On Monday, I cut a rose from my garden and put it in a glass bottle beside my desk. I used to wear rose-colored glasses and believed everyone was generally nice with occasional rough days. But then my sanity required that I see truth, which meant I had to take off my rose-colored glasses.
I'm working on coming to terms with a new worldview that isn't all pretty. It's full of good guys, bad guys and ones that are both (these are the ones that can really mess with your mind). This new worldview is sobering, and I worry that without my rose-colored glasses, I'll end up a bitter, negative, winey, mopey old woman. This is why I decided to start my week with rose-colored glasses off and a rose beside my desk.
By late Monday, I could see that my new officemate was particularly quiet but had a sweetness I appreciated immediately. I liked having her there.
On Tuesday, the rose started to open up. I watched her stretch and change. She didn't stay closed in or tight. She was willing to keep unfolding and opening.
Later that day, I reached for a pen in a cup behind the rose and my hand brushed against thorns. I was unaccustomed to the space beside my desk being occupied. "Cool," I thought, "This gal's got boundaries." The rose knew her job was to blossom and no careless hand was going to topple her over.
At the end of the day, I read world news online. The rose's scent reminded me that there was sweetness in the world.
On Wednesday, the rose was in full bloom. As the morning sun came into my office, I watched her petals fill with sunlight. I savored folds of light and shadow that played throughout her petals. She was showing me the beauty of her complexity and how to stand tall in the light.
That same afternoon I had a phone call with an old friend of mine whose husband is declining. When I got off the phone, I sat in the reading chair in my office and felt helpless and sad. But the rose was there. Her presence mattered. She reduced my feeling of being alone. I hoped that I was able to offer this witnessing to my friend and that my friend felt less alone. Sometimes that's all we can do for someone, and it can mean a lot.
On Thursday, the leaf on the rose curved down and touched my desk, and I felt as though somehow we were girls on the playground holding hands and in it together, whatever "it" was. I imagined she and I had a secret club and made a pact to show up and add a little something beautiful to the world. I try to do it with words. And well, she's a rose.
With the leaf resting on my desk, I admired how healthy and green her leaves were. Earlier in the summer, I went to war with an invading rust disease that turned her leaves yellow and spotted and threatened to kill her. Every morning, I walked out to the roses in my PJs and plucked infected leaves. To get rid of the invasion, I had to remove all of the leaves on a particular stalk. "They will grow back healthy," I told myself as I stripped most of the plant bare.
I also mixed coffee grounds in the soil to see if changing its acidity would make the environment less habitable for the rust. The combination of soil change and consistent and aggressive pruning worked. Two months later, new buds and leaves were popping out all over.
By Friday, I liked my new officemate. I looked for her every time I entered the room. But the rose was starting to droop. She was wilting towards the weekend, and I had to agree with her that I'd also given my best earlier in the week.
I looked at the rose and said, "Thank goodness it's Friday." She dipped her head in agreement. Late in the afternoon, a petal fell on my to-do list and I laughed. It was as if she had dropped a surrender flag and was saying, "Enough. We've done enough." Her gesture helped me drop my working self and rest.
I learned a lot from having a rose beside me all week. With my rose-colored glasses off and my eyes wide open, I made time to see the good in life. I reminded myself that there is tenderness and to create it. I remembered that I have thorns and to use them when needed. And I told myself again and again that it is my job to stand tall in the light.
Kathleen Buckstaff is the author of two books that celebrate life and motherhood:Mother Advice To Take With You To College, a collection of hilarious drawings and wise sayings, and The Tiffany Box: A Memoir, an International Best Book Awards Finalist, a true story told through emails and letters about the last two years of Kathleen's mother's life.