The writing on the lawn

As you all know, something challenging happened this week in our lives. I go back and forth between being quite public and forthright about what’s happening in my life, and then wanting a sliver of privacy. Maybe I’ll share more about this, but not yet. For now, specifics are besides the point.

Wednesday, just as I opened a grant letter from Solly and Sammy’s Foundation for Peace announcing we’d won a sizeable grant for expanding our yoga teaching to at-risk groups, the wind was knocked out of me in learning some bad news. (No worries – there is nothing life threatening. For that I feel thanks.)

I closed my office door. I let a few tears spill. I turned on some music and breathed, riding the waves of that until I felt like I could breathe normally again, without the effort required to keep that from escalating into a panic. I went home early.

Shortly thereafter there was a knock at the door. A man dressed in painter’s clothes asked me if the car parked on the street was mine. I nodded. “I think I backed into it.” The dent was significant – a giant pock mark on the back bumper. He gave me his information and apologized. I was so out of sorts I nearly felt like waving him on; never mind! It’s just a dent! (But then it was bigger than I thought.) He left five minutes later and I walked back from the street towards my lawn, not knowing whether to laugh or cry, or both. And that’s when the reminder – you are stronger than you think you are – flashed loudly in yellow.

I have to break here for a moment to tell you that last weekend – during my first bout of yard work, the grueling one that was both fun but painful for my injured back – I came face to face with the realities of dandelion weeds. Those suckers are like claws, leaves expanding outward and roots digging into the earth with the tenacity and determination rare in the plant world (or animal and human world, for that matter). First I tried to pull them out of the patio, from between slabs of stone and brick. It’s incredible what happens when you rip off a dandelion and see its stem – in some cases, like an inch wide, and solid white, like some type of thick tubing underground. I went to Lowe’s. I bought Round-up and Weed-be-gone (so I could kill them in the front yard) even though I regret using chemicals and could hear Mike telling me what a hypocrite I was after my recent tirade on the dangers of using dryer sheets. Oh well. I can’t have this yard looking a mess. I emptied an entire bottle of each, one on the back patio, one on the front lawn, trying to exterminate the dandelions – even though I actually like them. I sprayed so much that my thumbs and palms of my hands would later be very sore.

We all know this about dandelions. The symbolism is not hard to grasp. They are tenacious and difficult and have an extraordinary will to survive. And they do. They don’t even earn the distinction of making it into the flower kingdom, but they are well-respected – by gardeners, who know their power, and by kids. Kids think they’re awesome for obvious reasons. They’re everywhere. They’re reliable. They leave yellow streaks on your arms and are good for seven-year-old tattooing.

But this week the dandelions in my front yard did nothing but mock me. Every morning on my way out to work there they were, flourishing right in my face, despite the chemicals I dumped into my grass. Now what? “I’ll deal with you later…” I’d mutter, trampling them underfoot.
Wednesday when I spun around after taking the insurance information from the (polite and considerate) man who hit my car, the dandelions spotting my lawn were smiling at me, in full splendor, almost dancing. It took all I had to not just lay down in the yard beside them and cry. But we have neighbors – most of whom I have not met yet, and the last thing I need on top of everything is to have them peer out the window and see me sprawled in the grass weeping and cupping dandelions to my chest like I’m tripping on acid.

But it was just what I needed. My instructor – in the words of her instructor – would tell us (typically during a posture where you were on your very last breath or ounce of effort) – “you’re stronger than you think you are.” And she was right. We are. We are always stronger, even in the face of obstacles. We typically don’t tap into those reserves until the shit hits the fan, because we don’t have to. The dandelion weeds, with leaves outstretched like lion’s manes (I think they had actually grown larger in three days, just to rub it in) reminded me that resilience and tenacity are more important than nearly anything else. You just have to keep moving forward, because what else is there to do? Lay down and die? Curl up and give up? Or keep shining forward with bright yellow hope.