A little fun fact: when we moved into the new house all I wanted was to grow some sunflowers outside my window. I’ve been waiting and waiting. I have 4 that are growing! There is one that isn’t like the rest. It’s almost ready to bloom and it’s huge. It grows so much in a day! The other day I was watching the sunflower out of my window and I started thinking about how in life we anticipate the end result. We get so focused on getting our prayers answered right now, getting a diagnosis right now, life returning back to normal, waiting for the flowers to bloom now. I was hit with two different perspectives that relate to my chronic illnesses.
I look at the sunflower and think about how long it takes to grow and bloom. I compare it to my journey with getting a diagnosis. It seems like it’s taking forever. I also look at the sunflower and think about how things change so fast. The sunflower grows really fast. My symptoms can come on really fast and new ones can pop up at any moment. This pandemic also got bad quickly.
I was trying to figure out what to write for this week. I always seem to get my ideas right at bedtime. I kept thinking there is no way I’m writing about how a sunflower changed my perspective or put things into perspective for me. Who thanks a plant for teaching them a life lesson? Here we are now. You maybe thinking, why am I going to read about how a sunflower helped her life? Just hold on because you might need these perspectives also.
I’m going to reflect on how it seems like it takes forever to grow. My chronic illnesses journey shares this path of the sunflower. Doctors told me several times it may be 4-6 years to get the autoimmune diagnosis. That is a long time of waiting. I’m on year 4 now. It can seem like nothing really changes and there hasn’t been much growth. There are days when I truly feel this and feel so hopeless and low. I always used to say “now we’re back to square one.” My counselor has helped me realize it isn’t back to square one.
I think of the sunflower stem too. It’s growing and it has some leaves on it already. That’s progress, it may be small, but it’s moving forward. I don’t have the big diagnosis yet, but I have little leaves. I mean I have diagnoses that helps us get to the big diagnosis. Without the “stem” there would be no leaves and nothing to bloom. I so often just want to get the diagnosis but I don’t want to be misdiagnosed.
Think of the sunflower again, the growth may seem slow, but when you think about the seed and what’s going on underground so much has already happened. We can’t see all the work that’s happening underground – but it’s there. Back to square one always meant to me we’ve got to start all over. My counselor has helped me realize it isn’t square one. I’ll give you an example. I’ve just been frustrated with all of my stomach stuff. It was a series of tests that of course came back negative which meant we had to “start over”. I learned we weren’t starting over. We were able to cross things off. We know I don’t have this so now what can we look for? We may go back to the drawing board but we aren’t starting over.
Then on the other hand I see the sunflower and think about how fast things can change. I know I was just talking about how slow a sunflower grows. It also grows fast in a day.
So I usually check my sunflower in the morning. I check it again in the afternoon/evening and we can’t believe how much it grows! It seems so fast. It reminds me of how fast things can change. My symptoms can change so fast. I have POTS so literally I can go from feeling ok to passing out within 15 minutes if I’m standing. In the morning I can be stiff and in quite a bit of pain; and then in the afternoon I’m moving a bit better. Then comes the end of the day and I’m exhausted. I’ve had times when I’m having a good day and then a migraine hits and it hits fast. I have to go to sleep, grab an ice pack, my CBD cream, and sleep it off. I can go from needing my walker to needing my wheelchair the rest of the day. I can have a good day and the next day be stuck in bed with a horrible flare-up.
I also see how fast things can change in a good way. I can have a good phone call or message with a doctor. I can go on steroids and they help me feel better fast. I can lay down and get my heart rate back to normal and rest up for the evening. I can go from having a lot of anxiety to being able to calm myself back down with my coping skills within minutes. When I’m having an allergic reaction I take liquid Benadryl and it calms it all down fast.
Then I think of how fast November 8, 2013 went. When I found my Dad and he wasn’t breathing. The next few months everything seemed like a blur. The world was moving but we weren’t ready. My Dad was taken so fast and so early. It changed my life forever. I then think of how long it’s been since I’ve laughed with my Dad or gotten a hug. This November will be 7 years. That feels like a lifetime ago. It’s so interesting to me how something can seem so quick and sudden but at the same time it feels like it’s been a long time.
My one sunflower has been growing a lot and fast and it’s changing quickly. The other three seem to barely be growing. If I could put my feelings of grief into a picture this would be it.
I also looked at the sunflower and thought about the pandemic. It seems like we are waiting forever to “bloom” and to return back to normal. We’re waiting on a vaccine. I look back and see all the things this pandemic has caused us to talk about or enjoy more. I’m not saying God planned for this pandemic. I don’t believe He causes pain. This happened and He is there to comfort us and walk with us. My counselor has started helping me see good things in bad situations and it’s very hard for me. In this case I look at all the “leaves” that grew while we are still waiting on it to “bloom”.
I’ve learned to be even more grateful for this house and my family. I’m so thankful for technology to keep in touch with friends and family. This extra time has me more focused on God than ever. I’m doing bible studies and devotions and my heart is craving God. I’m thankful that I can stay safe. I’m also thankful for the outdoors more than ever. I like to sit outside (when it’s cool) and really pay attention to what’s going on and relax. We’ve enjoyed some car rides through the country with the windows down. I’ve learned to leave my phone down and that I don’t need it all the time.
I, like many others, have also grown a lot. We appreciate each other even more and maybe we extend kindness even farther now. We pray for people we don’t even know. There have been really heavy topics that have pushed us to look at our life and re-evaluate.
I’m still learning and listening to Black voices. I’m reading books. I’ve learned it’s not enough to say I’m not racist. I am anti-racist. Black lives matter and they need us to lift their voices and show support.
We’ve realized how much our votes matter and how we can change the world together.
Then a couple weeks ago we were hit with heavy stuff again. I know child sex trafficking has been going on for a long time. I’ve listened to people speak on that topic who help save the kids. Then we started hearing about Wayfair. I’m not here to say if it’s true or not. I do know that it pushed us to have harder conversations. We have to do more and demand action be taken. This is happening right in front of our eyes.
I’m not saying these things were brought to our attention only because of the pandemic. We knew these things were happening but we got busy with our life. As most things are closed we have way less distractions and we can think more and have deep and hard conversations with each other. I have done a lot of self evaluating about how I’m changing moving forward. The best thing we can do for one another is to listen to each other.
The pandemic has also forced us to get creative. I love when people do the drive by birthday parties. We visit loved ones through a window. We visit with neighbors, friends, or family outside at a safe distance. People have made meals for those who need help, or just to say hey don’t worry about dinner tonight I’ve got it for you. We’ve gained more compassion and caring about one another. We’ve realized how much we love sports and we started to watch re-runs of past March Madness games. Then finally baseball is back! Some of the stadiums have cardboard cutouts of fans as they play in front of no fans right now. People have donated masks to people who need them and to the wonderful health care workers. We’ve ordered more sweats and sweatshirts and pjs then we would probably like to admit. Stores have gotten creative with having an at home collection or a cozy collection. The fair was cancelled but they still set up some food to make and cars could drive through. Teachers were also very creative this spring with virtual learning.
So like I said I don’t think this pandemic was planned, but since it was here we all made something good come out of it. We appreciate essential workers more than ever. We’re getting more creative, and we’ve had tough conversations that have helped us grow and take action.
So I’ve learned quite a lot from watching a sunflower grow. Sometimes it’s exciting to feel the anticipation of the end result. We remember all the growth that has happened. It can feel like a long time or it can go by super fast.
I just want to leave you with this. It may seem like you’ve been waiting forever but I can promise you when it blooms you won’t forget all the little moments of growth you’ve already had leading up to the bloom.
“For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the sovereign Lord will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations.” – Isaiah 61:11
This post contains no medical advice.