One morning, I was sitting on my patio having a cup of coffee and reflecting on all that had to be done that day. Feeling a bit overwhelmed, I looked up to notice that I had neglected my garden on top of the seemingly endless list of things to do as a single mom, widow and budding entrepreneur.
I noticed that one of the plants in my garden was completely overgrown and falling over. It was reaching for something to hang onto... the fence, another plant, yet some of its parts were desperately reaching straight for the sky. It was wild and it was beautiful, but it was struggling. I could see it wouldn’t survive like that much longer.
I saw myself in that plant.
I needed to fix it… all of it.
It was rooted, yet it was trying so hard to stand upright. Its beautiful magenta-colored flowers masked its ugly 2” thorns that would poke you by surprise if you got too close. It was trying to find stability, yet it was reaching wildly in so many directions.
I knew I had to help it… after all, it was my garden. I just felt overwhelmed with tackling it myself. It looked too scary. I wasn’t capable. Where would I even begin? Do I even own garden tools? Nope.
I grabbed the sharpest scissors I could find in my kitchen and started by cutting it back… one thorny, beautifully blooming branch at a time. I didn’t realize how out of hand I let it get until I filled a huge construction-size black garbage bag to the rim. Thorns were poking holes in the bag, and I prayed for it not to burst open as I drug the very heavy bag from the backyard to the curb.
The branches were almost too pretty to throw out, so I saved a few, put them in vases and displayed them like trophies around my house. It’s was a nice colorful reminder that I tackled something big and scary that day.
Next, I got a stick with a pointed bottom and I hammered that stake into the soft soil until it felt strong enough to support my struggling plant. Then, I tethered the thickest parts of the plant to the stake using some ribbon I found in my craft bin. Lo and behold, it stood up. It finally stood up! (Cue the victory dance!)
Just for reference, I am not a gardener. You might have gathered that when I mentioned my lack of gardening tools and the fact that I don’t even know the name of the plant I was wrestling with. What I do know is that inspiration, life lessons and clarity can come from just about anywhere. For me, it took an overgrown garden, some minor scratches from a thorny bush, and a stick in the mud to recognize the parallels this had to my life.
After losing my husband Ryan to cancer in 2016, I lived like this plant for so long. I was rooted. I had faith. I had amazing friends and family. But, I was reaching… I didn’t know for what. I was all over the place trying to survive. I felt weak on every level. I wasn’t standing up even if, from the outside, I may have appeared to be blooming. I had nothing to give. I was overwhelmed with grief. I lived in a fog. I struggled with accepting the loss of my best friend and partner. I couldn't help but grieve the loss of the future we had planned, and the siblings Winston would never have. It was heavy… it still is. I felt like I would completely fall over at any given moment, and the people closest to me surely got poked by a thorn from time to time.
People would say “you are so strong”, but the only thing keeping me upright were those roots and those branches reaching blindly to the sky. My roots were my family and friends and those branches reaching to the sky were my faith in God and knowing that there was/is a whole life ahead for Winston and me.
It took the parallel of me and the struggling plant to realize that I was stronger than I knew. I just needed to use the tools I was provided to stand up straight. I just needed to reach out and ask for help.
I had the stake, I had the hammer, I just needed to dig down, hold on and stand tall. I needed to remember how far I’ve come and recognize that I was stronger because of it. I just simply needed to see what others saw in me.
All that hit me as I sat back on my patio with a whole new feeling of accomplishment and pride. Suddenly, that to do list seemed manageable. If I could tackle that beautiful monster of a thorny bush and help it stand tall, I could help myself. And I did.
It’s easy to be in the moment then and quickly let the lesson slip by when life happens. But for this lesson, I wanted a daily reminder. I felt like others may need this reminder too. So, I designed one of my favorite pendants. The Strength pendant. It’s simple, yet it’s strong. It’s shaped like a stake - simple four-sided stick with a pointed bottom. This symbol reminds me that I have the tools and I have the support I need to be and feel as strong as others know me to be.
I am so happy to share this incredibly meaningful piece with so many strong women in the world. We all have tough seasons. We all have moments of weakness and self-doubt. We all have times in our life where we are spread in so many directions that falling over is nearly inevitable. Yet, when we remember that we are strong, that we have the tools, that we have our faith and can lean on our support… it’s then that we can happily live our purpose as the strong women we are.
On a side note, I don't tackle that bush anymore. I took the lesson I learned, and I ask for help now. So, I must give full credit to my brother-in-law Vinny and my dad for wrestling with that bush a few weeks back. I’m so grateful for the support I continue to have in my life.