Sunday, May 6, 2012

Square Pegs and Wild Roses

I have this rose bush at the end of my deck that spent the last three years in a state of misery.  Yes, it would bloom from time to time, but it looked….well…thin…and pathetic.  I considered digging it up and replacing it with something better…..but I have an innate need to rescue pathetic things and I just didn’t have the heart to abandon it. 

The way the previous owners shaped her, I had assumed she was a traditional rose bush.  I kept her trimmed nicely, fertilized her and treated her with care…..with little results.  My hero, Ray Hunt used to say “if you do what you’ve always done, you will get what you’ve always gotten.”  So…….

Last summer, I spent time watching Ms. Rose and seeing how she behaved.  I stopped trying to tame her long shoots while still shaping her a bit so she didn’t sprawl out everywhere.   I asked myself what does she want to be.  After a couple of months of observing her natural, unmodified behavior, I realized that Rose wants to climb.  She wants to reach new heights, to explore her surroundings.  I allowed her to sprawl a little….just a little….and was rewarded with beautiful blooms and a thicker, happier rose bush.  She still looked a little haggard.

This year, I decided to support Rose – to allow her to climb, spread, and grow.  I purchased a beautiful arbor to give her limbs support.  I lovingly trained her around the iron design and let her be herself.  This year, she repayed my kindness in spades---or should I say flowers!  I have the most beautiful blooms – and buckets of them!  Rose is full and happy. 

Sometimes, we treat our relationships the same way.  We “manage” the people in our life—keeping them in the box we feel is appropriate and although they may bloom from time to time, they are a little thin and aren’t thriving they way they should.  We want to keep everyone in step and in line.  Roethke writes in his poem Dolor that he has seen the inexplicable sadness of pencils all lined up the same in their box.  In business, we have to get the right people in the right positions so they can thrive….in our organizations, we need to do the same.  The harder trick is with our personal relationships---our children, our spouses, our immediate family members.  If we are always getting frustrated and fighting against their natural tendencies, we aren’t doing anyone favors.  Sometimes we need to let others lead…..sometimes if we are gifted in planning, we need to be okay with being the one who plans everything. 

Like the roses, we need room to be ourselves and we need to allow others to do likewise…..and celebrate the blooms that reward our efforts.