Pink carnations have always been my favorite flowers. It was a predictable sweetness-a pink carnation, tied with a simple pink bow, in his hand as he waited for our family car to pull into his driveway. I am not sure how long my grandfather (a mortician turned florist) stood outside in anticipation on the days we made the 12 hour journey from Texas to Alabama. In the age before cell phones we would have called before we left, but he would have had no updates along the route, and yet was always there, carnation at the ready, waiting for me when we turned the corner and 2302 Taylor Avenue came into view. After every visit I waved goodbye from the back window of the car with another pink carnation, another pink bow, in my hand until he was completely out of sight.
Carnations will always be my favorite, but this year I have found a new appreciation and admiration for the tulip.
As the granddaughter of a florist, I made a decision once my workspace shifted from a classroom to an office that as much as possible, I would have fresh flowers on my desk. It a “choose happy” habit that brightens my day! I try to leave (extra) early on Mondays to pick up a bundle and arrange them before the workday starts. In 2017 I have found myself looking for, loving, and learning from tulips. A few of the reasons why…
1. Tulips grow from a bulb and MUST go through a dormant or “chilled” state in order to grow.
What I am learning is that “chill” is a prerequisite to growth, change and leadership. In this sense I think the chilling period can represent rest and recuperation, allowing yourself to take a deep breathe and be completely ready for the season ahead. But I also see another implication for leadership which is to take the time to let plans and ideas and change incubate. Listen and observe before “sprouting”.
I struggle with being chill. I am on the go all the time (I am writing this at 4am). I often say that I am a 100% kind of person, and it is true that I tend to come in a little “hot”. Tulips will not reach their full potential without this period of dormancy…I am beginning to understand that this is true for me as well.
2. Tulips are positively phototropic, bending towards the light.
Other flowers, once arranged in a vase or bouquet, stay the same. Tulips are always moving, seeking out what they need to fully bloom. YES! I want to be POSITIVELY phototropic, willing to adjust, bend, and move into a position to grow. Tulips do this naturally, I think we have to be more intentional- positioning ourselves under the mentorship of great people, seeking out new resources, trying new strategies…and identifying the light source. In order to reach reach our potential we must be intentionally flexible, turning ourselves towards the things that will help us grow.
3. Tulips continue to grow after they have been cut.
Depending on the variation, tulips will grow anywhere from 1-6 inches after they are cut. This phenomenon adds to the illusion that they are dancing as they move towards the sun and spill over the side of their vases. Most flowers bloom once they have been cut, but their growth stops. But for tulips the stem continues to grow, not just the flower. The morning I figured this out I cried. I wish that I could say it was a “cute” cry…but I am trying to keep this blog honest.
This year has been an incredible year of learning and growth for me. In the midst of the reflections, the celebrations, the “aha” moments, the stretching and the changing there were times that it “cut” a little, and sometimes I felt “cut to the core”. I will let you play with the symbolism…as this metaphor extends beautifully in so many meaningful ways. What I will say is that it fills my heart to know that when I am cut, that growth is not over, potential doesn’t disappear, there is more in store for me than what I could have imagined when I was comfortably planted.
I love carnations because I want to be like the man who gave them to me: compassionate, consistent, and kind. I love tulips because I want to be like the flower itself: prepared and slow when necessary, intentionally positioning myself in places to grow, and understanding that sometimes the most significant growth is preceded by pain.
This was a really great year in so many ways, I mean…I even learned a few things from flowers. Looking forward to 2018 because as always, I am still learning…