Have you ever had the fun of picking wild blueberries? I grew up in the
Midwest where they flourish and, if my brother and I picked enough, Mom would turn them into a pie. It was hard to pick enough because instant gratification took over, so we ate as we picked, immediately enjoying their sweetness. As an adult I am aware of more than their sweet flavor. Nutritionists say these little berries are packed with important nutrients, including the highest level of antioxidants in any food. Domestic berries are also nourishing, but do not contain the same high level of nutrients as wild blueberries.
Wild blueberries have a history thousands of years old, and have survived
because of their ability to adapt to climate change, and their capacity for
recovering after trauma. Many plants are eliminated by fire, but the wild
blueberry plant can be completely burned away and still sprout and regrow right up through the ashes. In fact, it will come back even stronger and healthier because, as it grows, it uses the nutrients in the ashes to feed its new growth. The plant doesn’t just survive — it thrives after being completely destroyed!
How many of us have had the unexpected (fire) catch us by surprise. It’s the
phone call alerting us that a loved one has been in a serious accident, or the
announcement from our trusted spouse that they are in love with someone else. It’s the diagnosis that calls us to look at our mortality, or the loss of a
needed job. Any loss can make us feel like our whole world has changed, and we have hit rock bottom.
The best thing we can do for ourselves is not to pretend everything is okay
when it isn’t. There’s no prize for suffering secretly. Uttering the magic word “help” opens the pathway for support, understanding, and love to guide us into all we need to survive and thrive. Friends After Diagnosis is one of the best places to say “help.” When we feel we’re in the valley, we sometimes wish we were on the mountaintop, but on the mountaintop the air is thin and it’s hard to breath. We can only stand still and try not to fall. A nourishing river runs in the valley, and that is where the power to overcome is found.
Author Glennon Doyle Melton writes, “We want to be on the mountaintops, but we are not called to be victorious. We’re called to be wise, strong, and kind. We are admired on the mountaintops, but we are beloved in the valleys.” It’s when we are called to unbecome everything we thought we were and start over again that we do our hardest but most essential work. The pain of loss brings uncertainty, and our instinct is to scramble away from it and get back to what is familiar. But rushing out of the valley means we miss gathering the wisdom, strength, courage, and kindness needed to take us through surviving to thriving.
Like the wild blueberry growing through the ashes of what was, we can sit by the river and claim its gifts. Like the wild blueberry that comes back stronger than before, we can turn whatever shape our “fire” takes into the
accomplishment of brand new growth. And, like the wild blue berry, we can
return after our trauma to the nourishment of ancient wisdom that knows how to thrive. Who knew wild blueberries had so much to say!
Until next time – Sylvia