In the Midst of Winter…

Love the moment. Flowers grow out of dark moments. Therefore, each moment is vital. It affects the whole. Life is a succession of such moments and to live each, is to succeed. – Corita Kent

When I first moved into my own (just mine) house, I noticed that there were flower beds both lining the driveway and in various places around the yard. Growing up in the city, I knew nothing about gardening, but thought that the beds would look rough without flowers so I decided to learn something about gardening and plant my own.

I bought about 10 huge and very expensive gardening books (because that’s what I do when I want to learn about something) and spent most of the next few months going over them to learn about cultivating the soil, what flowers were almost sure to bloom and which ones would either be difficult to grow or take much loving care.

I spent a few years experimenting and discovered that plants and seeds I bought did not read the same books as I did as many behaved differently than I thought they would.

But I loved designing a garden.

I would spend all winter with my gardening books, looking at the beautiful pictures and sketching out ideas in notepads. I usually designed perennial gardens with plants that had different bloom times from early spring to late autumn and I would fill in the gaps with annuals. I would look at colors and heights and the likelihood of a plant or bush taking hold for good. Then the spring would come and the work would begin…tilling the soil, selecting the plants, planting and then throughout the summer carefully pruning and shaping and sometimes adding annuals where perennials didn’t bloom. In the fall I would plant new bulbs and cover my beds for winter rest.

One of the joys (or dismay) of gardening is discovering what blooms and what doesn’t. I would be amazed that some plants that were listed as sure things failed to grow in my garden and others labeled “high maintenance and difficult to grow” by all ten of my huge books would come up without much work and stay in bloom without much maintenance at all.

Some surprised me with their beauty and hardiness…and some would pop up as a surprise…I wasn’t quite sure where it had come from or even what it was…a random seed, a mislabeled seedling? who knew? but it was pretty and I enjoyed it all the more because it was unexpected.

All plants and flowers need the seasons and the cycles. All plants and flowers need specific amounts of acid in the soil and all need specific amounts of food and water. And much depends on where you live. In the Northeast I could plant perennial bulbs and leave them in the ground. But when I moved to California I had to dig up my tulips and put them in the freezer because they need a deep freeze to be hardy.

And so I noticed that like my journey in life, flowers need their dark time and their light time to bloom beautifully at the right time.

When it is a dark time in life, when there has been loss and sorrow, it is good to remember that life is a cycle and in order to bloom and grow we need the dark times, the restful times, the time to go inward and explore our own depths before we can turn our faces to the sun.

It is difficult to appreciate our ability to bloom when we are in the midst of winter but know that we have it, that we are able to do it.

We have to do our work, our work on ourselves, our grief work, our journaling, our meditation, our hibernation time.

There are books we read that we think are the solution and turn out not to be. We follow the advice of well-meaning family and friends and find it makes us feel worse. Sometimes we do something thinking it’s the sure-fire way to feel better and it doesn’t work and other times we assess something as too hard to do, but try it and it’s not so hard and it works.

It’s sometimes a complete surprise as to what blooms from what we plant. Almost all my clients are skeptical about affirmations and some say “I tried it for a few days and it didn’t work” even though both the book and the workbook and many posts on the blog say they need AT LEAST 30 days of saying several times a day to work. Then they commit to that and it works and then they stop doing them and start feeling awful and don’t know why. You have to keep shaping and pruning and caring for YOU through affirmations, acceptance statements, positive self-talk, journaling etc. You have to keep the work going even when you don’t see immediate results or you are not sure anything is going to bloom from what you are planting. What does bloom may surprise you in a pleasant way.

We need to do the work and will gain great rewards from it.

Trust the process. Believe in it always. You will not only reap what you sow and enjoy the benefits of what you have planted, but there will random and unplanned joys along the way. Do the work in the heart of winter and the spring will reward you with a beautiful bounty.


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12 Responses to In the Midst of Winter…

  1. 42Tiger says:

    This is a great post and very needed.

    What do you do if you feel like spring is never coming? That you have done your work, that you have journaled, seen therapists, read and worked on yourself for YEARS. I have been reading this site for 7 years and I am exhausted. I’ve been waiting for the miracle and it’s just not happening. I have been single for so long and every decent man is taken. I am trying to find a way to accept that I will not meet someone and will spend time my life on my own but the sadness that I will never have a family is just a weight.

    And people’s advise is so frustrating. I have to be happy without it before I can get it and that makes me feel angry with myself, as if my desires are keeping it all away from me but I know so many people who aren’t full of self esteem and weren’t happy alone and they still found partners and loving relationships. When is it my turn?

    • Susan J. Elliott says:

      I think that the most important thing is to be happy in your life. Being angry with yourself is not helping. It’s very destructive to think that so many others are doing better. None of us really know what is really going on in another’s relationship. If we’re yearning and pining, we’re not happy and when we’re not happy, we aren’t very attractive to those who are.

      If you don’t think that your life is valuable without a partner, it’s hard to attract a healthy person. Healthy people are wary of people who seem overly desperate or dependent on finding someone.

      I know it’s ironic, but the more we are independent and happy in our life, the more attractive we are to HEALTHY others. It can’t be a false front. It has to be real.

      It sounds like you’re kicking and screaming at the reality of your life instead of finding peace and acceptance of your situation. If you never find someone, are you okay with that? If not, then there is work to be done. Have you thought, “I’d rather be alone than spend 5 minutes in a horrible relationship”? Have you gotten to a place where you realize that your life does matter, is fulfilling and it is what it is. Are you grateful for what you do have?

      Your post reminded me of Shelia Levine is Dead and Living In New York. If you’ve never heard of it, it’s a pretty funny book but she wants nothing more than to be married and when she hears of someone getting re-married, she says, “Mommy! Not fair! She had 2 turns when I didn’t have any!”

      Not everyone gets a turn but the more fulfilled and happy you are in your life, the closer you get to a GOOD turn.

      You can’t swing a cat without hitting someone whose only requirement is that the person has a pulse. Those people are OUT there and many of them are in those relationships that you think are okay. Many are not.

      I think that the real answer is to be really happy in your life and to be okay if you have your family, friends, job, hobbies, interests etc. If you are having issues with acceptance, what stands in your way (other than having a significant other) with being okay with your life?

      Do you do acceptance statements and even though statements?

      The BEST thing to do is to let go of whatever fantasy there is of having a loving partner in your life.

      • 42Tiger says:

        Thank you for your reply and your advice.

        I think acceptance is the biggest key here – I have tried to accept the situation but it’s always been in a bit of false and ironic – i.e. if I accept I am single and get happy then I will meet someone – in a way trying to manipulate the process so I can get what I want without truly accepting!

        My frustration is that I have built a life, I have a successful career, am financially independent, have my own home, make the most of my friends and family, I have traveled the world alone. But I haven’t been able to resolve my fear of intimacy, so as strong as I am – and no, I will never accept a bad relationship just so I can have a relationship – this strength has meant that I am always alone. (I am working through Susan Anderson’s Abandonment workbook – along with yours – to try and deal with the fear of abandonment).

        People say it’s better to be alone than in a bad relationship – of course! – but why are those my choices? Why can’t I have a good relationship? You’re question about whether I would be happy if I never found someone… no, I think it would be a great sadness not to share my life and have children. I guess I have to grieve this possibility and get ok with it? I do have a great life but I don’t know how not to be sad about not having companionship.

        You are right that looking at other’s lives as examples is not helpful. I don’t know what goes on in their relationships but I keep spinning on the spot wailing that no one else had to go through this work in order to meet someone. But then no one else has had my experiences or my issues and I guess that’s just the way it is. I think I am stronger then most people, so I won’t accept what they accept?

        • 42Tiger says:

          I meant to ask about acceptance statements. Something along the lines of:
          I accept my life as it is?
          I am ok as I am?

          Thank you!!

          • Susan J. Elliott says:

            Yes, they’re in the workbook. It’s a good exercise to accept where you are and learn to be okay with it.

            As far as choices: Be alone or be in a bad relationship are your choices NOW but that doesn’t mean it will always be that way. You can absolutely have the 3rd choice but not until you accept being alone is okay and you make the BEST of it. Just the fact that you say, “Why are those my only choices?” is a whine. Until you get rid of that martyrdom, you’re not going to find a good and healthy partner.

            I did so many things I always wanted to do when I was alone. I made it a celebration of a life where no one told me what to do or how to be. You have to find the JOY in your life alone. Because a single life (see my post on singletude) has perks that a coupled life does not. No matter how great a partner is or a relationship is, there are aspects to being single that are better. Figure out what those are and do them. Revel in the fact you have no one to answer to. Relationships are hard. Being single is just not as hard but if you don’t learn to do it, you will desperately seek out a relationship and HEALTHY PEOPLE CAN DETECT THAT and they FLEE. I’m telling you that is how it goes. Please read the love stories in the end of GBOT and see the similarities of all those who found their forever love. You can do this!

            • 42Tiger says:

              Thank you for the nuggets of wisdom in this. I balked at the word ‘martyrdom’ but could quickly see truth in this. I do rally that I have to do everything for myself, that I bought my flat, decorated my flat, pay all my bills etc etc and feel sadness that no man has ever bought me anything significant the way my friends husbands spend their bonus buying them cars!

              One of my beliefs is that everyone is taken and I meet new people all the time and all the good men are taken so feel a bit despairing and when I meet a nice guy I start writing a love story, so your suggestion in your first response to let go of the fantasy is also required. I felt sorry for myself the other day and sank a bit low and took the morning off work. I was watching the Help and there is this great scene with Emma Stone where the maid is telling her to stop being self pitying ‘cause that is true ugliness that gets inside. It seemed so appropriate that I was watching that, I got my ass of the sofa and went to work.

              Really appreciate the wisdom and the encouragement. I have the book and workbook and will look at the sections you suggested.

              • Susan J. Elliott says:

                Great. I was on this show today but the second half was woman who really talks about celebrating singlehood. I listened to her broadcast and thought it was awesome. Her name is Bella DePaulo Ph.D., author of ‘Singled Out’ which redesigns our stereotypes of singleness and embrace singlehood without regret.Check it out:
       I thought she was terrific.

                • 42Tiger says:

                  Thank you for directing me to this, what a great show. I just looked up her blog as well. Really great and inspiring words, and it was great hearing you as well! It must be wonderful to participate in this kind of dialogue with such strong, inspiring women.

                  I have one quick question about the acceptance statements. I’ve been saying that I accept that I am 36 and single, but now I am wondering if that goes against moving myself towards a relationship? (Thinking of the view point of the LoA and saying statements of what you would like in present terms).

                  • Susan J. Elliott says:

                    What about something like “I accept that I’m building a full and bountiful life that I may share with someone one day.”

                    • 42Tiger says:

                      Perfect! Thank you. I feel more able to cope in only the few days that I looked at the acceptance statements and the positive stories in the book. The first three stories talk about how well the people are doing by themselves – I was expecting romantic, happy ending stories, so it was really great to read inspiring – but alone – stories.

                      ***Thank you***

  2. PicMan says:

    I would like to ask if you have any tips as to how I can ‘be happy in MY life’? I am in a unique situation. I love my partner & we have been together for about 19 years. But that’s just it. I am not IN love with my partner, at least not any more. I think I was in the beginning, when one day she asked ‘Do you love me’? Yes was my answer and our love grew. But my problem came some years later, when she said ‘You know, if you ever leave me, I would have to kill myself’. The worst thing is that, she would probably do it. Exactly WHY that is, is because she is a quite severely disabled wheelchair user. If I left, she would not only lose her longtime friend and carer, but maybe also her home and garden, which she adores, as she would probably need to go into a home. I suffered really bad depression in any job I tried to hold down, so I gave up working, to care full-time for her. I have become really good at that, I know every little thing she needs and in what way. We have two other carers, ladies who come in a few times a week to give me a break. Although I shew them what to do, they will still only do things their own way. The wrong way. So now, here I am. I still love my partner, as well as I have ever loved any of my best friends. She knows this and says, ‘Don’t worry, I have enough love for BOTH of us’ as she dotes on me and seems to worship the very ground I walk on, which seems wonderful, but really doesn’t help. I hurt inside and it’s getting worse. I have no friends of my own anymore, as they were all through work and other things. So now my only friends, are her friends. There is no-one I can confide in. Due to her disability, the physical side of love is not very possible anymore and I am now just a full-time carer & friend. I do care for her deeply and worry what would happen if I ever left. I cannot work much, due to my clinical depression. But I long to be IN love again. If it came back between us, that would be great. But how long do I wait? I’m over 50 and don’t think I’m very attractive. They say you need to love yourself, but due to bad bullying at school and even at home as a child, I have always believed I’m not lovable. Rather than loving myself, I hate that man in the mirror and he gets uglier every day. Your blog is the best one I have read on the love subject and I really hope you can help me. Do I just need counselling? Relationship help? Or maybe just another relationship?

    • Susan J. Elliott says:

      I am a firm believer that we should never sacrifice ourselves for the sake of another. For her to say if you left she would kill herself is flat-out manipulation and black mail. We are all responsible for our own lives and that includes HER. She can’t put her inability to be alone on you. It belongs to her. Do you honestly think you can fall back in love with someone who is holding a sword over your head?

      I think you need to start living your life and get some perspective and be in a better place before you can make any kind of decision. Work on your self-esteem and enlarging your life. You DO need counseling. But I don’t think that is the only answer. You need friends, interests, hobbies and things to do outside of the home. You need to get in touch with your life and get on solid ground before you make decisions.

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