Yellow Daffodils and Purple Tulips

This weekend, I planted about a hundred daffodil bulbs, just as I have done every fall for the past nine years. It is a ritual that reminds me that spring will come again even as the days get shorter and darker with the approach of winter.

A neighbor walked by a few years ago when I was planting. She commented that she already knew that, once again, I was planting daffodil bulbs. She also said that she thought some purple tulips in my front flower bed would be a refreshing change.

At the time, I was irritated by her comments. Truthfully, I was more than irritated; I was angry. I thought what she said was highly insulting. I appreciate now that my anger was in response to a threat to my ego. I was insecure and worried about what she thought about me, and I manifested anger to protect myself. And almost every year since then, I have done the same thing: I remember her comments when doing my bulb planting, and I get angry all over again for the same reasons.

But not this weekend. This weekend, for the first time, I focused on why daffodils make me so happy in the spring that I am inspired to plant more every fall. For example, I like that daffodils are yellow, a color that makes me smile. I like that I am never quite sure which bulbs will sprout and which ones were dug up by squirrels, carried away, and never seen again. I like that one of my favorite sights is seeing those tiny sprouts breaking through that little bit of snow that has not yet melted. I like that sprouting daffodils are the first sign of spring. My joy was my sole focus.

When I started writing this post, I thought what made this weekend different was that I no longer cared what my neighbor thought. As I wrote, I realized it was not that at all. Instead, it was that I finally cared about what I THOUGHT.

I have been told for years that one of the great benefits of aging is that you no longer care what other people think. But I do not see it this way. Instead, I realize that I have finally reached the point in my life where I am so connected to my own values and worth that someone else’s opinion no longer threatens my sense of self.

I also now understand that valuing myself does not mean I do not care about other people’s thoughts. It means just the opposite. Feeling secure has made the opinions of others so much more valuable to me. The ability to truly hear what someone else has to say without a threat to my ego provides me with knowledge I would not otherwise have. It also helps me to build solid, mutually supportive relationships. Relationships where both parties can speak freely and be seen and heard, without fear of jeopardizing the relationship, are SO POWERFUL. These relationships provide a “safe space” and make us better than we could ever be alone.

Today, when I thought back to that original conversation with my neighbor, I heard what she said differently. I did not hear her say that I was dull and worthless because I planted yellow daffodils every year. Instead, what I heard her say was that she likes purple tulips. So, I have added “buy purple tulip bulbs” to my to-do list.

I am not planting purple tulip bulbs this year because I am worried about whether my neighbor values me. I am making the addition because I VALUE HER. I want her to know that I see and hear her.

I am planting these other bulbs because I can value myself and others simultaneously. We are stronger together. There is space for everyone. Just like there is room in my front flower bed for yellow daffodils AND purple tulips.

Bright Yellow Daffodils and Tulips in Bloom in a Garden, April 2021