Dead flowers are absolutely beautiful to me. There is a point at which they stop blooming and start getting darker and dryer, and they freeze in time. They hit a point where they are brittle and fragile, but they don’t completely decay, they are frozen in a moment past their prime and stop changing at a rate that you can see from day to day. That imperfect beauty is haunting to me, even something that has used up all it’s energy and potential for growth can still be aesthetically pleasing. They stay lovely for much longer when they are dead then they ever did while alive, still adding a morbid beauty to a room that can last for years before they inevitably crumble into shapeless organic matter, and even that can provide nutrients for new growth.
I didn’t like getting flowers for the longest time, I felt betrayed by the lifelessness of them. It seemed sad, a burden to get something with a clock ticking down to the end of it’s life. They had been picked, they were no longer part of something living, but they were still alive for a short while longer. Once they were cut, the rest of their life was ticking down to their eventual death, but that death was a shadow that was so close now, visible in every facet of their beauty. I couldn’t see the worth in something that had such a clear and obvious end stamp on it, a short term pleasure that would be over after one brief glorious bloom of color and brightness.
I felt the same way about relationships, my measure for success was often longevity. I endured years in relationships that were toxic and incompatible because I knew that I had to make it work or else we had failed. I remember when I finally broke up with my girlfriend Nova, we had been fighting almost daily for years, since a few months after the relationship had began. We had done so much damage to each other, she had cheated, I had been controlling, she had lied repeatedly, I had gotten nasty and slung insults, and it culminated in a night where she hit me during one of our fights and I was just done. I spoke to my other partners after, told them I thought this was finally it and I had to end things, it had gone to far. They said it had gone to far a long time ago, it shouldn’t have taken the abuse becoming physical on her part for us to split, we had been emotionally abusing each other for years. They told me how they had been trying to be supportive, but watching us hurl ourselves at each other in a furious battle of passion and anger for years had been so devastating and stressful that they had almost walked away from it all and me with it, just to be out of the chaos. I hadn’t known the effect it was having, but it shook me. I had almost torn down my whole world at the time just to try and maintain a relationship that was an exploding star, brilliantly bright as it imploded, but obvious to everyone else it was about to consume us in a black hole. Even during the relationship, we had recognized the parts of it that were unhealthy and the cause of most of our fights, and had talked about ending those parts and transitioning to another type of dynamic, but each time one of us suggested that, the other would fight it vehemently, though we both knew it would have been the healthier option. The idea of losing something, of part of our dynamic changing, disappearing, was too painful a loss to bear. We didn’t want something dead, something gone, a constant reminder of what once was and could have been. We didn’t want the end of one part of the dynamic that so early on was clearly not working, to be the dead flowers on our mantle. So instead we burnt it all to the ground. Looking back, a relationship with dead flowers, where a part of our dynamic that had been given as a gift but had ended and was only left to look at and remember the beauty of, would have been better then us burning the whole fucking house down.
I’m not sure when exactly it changed, but I’ve learned to love getting flowers. I love the moment where they are presented, the brilliant colors and softness of the petals, the perfume of life at it’s peak. I love enjoying the brightness they bring, and their heady scents that transform the whole atmosphere of a room. I love the slow death and decay, and that moment where they have past their peak and are now dark and dry and haunting, but still beautiful. I adore dead flowers, lovely in a different way then they were when alive, but no longer sad to me, no longer a burden of something gone so quickly.
I feel differently about relationships these days as well. I do value longevity when it makes sense, in the same way I value an herb garden that renews each year just as much as I value the dead roses on my alter. I do not measure the success of a relationship based on how long it lasts though. I am happy to go into dynamics that I recognize may not be permanent, and endings and change are not a thing I fear to a point that I would rather endure pain or abuse or toxicity rather then face them. These days when I begin a relationship, I am honest to myself and to my partner that it may not last forever and that is okay, we focus on making it functional and enriching and healthy for us both, rather then making it endure. When problems arise we work through them, and we lay out all options on the table. Compromise, finding mutual understandings, accepting each others boundaries, changing expectations, talking through hardship, these are all viable options. Ending a part or all of the dynamic, transitioning the dynamic to something different, allowing for the death of one thing and even the possibility that it may nourish the growth of another, these are all viable options as well. Some of my most beautiful and enriching dynamics these days are ones that started out with entirely different structures and parameters, but were allowed to organically change over time. I no longer try to fight change as though it were an enemy to be conquered or a failure to be avoided. I no longer avoid relationships that may not last forever either, and I love receiving flowers now even though they will die, and in both I now have so many more beautiful things in my life then I did before.
One more thing has changed, as I said at the beginning, I still find flowers to be beautiful and appealing after they have died. It used to be when relationships ended, I would plow forward into the next one, needing my fix of something vibrant and at it’s peak of life. I like looking at my dead flowers now, and I also enjoy looking back at the relationships that have ended, the ones that peacefully decayed, and the ones where we burnt the fucking house down around us. There is so much to be learned, so much personal growth to be had, and so much tragic beauty in pain and parting of ways. I am not afraid of it anymore, I don’t mind sitting with my pain and the ways in which I royally fucked up. I made so many mistakes and I allow myself that now, I can be an imperfect person who was fragile and brittle and broke all over people who deserved much better. I can become a stronger and more resilient person, one who grows sturdy roots and renews myself in healthier soil, but I can look back at my dead flowers and my lost loves and remember those lovely moments in the sun and the dark ones as we fought decay. There is nothing wrong with the passage of time, with endings and beginnings and short lived loves. I like to examine my past, I don’t wallow in it, but I open my eyes and allow myself to see it. And I do really love dead flowers and all the life they remind me of.