From Bitter Comes Sweet

Every bitter situation has at least one sweet moment. In this story, the moment came in the form of a golden forsythia.

It was the spring of 2010, and I was about to put the house my mother and I once shared up for sale. We had moved to a larger place about 18 months earlier just as the market started a downward trend. I had intended to sell the smaller house then, but decided to try renting it out in the hope of an economic upswing. Ultimately, I exhausted my resources and was forced to short sell.

My sister and nephew visited from Oregon around the time my tenants moved out. They volunteered to help me clean out the thigh-high weeds that overwhelmed the back yard. On the third day, while silently cursing the renters’ neglect, I stopped in sudden surprise.

“Leslie!” I called to my sister. “Come over here.”

“What are we looking at?” she asked as she peered over my shoulder.

“Mom’s little forsythia. I forgot all about it. I thought it was dying when we moved out, but it’s green and has new growth. I’m digging it up and taking it home.”

My mother was thrilled when I transplanted the forsythia into the garden outside the living room window. She enjoyed its bell-shaped flowers and stunning arches three more seasons before she passed away. It remains a favorite of mine; not just because it’s beautiful, but because of what it represents.

From bitter comes sweet. From the dark enters the dawn. After the winter comes the spring. It’s like clockwork. Good always emerges from a challenge.

Challenging isn’t a strong enough word to describe the last two years of my career. Abominable is closer. Most of it had to do with a disastrous change of leadership, but during that time I was also diagnosed with cataracts and breast cancer. Early retirement was a chance to escape the collective pressure.

Now, looking back on my first year as a retiree, it’s been so much more than an escape. It’s been a new start. A rebirth. I’ve taken enrichment classes, read several books, started work on a novel I’ve been wanting to write for the last five years, brought order back to our overgrown front and side yards, and started this blog. My vision is better than ever, and my cancer hasn’t returned.

I can identify with the little forsythia I rescued from our old house. Like it, I wasn’t dying. Just forgotten. Or neglected. Or overwhelmed. Or a bit of all three. All I needed was a change of scenery to find myself and flourish.

I know there are scores of people struggling like I was — forgotten, neglected, overwhelmed. My heart goes out to each and every one of them. As we count down to 2019, my wish is that everyone in the throes of bitter tastes something sweet, everyone in the midst of darkness awakens in the light, and that winter gives way to a stunningly beautiful spring.

Forsythia 2013

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