in Colorado. So I suppose it connected to something that feels like home for me.

    “I leaked more tears in the span of week” I know those kinds of weeks…not because I live in Colorado…but because I tend to be a leaker. I learn that way. By leaking. It isn’t glamorous, But I have felt turned insideout and, as a result, feel like I get to live getting to take everything from the outside all the way in. It regularly involves lots of tears…but also lots of close relationships. Sometimes I complain (because of the tears) but then I remember the great relationships…and try to remember how lucky I am to live at such an elevation both physically and metaphorically. Somehow my tears seem to melt borders. My smile does the same.

    “we’ve all got scars and torn edges, but we’re all growing and beautiful and we’re enough just as we are and deserve all the love and attention we receive.” – I soooo get this. I have a photo of a torn sunflower that said the same thing to me. I’m going to see if I can find it.

    “Every person has a beauty about them. Myself included, even though it might be easier to see in other people.” This feels so wise to me. And I think that, as we allow ourselves to embrace the Beauty within ourselves, we are even more generous seeing the Beauty in others. This has been my experience thus far.

    Thank you for this generous story, pouring out your heart. It will stay with me.

  2. Have I told you lately how much I love your posts and how glad I am that you’re back in the saddle? Not just because there is a universal message here that we ALL can relate to, but your humor and your ability to make me laugh and cry all in the space of one paragraph, well, THAT is a gift. Truly. This piece especially made me laugh out loud: “You know, like I would jump willingly off a cliff. Or jump willingly into the chilly 53 degree Lake Michigan. Or jump willingly off a cliff into Lake Michigan into the waiting jaws of an incredibly lost shark, complete with Jaws theme music.” Thank you, thank you, thank you. xxoo

  3. Thank you for sharing this lovely post, Laura! It reminded me of the comment you left on my blog the other day: “But even though the breakdowns are messy and snotty and never happen at a convenient time, they’re good for the soul.” You are so right! xx

  4. There is so much to think about in this post. It is fantastic that that intensity worked for you, and helped you start a journey of self knowledge and growth. I think I would have got up during the night one night and just sneaked away. I felt almost panicky at the descriptions of subtle (and I am sure well-intentioned) peer pressure to ‘open up’. No thanks! You wouldn’t see my heels for dust! X

  5. Thank you so much for the comment, Rebecca! And yes, I’m pretty leaky myself, but apparently the lack of oxygen brings it out in me even more. And I loved the picture of the sunflower that you shared as well; it’s a gift to find a kindred spirit.

  6. Thank you, thank you Sue Ann! It means so much to me for you to say that! I work to get a balance of feeling and humor and it’s really gratifying to receive your compliment.

  7. We had similar themes, didn’t we? The other side of the breakdown is almost always good fodder for thought, if nothing else.

  8. Penny, had you been there and run, I would have been right with you — I just needed a partner in crime! It certainly wasn’t what I was expecting, that’s for sure, but it turned out well even though it didn’t feel like it until it was done.

  9. “that flower is just like the rest of us. None of us are perfect — we’ve all got scars and torn edges, but we’re all growing and beautiful and we’re enough just as we are and deserve all the love and attention we receive.” What a beautiful insight! I also notice that that flower had no idea what an impact she would have on you, or anyone. She was just being herself, not trying to bring you to another plane of consciousness! You’re doing that, too. 🙂

  10. I could definitely relate to this post. I loved how you derived so much meaning from a flower – it’s so important to re-connect to nature.

  11. Thanks for the kind words! I love the idea of the flower having no idea of the impact she would have … we all walk through the world influencing and impacting people’s lives without any knowledge of it.

  12. Laura,
    You put into beautiful words what the experience meant to be on a “quest” that week. As well, I thought it would be a glorious week of play and fun with my spirit being lifted by the activities and fellowship. Thank you for sharing your memory and reminding all of us what a Woman’s Quest is and how truly deserving we are.
    Deb

  13. Deb! Thanks for leaving a note! To say it was a great trip would leave people with an incomplete understanding; like you said, the fellowship really made all the difference.

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