Monday, July 7, 2014

Is It Over Yet? (When I Was too Depressed to Smell the Lilacs)

One of the things I loved about the Bread Loaf-Orion Environmental Writers Conference was that there was a lilac tree just outside of the building I was staying in. Our lilacs had already gone over, but these were only halfway done, so I got an extended lilac season this year.

Lilacs were one of the early clues, a couple of years ago, that I was not just mother-exhausted, not just tired of living in a place I didn't love. There was something more going on.

Years ago we planted two lilac bushes at our house, and once they got large enough to produce flowers above deer-chomping height, they made gorgeous, fragrant bunches of blossoms.

Only I wasn't smelling them that year. I missed lilac season. I was too busy, couldn't be bothered, I don't know. I didn't take the few steps from our deck or the garage to bury my nose in lilacs, and not doing so made me feel . . . sad, depressed, resentful. Maybe other things.

I've always wavered between pansies and lilacs for my favorite flower -- pansies for their variety and fun, like playful flower-kittens with balls of string, and lilacs for their scent and abundance and their proclamation that spring has truly come. Life feels good when the lilacs are around. They're a sign that things are about to get slow and lovely and luxurious with time and sunshine and days of laughter.

When you can't appreciate that, can't feel it -- when I can't -- there's something wrong. And that year, I couldn't. Nor could I the next year. This year I made intentions. Every time I have to go out to the damn car to haul the kids somewhere (I can't wait to live in a walkable community; having to drive absolutely everywhere is no kind of freedom at all), every time I took the compost out, every time I did anything outside with the kids, I took a minute to step over and smell the lilacs. It was a bit of fake-it-till-you-make-it action, but I think it worked.

Having an extra week to stop, smell the lilacs, and smell them again, to remind myself of dark days and better ones to come, that was a gift.


Andrea Mummert said...

Hi Antonia,

I've been reading your essays on FGP and blog posts. Those about motherhood and creativity have especially connected with me.

I wanted to comment directly on your Reclaimed Ambition piece, but it seems that comments are closed, so I will let you know here that there is so much about that piece that felt familiar. I appreciated your bringing in your awareness of your father's and old relatives hardships. I think that is a common experience - to be longing or lamenting, but holding at the same time an awareness of how fortunate we really are. And, the paragraph where you list the things that have really brought you joy/ memories from the recent year -- that was a brilliant stroke! It made me want to remember to think about that on a regular basis, too. Thank you for writing and sharing. It has stayed with me...

Antonia Malchik said...

Andrea, that is so kind of you. And thoughtful. I keep coming back to the ideas in that essay, realizing it's a long road to let go of the ambition and focus on the life closer at hand. I'm still struggling with it. It's so good to know that the idea has touched others, too, some other way we can help ourselves come back to what really matters in our lives, what we want our lives to look like. Thank you for writing and sharing!