With the days getting shorter and sunshine more elusive than at other times of the year, I can easily become melancholy and introspective, trying to keep positive in an overwhelmingly troubled world. Then, years ago I had an “A-HA!” moment that still helps me keep my life in perspective, even with all my challenges and limitations. It all started with a blooming orchid.
After attending an orchid show, two friends appeared at my door with a gorgeous gift for me: the most beautiful flowering orchid I had ever seen! It was a delicate phalaenopsis with a dozen white butterfly–shaped flowers with purple centers.
For more than four months, the flowers bloomed, remaining frozen in time, as perfect as the day I received them. Looking at that magnificent plant during those long, dark, winter months gave me hope that spring would come again.
In May, when the flowers finally died, I was shocked at how ugly the plant had become. It’s funny. While it was blooming, I never noticed how unattractive the other parts of the plant were. My phalaenopsis had only a few leaves: Some were a deep, intense, forest green — some faded and washed out. The roots — long, silver-gray nubby tendrils — crawled out of the pot looking like strange worms trying to escape confinement.
I didn’t know where to put the plant. It didn’t look like my other houseplants. It just didn’t fit in. I thought about throwing the orchid away.
I’m so glad I didn’t, because six months later, I saw a new green shoot emerge. Each day I watched that spike grow. Within three weeks, it was 18 inches long and had 16 tiny buds about to open.
Day after day, I watched the buds open like butterflies emerging from their cocoons. I marveled at the beauty, grace, and delicate features of each flower. When I gazed at the orchid, a peaceful, almost holy feeling came over me. How could this exquisite flower be an accident of nature or a random act of the universe?
To me, it reinforced my belief in a higher power and represented a beacon of hope for a better tomorrow.
When a friend admired my blooming orchid, she asked if she could bring over her non-blooming orchid to see if I could work my magic on her plant. Placing her plant next to my gorgeous orchid, I had a kind of clarity. The ugly, non-blooming orchid was my body with its limitations, awkward movements and tremors. It was out of place next to my (pretty) household plants, just like I often felt when I was with my “normal, able-bodied” friends.
Yet, looking at the magnificent flowering orchid filled me with gratitude and love. In a way, I saw my soul, my inner being. That’s when it dawned on me! Multiple sclerosis (MS) was the plant and the flowers were my soul. If that kind of beauty could come out of something so ugly, then maybe I, too, could make something beautiful come out of my illness. MS may have a hold on my body, but I won’t let it have the power to touch my soul.
I decided that day to keep “blooming where I’m planted” and to continue to create beauty in my life. I wish the same for you.
*Source: Author SHELLEY PETERMAN SCHWARZ for Wisconsin State Journal