Follow the flowery, uphill, windy road

The mean streets of Berlin are getting a bit softer. It’s April. One month before May, the month with the most randomly irrelevant holidays for this anti-religion, radically salacious, hedonistic world capital. In a few days we’ll be celebrating Ascension Thursday, and then Pentecost.

I’m sure these two very mystical Christian celebrations attaining the status of ‘day off’ has nothing to do with religious fervor and everything to do with their conveniently falling in the month of May. Ask any random Berliner on the street and I guarantee they’ll have no idea what either holiday is. Other than a day off to celebrate the notable return of a life worth living after months of cold, wet, grumpy gray.

Peonies

I personally don’t care about the holidays or the days off. April marks the return of something else I love. The Pfingstrose. The Pentecost rose, otherwise known as the peony. I’ve always loved them. Unlike that other rose, the peony starts off totally unassuming. A closed up little ball of nothing. And then it bursts into an unabashed and glorious explosion of petal upon petal. They’re gorgeous!

Berlin is a very seasonal city. Unlike the US, where it is bizarrely possible, and a bit disturbing, to find watermelon and strawberries year-round, Berlin produce and flora are governed by the elements. From October to February my apartment is consistently drenched in the pungent scent of lilies. But April… that’s when my peonies are finally back.

It’s not like I miss them per se. I don’t sit in my living room pining for the spring and all its peony-glory. I don’t glance disdainfully at my lilies thinking about how better times are just around the corner. In fact, it almost always comes as a surprise that peonies are back in season again.

Like yesterday when I walked into the flower shop. I had every intention of getting tulips. Until I saw the peonies. And now I’ll keep buying them until I show up in the flower shop one day and they’re not there. And there will be a twinge of disappointment, but things come and go and come and go.

Yep. In case you haven’t gotten it yet. This is a metaphor, not an ode to a flower. When I spotted those peonies yesterday it made me think that, more often than not, we find ourselves wanting to resist the hand we’ve been dealt, or the theoretical bouquet of flowers we’ve been given. ‘But I want this! Why me? How come? Not fair!’

Life’s path is at best unpredictable and capricious. At worst it is an uphill struggle with a Sisyphean plotline. The one constant: life IS. Just as our reactions ARE.

So I started thinking about my reactions to life’s disappointments and transposing them onto my non-theoretical bouquet of flowers.

‘There are no avocados at the supermarket.’ Deep wave of depression, thoughts about the Universe conspiring against me and my future happiness.

‘It’s raining.’ Hopeless tears of frustration and despair over the lost opportunity.

And all of a sudden my overreactions to life’s ups and downs seemed just as ridiculous as a cloudy day-inspired ice-cream bingefest. Because just as the laws of nature govern food and the weather, they also shift our lives to a certain degree. The places we go, the people we meet, the experiences we have. They’re the result of choices made and life presenting us with exactly what we need to grow. The laws of attraction drawing us towards what we need to become the best versions of ourselves.

And how we react to these shifts is all on us. We can help things fall into place by painstakingly clearing space for change and welcoming all the lessons we’re given, even though they really suck sometimes! Or we can bawl and scream and hold on to things that don’t make sense, leaving no room for what’s meant to be.

I have realized that there is no point in fighting the natural course of things. Though I of course still do. Because I’m human. And I allow myself that silliness with loving kindness and forgiveness. But then I try my best to pull myself together. Because there’s peace in believing that things turn out as they should. There’s solace and comfort in trusting your heart. There’s relief in knowing that some sort of wisdom deep inside of you has got it all under control.

So I will relish peony season for the next few weeks. And when it’s over I’ll know that this is just one part of a cycle of endings and new beginnings. And somewhere down the line — God please let it be a somewhat straight and flat line! — it will all reveal itself, petal by beautiful petal.