Daffodils used to make me cry. I couldn’t walk past one without my throat tightening and my heart sinking into my stomach. The yellow tips of petals peeking out through the winter grass brought salty tears to my eyes. Every. Single. Time. To me, they were not a sign that spring was on it’s way. They were a reminder of grief and loss. Let me explain.
When I married my first husband I was 25. I believed I had finally gotten my “happily ever after” as we made our vows and joined lives. Less than a year after our wedding, we purchased our first house. As my mother-in-law and I dug holes we strategically planted daffodils evenly across the front yard of the new home. It needed to look perfect. I daydreamed about future children running and laughing as they raced through the soft green grass. “The daffodils will come up every spring,” my husband’s mom explained as I followed her lead and planted alongside her. She had chosen all of the flowers and exactly where we planted them.
Just three years later my future looked dramatically different than those daydreams. Instead of starting a family, I was signing divorce papers. Although they came up again that year, I no longer lived in the house with the perfectly spaced daffodils. I lived in my sister’s basement. Approaching 30, I felt confused, alone, and devastated. I had done “everything right,” and yet my world had come crashing down. I sunk to a new low and descended into the eating disorder I had silently battled since adolescence. I believed my life was over. I interpreted the promises my husband had broken as confirmation that all the insecurities I held inside were actually truths. He had finally realized I was not worthy of love.
When I saw daffodils peeking through the winter grass that year, the little bright flowers held new meaning for me. They peered at me from other people’s yards taunting me with their cheery color and scent. They reminded me that my dream had fallen apart. They pointed to the loss of my vision of a family with my first love. They were a symbol of what I no longer had. A sign of a broken dream and a broken heart. They were something other people could have, but something I had lost and believed I would never have again. I hated seeing the daffodils.
Years passed, and I went through many more ups and downs. Sometimes I was alone, other times I was blessed with the support of friends and family. I realize now I always had exactly what I needed at the time. I learned through experience that even the darkest night ends and that when I thought my life was over, it had really only just begun.
I saw a daffodil peeking out of the grass today as I walked through my neighborhood. I had just taken my older two sons to school and was on my way home. As I walked peacefully down the road listening to a recovery podcast, the first feeling I had when I saw the daffodils was delight. I saw them as a sign that spring was on its way. And then it dawned on me with wonder; at one time those yellow flowers brought pain and triggered feelings of loss and devastation. Over time the associations I had made began to transform. Reflecting back- I don’t know when it changed- I just know it did. And 15 years ago I couldn’t imagine the life I live now. I couldn’t conceive of a world where daffodils didn’t make me cry.
I walked up to our home and smiled at the very imperfectly planted blueberry bushes my husband and I put in years ago. We chose them together. When I walked in our front door, my youngest son greeted me with a smile and showed me the snowmen he colored and cut out with his daddy. His daddy; my husband. The one I feared I would never have. The one I have created a life I never imagined with.
I was reminded that everything is temporary and even the deepest wounds can eventually heal. It doesn’t mean they don’t leave scars- but the pain eased long ago. I marveled at the cycles in nature that so beautifully parallel the cycles in life. Nothing is permanent and everything is temporary. And meanings can change over time. I now understand that planting daffodils in perfectly spaced rows across a front yard does not guarantee a happy home. And that I really can’t control and plan outcomes perfectly in my life. Today I find comfort knowing the daffodils will come up again every year to remind us that spring is on it’s way. And the sight of wildly planted blueberries make me smile. Every. Single. Time.