The tulips had been in bloom for a few weeks only. It was late in the year, but the winter had been brutally long. Everything was slow in coming back to life. Myself included. The snow had been incessant and I had felt buried under since December. Any movement toward the light was slow, yet purposeful.
I swear…I did want to grow.
My friend and I walked leisurely through my neighbourhood, an area bordered by the two competing livelihoods of this city: healthcare and steel production. The houses were small, but lovingly updated and cared for. People gardened while their children played. My boyfriend called it a breeding ground for hipsters. I just loved being able to walk to everything…bakery, deli, parks…everything.
“You’re quiet today,” she said holding a bright yellow dandelion in her hand.
I looked down at my feet. “I know. I’m sorry.” I loved shared silence and was worried now that she didn’t feel the same.
“No need to apologize,” she replied sweetly.
“I suppose the Spring has stunned me. I had become accustomed to hiding out, but now the weather beckons me outside. I guess I just need some time.”
She twirled the pretty weed in her hand. “Of course you do.”
“I was so restless in April and now it seems as though there is so much to do. I want to hide again.”
My friend regarded me questioningly, “What do you have to do?”
I shifted behind my friend so a group of young girls could pass and then came up beside her again. “I have to find a full-time job. And my car is dying. And my yard is beginning to look like a field of nightmares,” I said. “You know, things I’d rather ignore but just won’t go away.”
She stopped and turned to face me. “What is it you are afraid of?”
I swallowed and looked over her shoulder. Eye contact would just make me cry. “Doing things alone, but that’s not even it. I think I’m pretty independent. I guess I’m afraid of fucking it all up.”
“Explain,” she said. My friend was kind, but I could tell her bullshit-o-meter was kicking into gear.
“What if I end up at a job I hate? Or what if I take too long to find something? What if I can’t afford to fix this car? Or if I’m honest, I really don’t feel comfortable driving it anymore, but with no full-time job how can I get something new? And as for the yard, well, I think I can handle that eventually. It just makes me overwhelmed thinking about it.”
“I see why you were so quiet. Holding all those ‘what ifs’ in your mind really stifles the tongue.”
“It stifles everything,” I said quietly.
She started walking again, placing the dandelion behind her ear. “Yes, exactly,” she said. “It will all get done, you know.”
“I know. I just feel like an asshole.”
She laughed, my potty-mouth always amused her. “Thinking about it all at once makes you feel scared.”
“Right,” she said.
Ugh. This was the part where I always hoped she’d just tell me what to do. She never did.
“I have to surrender,” I whispered.
“I’m making myself into a nice, little victim here with my first-world problems.”
“Problems are illusions no matter which ‘world’ you live in. It’s how you feel about your so-called problem that counts.”
“I feel overwhelmed. I’m afraid of messing up because I’m afraid that will mean I’m not a good person…not capable, not lovable. Being a victim seems easier, but I feel awful.” I tripped just then and my foot caught a bright red tulip that had overgrown onto the sidewalk. “Damnit.”
I picked up the smooshed flower and examined it in my hand. I could press it at home. I could salvage some of its beauty. “Nothing.”
“Fear keeps your world small and yet, somehow, unmanageable,” she said with admiring eyes.
“Love opens up possibilities you mean. I’ve been here before. If I let all of this go, guidance will come a little at a time. It’ll all get done.” I put the flower in a tissue and placed it in my purse. I wiped my hands on my jeans. “And I’m not an asshole.”
Again, my friend giggled. “No darling, you’re just learning. You’re on your way home.”