Flower Friends

Flowers and plants have always been part of my life.

When I was a young girl, living in South America, I would make garlands of flowers to wear in my hair.

When I was a bit older, I would take the local kids and introduce them to plants in the neighborhood gardens.

Iris WeaverIn my late teens, when depression became a frequent visitor in my life, flowers and plants became real sanity-savers for me.
I was living in New Haven and didn’t have a car, so I walked everywhere.

I would walk with my head down, which meant that I got a good view of the ground. I found myself one spring noticing the first crocuses, and then the daffodils and tulips and other flowers coming along. Across the street from the house where I rented a room was a magnolia tree that blossomed gloriously. I got such pleasure looking at it through the window while I sat working.

Seeing the first flowers and plants coming up gave me joy and somehow lifted me out of my pain for a while. I don’t know what spiritual chemistry plants have to do this, but I have experienced it ever since.

Some years later I was living in Salem and again dealing with deep depression. As spring came on (I was now in school and again without a car), I found where on my everyday routes the crocuses and daffodils were, later the violets and then the roses.
That’s when I realized that I’d been looking for the flowers every spring wherever I lived.

As I got to know a great many more wildflowers and wild plants (commonly known as “weeds”), as well as their cultivated relatives, I would watch for the appearance of all these friends as well.

Now I watch for their arrival in summer and fall as well, and watch the plants that keep some greenery throughout the winter.

I have found a few flowers that bloom in late winter or early spring and I especially adore their color when all else is still so bare.

This spring look down at the ground and around you to see what flowers are coming up. Watching the process of plants grow and change is a wondrous experience. Bring some fresh flowers into your home, either cut flowers or blooming plants. If those are beyond your financial means, learn to identify wild flowers which are free for the picking and just as beautiful in a vase as cultivated flowers. As a matter of fact, many of our weeds are actually plants that once were grown in gardens and escaped to become common roadside sights.

Plants have given me companionship and joy and helped me through dark times. I hope you find your own form of that connection.

February 2003

Love from the Outside In

I’ve always heard that you can’t love others until you love yourself, but I disagree. I’ve only learned to love myself in the last few years, but I’ve loved other people all my life.

When I was in the beginning stages of my healing journey, I tried what a boyfriend suggested—say the affirmation “I love you” to myself over and over every day. It was another snowy winter and I remember walking along roads beside white fields saying this to myself, and feeling absolutely no connection with the words. I just kept repeating “I love you” on faith that it would eventually get through to me.

A couple years before I’d had a bit of an epiphany. I would speak kindly and lovingly to friends, but I was really critical and mean when I spoke to myself. I realized that I was much nicer to others than I was to myself, so I decided to treat myself like I treated my friends—kindly and considerately. It took me a lot of years to fully change my “self-talk”, but now I rarely say anything belittling or mean to myself. Now it upsets me when I hear other people belittle themselves, and if you’re around me, I’ll say something to you about it! No, not “How can you be so stupid! (to speak to yourself like that)” but “Hey, you’re o.k., please say kind things to yourself.”

Facing the issue of loving myself when I was in the mid to late stages of my healing/recovery journey, I started thinking about how to love myself. I had started to accept parts of myself that were very hurt and damaged, not “nice” at all. I could feel occasional love and compassion for them.

I thought a lot about loving myself, and that saying about not loving others until you love yourself. It didn’t make sense to me, because I knew I loved other people—my daughter and dear friends—and I didn’t think it wasn’t genuine love just because I didn’t love myself. I remembered about teaching myself to be kind to myself, and I decided that maybe I could do the same thing with love: since I knew how to love others, I could learn to love myself, from the outside in.

And that’s what I did. I continued to talk kindly to myself, as I realized more of the nasty things I still said to myself, and I practiced feeling the love I felt for my friends for myself.

I also started blessing myself when I did something stupid, instead of damning myself. And I’d say “You only feel stupid, you are not stupid,” as much as I could to get rid of my awful feelings of shame or insecurity.

I knew I really got it a year ago. I started finding that when I did something that worked, thought ahead, got something right, I would say to  myself “Oh, Iris, I love you!” and I could feel it inside.

So, I want to tell myself how much I love myself for figuring out how to love me from the outside in. And I want you to know that you can do it too. Here’s to love from the outside in!