Apart from the exquisite joy of hanging out the washing for the first time in the year, my favourite thing about spring is that wonderful week or two when the magnolia trees are blooming. I think they are the most beautiful trees, but so many years we hardly get to see them ‘out’ as they jump in and blossom just a little too early and get hit by a hard frost so that all the blooms fall off.
As I was taking my son to school today I saw this magnolia tree starting to come out and it reminded me of one of my favourite quotes from Anais Nin:
And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.
The tree and the quote set me off thinking about the experience of living on the edge of risk, in that in-between place where bud is on the verge of becoming bloom. I have spent a very long time living on that edge at various points in my life. In fact the ‘pain’ of that is so familiar it perhaps doesn’t register as pain any more.
It’s much easier for me to think about the risks of blossoming than the risks of staying tight in a bud. If I allow myself to blossom I risk ridicule, humiliation and failure. If I allow myself to blossom I risk being noticed, even when I’d rather retreat into the background. If I allow myself to blossom I risk looking too full of myself, too certain that I have something to offer. I risk feeling a show-off. And what if other people don’t like the way I bloom or find it threatening, or embarrassing, or generally just a bit too much? It all feels like a massive risk.
I give far less thought to the risk of not blossoming.
What are the risks of staying tight in a bud? Now I stop to think about it there are quite a few. Do I want to risk never knowing what the blossom might have looked like or felt like? Do I want to risk facing death without having allowed myself to reach my potential? Do I want to risk that bud just shrivelling away when it might have been glorious?
On balance I feel that I’d rather risk the blooming. I’d rather risk the pain of allowing myself to blossom than the pain of always choosing to stick with what is familiar.
I take heart that in different areas of our lives we blossom at the right time.We do not need to regret having lived on that edge for so long: perhaps if we had bloomed sooner, the frost might have caught us.
What are the things in your life which are on the cusp of blossoming? Do you prefer the pain of risking to bloom or the pain of always sticking with what you know?
More magnolia trees on my walk into work today. I was particularly struck by this one just emerging from behind the top of a 10 foot high hedge. The vast majority of that blossoming tree was hidden from passers-by, but that tiny section at the top could just be seen.
This perfectly symbolises how I feel at the moment. Starting this blog has felt like a risk, like I’m ‘putting myself out there’ in a new way that both scares and excites me. I haven’t yet got brave enough to show it to many people who know me. It feels fine allowing it to bloom in front of people I may never meet in person: it’s much more risky being open about it to everyone who knows me.
So, much is still hidden but a start has been made. Perhaps over the next few days, weeks and months I could trim a bit of the height off that hedge.