Taking Charge of Your Own Happiness
When I was a child, in the early 1980’s, there was a peony farm off the road out of my subdivision in South Bend, Indiana. In the summer, around June, the field would be dotted with round purple, pink and white buds.
When the peonies began blooming, the owner of the little field cut the flowers, bundled them with rubber bands and placed them in a bucket at the edge of the field. She sold the bunches for $1 each. If she wasn’t there, there was a cigar box to place your $1, honor-system style, in.
During those peony harvesting months, my mom, in her wood-paneled station wagon, would regularly pull into the little drive of the farm and let me pick out a bunch and place the dollar in the cigar box. Their fragrance filled the car as we drove home from our errands, with our bonus bunch of flowers sitting atop the paper grocery bag.
To my memory, my mother wasn’t much of a flower gardener. She grew vegetables occasionally, but not flowers. I got the impression it was a waste of time and effort.
But at $1 a bunch, the exuberant peonies were an affordable luxury.
As I grew older, went to college and got married, the memory of those lush flowers stuck with me. Even stronger, though, was the belief that cut flowers, if they cost more than $1, were a luxury I could not afford.
My soon-to-be ex-husband grew up with the same ethos. Purchased cut flowers were for very special occasions, and even then were an unnecessary expense.
So, I waited for those special annual or semi-annual events when the doorbell rang and the delivery person would hand me an arrangement. Or for my husband to come home on my birthday with a bouquet.
As the years went by, those occurrences became less frequent. I’d remind him that I’d like flowers for my birthday or anniversary. After we settled into a house, he planted rosebushes for me instead. They were infinitely less wasteful, but they rarely yielded the regular gorgeous bouquet on my table or mantle that I wanted.
I was always disappointed when I didn’t get those flowers. I had a growing collection of vases ready to be filled.
Eventually, more than 20 years into our marriage, I started filling the vases myself. I bought sunflowers and placed them in a vase on our dining room table. The sunflowers were affordable and lasted at least a week. I felt good about the expense of $7 every few weeks for the beauty and joy they brought. But, I still felt a little judged, and wasteful.
When my husband and I separated, I took a wide-mouthed white Lenox pitcher with me to the apartment where I live part time. On my first week in the apartment, I bought a bouquet of flowers to fill that pitcher, for my enjoyment alone.
Every other week, part of my routine was to buy flowers for myself —sometimes sunflowers— but often a slightly more expensive bunch of assorted blooms. And in the summer, I always buy peonies if I can find them. They aren’t $1 a bunch anymore, but for $8.99 at Trader Joes, they are still a good value.
A few months into this new ritual, I realized I should buy flowers every week, whether I’m alone at the apartment, or with my daughters in the house. We all deserve more beauty in our lives.
Sometimes the rosebushes at the house provide, and bought flowers are unnecessary. Either way, the flowers are always on my mind – a physical representation of the beauty I want in my life and of my growing sense of self worth: I am, and my joy, is worth at least $10 a week.
Of course, the flowers, or lack of, weren’t the cause of our pending divorce. But, they are symbolic of the unnecessary resentment that grew in me because he didn’t do the small things that, all along, I now realize I should have done for myself.
So, my friends, don’t wait on someone else to do something that you want – or even for their permission to do it.
Each of us is responsible for our own happiness. So go for a walk, go to the beach, take a class, scream, eat the cake, embrace a friend.
And go buy the damn flowers for yourself!