I pruned my roses today. It’s a necessary yearly task, but one I don’t relish. As a result, I’m a bit late in tackling it this year. Ideally, I would have finished all of this by the beginning of March … or even by the middle of the month. But it’s been cold and a bit snowy, and I’ve been sick. So here we are, running toward the end of March in a headlong rush to get everything done. But that’s all right. Sometimes, life is glorious and comes off without a hitch. At other times, it’s zany and strange, without making a lot of sense, and it refuses to run on anything but its own timetable. I try to tell myself that’s what makes things fun, but I don’t always believe it.
I haven’t always been the best keeper of my roses. The bushes in front of my house are ten years old, and, when I first planted them, I thought I could get by without trimming them during the growing season and without pruning them every winter. Part of it was that all of it seemed like so much work. And, of course, there were the thorns, too. But, mostly, it felt cruel to me. To see my beautiful rose budding out with new growth, only to have me snip all of it away, leaving her looking like a pile of sticks sticking up out of the mud, felt like the height of meanness. Wouldn’t it be better to leave her alone? To let her grow as she wanted? To let her be free? In the beginning, that’s what I did, because I couldn’t bear to cut her back so drastically.
But I was wrong about this. Roses need to be trimmed back and pruned so they will continue to grow. Cutting them back redirects growth and energy throughout the plant, and it keeps the wood alive and thriving. And my mistakes have left dead wood throughout my beautiful rose bush — places where new stems and blooms can never grow.
I think life is a lot like a rose bush. At first, life is free and easy. It’s nothing but blooms, blooms, blooms all the time; everything is fun and pretty. But it doesn’t stay that way. Stuff crowds in and begins to take over. There are people who weigh you down with their negativity, sarcasm, and hostility. There are doubts and fears, which take away all the joy and light that make life worth living. There are responsibilities and requirements. There is self-hatred, anger, and bitterness. There are people who pretend to be supportive, but who suck all the emotional well-being out of your world. And on and on and on. The parade of negativity never seems to end.
It’s hard to trim those things out of our lives. It’s especially hard when the negative things weighing you down are people that just aren’t any good for you. It hurts. Unless you’re completely lacking in compassion, it doesn’t feel good to think you might have to hurt another person. And it takes discipline and determination to keep from falling into all the old traps and snares. But it has to be done. No matter how hard it is or how much it hurts. Because it’s impossible to keep dreams and creativity alive with all that other stuff in the way.
Today, as I trimmed my roses, I cut away some of the new growth and the dead wood, too. I thought about how much better off she would be once our Spring and Summer weather arrives. I thought about how I was helping her to save her energy for the places where growth could happen, instead of forcing her to waste time in spots that were beyond help. And I thought about myself, too. How it would be nice to cut away some of the dead wood in my creative life so that, finally, I could bloom.