As a result of several mild days with more sunlight, I noticed the first evidences of blooming in my neighborhood. Then, as is usually the case at this point in the calendar, more winter weather came. Now I am worrying about those early bloomers, whether they will be hardy enough to withstand the shocks of cold and keep blooming.
My worries are the predictable response of someone who, for most of my life, has tended to be a late bloomer. I never understand the early bloomers, how they can be ready to leap full tilt into an undertaking, a fresh start, a wholly different path; I find them impetuous, maybe even foolish, though I have to admire their willingness to take a risk. My own style is to hold back, do more research, wait for God or the universe to give me a sign. And even then I am likely to wait a while longer just to be sure.
For I want a level of certainty that life seldom if ever brings, a certainty of being right, of success (or at least not failure) before I head out. Our culture talks about “a sure thing,” urges us to “have all your ducks in a row” and “cover all your bases,” implying that we can indeed be justified in expecting success in an endeavor, rightness in a choice or a cause, if we just take the time to consider everything. When we fall short of what we intended, we may hear the criticism that “you didn’t do your homework,” as though our preparation was inadequate—and again the implication that with adequate preparation, we would surely have succeeded.
Yet such assurances carry the faulty assumption that it is possible at times to control all elements of ourselves, our lives, our surroundings. And though experience will show us repeatedly the falseness of this assumption as we see events unfold we never could have predicted, people behave in ways we have never seen before, reactions in ourselves we have not known were in us, still—the allure of total control remains.
Contrary to this image of control, spiritual traditions of all kinds insist that our capacity for control is quite limited and much of experience is outside human control, unfolding as mystery. That mystery, some say, can be trusted, that it may even hold our best interests at heart. Yet we will not be able to manipulate it to suit our ends, ever—and in fact, the more intense our efforts to manipulate the mystery, the more it is likely to upend us.
The early bloomers around me are hanging in there, a bit droopy but otherwise intact. I am rooting for their survival and trying to follow their example, to be more willing to plunge ahead even when I cannot say for sure that I see my way clearly. A late winter storm may yet prove my undoing. But waiting till all is assured means I am waiting forever, and waiting forever seems a waste of a good lifetime.