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'Cost of Loving Me' by Lisa Guest

Even though I’m not a botanist or a flower expert, and I don’t have a green thumb or a garden of my own, I do enjoy flowers. I don’t usually buy them for myself. I’ve always thought it was indulgent and wasteful because the damn things die.

Back in college there was a flower shack on the way up the hill where I used to stop after class. I’d ask the owner for the flowers he was going to throw out that night. I kept myself in bruised petals that year, and it made me happy.

In my twenties (I’m not proud to admit) I remember going out late at night with scissors and taking one rose from each garden when I could unobtrusively snag one from an unsuspecting vine.

Occasionally, when I’ve felt flush I’d splurge; back in the days when Trader Joe’s sold orchid stalks for less than five bucks for over a hundred petals (they’ve since raised the price twice).

Calla Lily Bouquet

One Sunday before Valentine’s, while breathing heavy in the final yoga pose of the class, I considered religion and therapy. I envisioned my apartment awash with Star Gazer Lilies. Coming out of the blue cocoon of class I determined that I would lavish the love I wanted upon myself... the same love I’ve fantasized another might give to me.

That Monday morning I woke early, walked into the fish market on 6th & Towne decked out in my fish boots (worn only on those wet floors) and purchased two and a half pounds of my absolute favorite meal: precious red raw sushi-grade tuna for twenty-five dollars. I then found street parking in the flower district and put forty minutes on the meter.

I explored flower shops and compared prices before paying the two-dollar entrance fee to the Flower Mart. Once inside the huge white warehouse, I searched quickly, growing more and more enchanted the longer I lingered among the blossoms. To see so much blooming... lifted me minute by minute.

A teacher in this town, Marta Monahan was quoted to have said, “Ninety percent of people don’t bloom.”

Here I was amidst bucket after bucket, row after row, and seller after seller, inhaling all the beauty and perfume of stalk and pistil waiting to be given to a loved one on this special day.

Rushing back to my car, I was bursting with joy; my arms loaded with Star Gazer and Calla lilies, yellow Spider mums and a five-dollar collection of fire-hued orchids.

A ticket waited for me on my windshield. Not a ticket for not putting enough money in the meter, but a ticket for parking in a no-parking zone from 7-9 AM. All the way home I beat myself up, “You stupid oaf...” while struggling desperately to hold on to the happiness attained by fulfilling my fantasy.

Pay the ticket and forget about it. I didn’t want to keep bumming myself out because the high I felt had been so good... but the sixty-five dollar mistake itched away at me like a shy rash. The minute I arrived home, I paid the ticket. Then I prepared the tuna. Only when I began preparing the flowers did I start to relax.

I made thirteen arrangements: flowers on the windowsill, behind the headboard, at my desk, in the bathroom, near the treadmill, and the biggest gazers standing sentry at my entry. They were also above the television and clustered around the light beside me on the bedside table. I had perfectly manifested the mental picture I’d seen and brought the reality into my home; the special scent I’d sensed when contemplating my deepest health and sweetest peace during Sunday’s savasana.

I mentioned my guilty extravagance to my therapist, telling her about the ticket too. It surprised me when she said, “I would venture to guess that at least half the women in this country would never, ever buy flowers for themselves.”

She admitted that even she stands in front of the daffodils at Trader Joe’s, and deliberates whether or not to buy ten for a dollar or if that’s too extravagant. She said, “Until recently there has been a solid direct message to women that a woman doesn’t buy her own flowers.”

She talked about the messages our ancestors gave us about saving money, and that household money wasn’t to be used for flowers. Those old messages stick unless we examine their validity and choose to consciously release rigid restrictions that might no longer be necessary. We discussed the difference between receiving professional arrangements, which arrive with sparse individuality, versus the delight of doing the choosing, and arranging for oneself.

Since my grandmother always seemed to have rose bushes blossoming, I knew flowers brought joy and were a valid occupation of time and energy. Yet, growing them in the back yard and buying from a store represent two different activities.

Perhaps I should think of creating arrangements as a meditation; like raking the sand in a Zen garden or joining a full moon circle in ritual. Perhaps as I cultivate my love for flowers, the flowers will mirror the flow of my own cyclical emergence and retreat.

Ten days later fifteen gazers still vibrantly glowed while three shy ones remained shut; not showing signs of imminent opening.

Each time I looked upon what my hands have fashioned, the muscles in my mouth move into an involuntarily smile. The bliss continued manifesting in sight, in scent, even in touch.

Like a child I was in awe when I saw how wet the center of each stargazer got in its seventh day. Like a child, I giggled when finger walking the bumpy red carpet that opens ever so slowly. I remain absolutely curious as to why some flowers open wider than the others on the same stalk. I gush with a little rush each time I find some orange pollen has fallen onto my skin or my sheets.

Having the flowers was like having beloved guests visit me for most of a month. There was work involved; keeping the water fresh, taking away flowers that were no longer thriving, picking up petals that had fallen, but none of this work bothered me. There wasn’t the necessary nagging involved when having to pour more water into my plants... plants that change so little over time. I found myself entertained to study the waxing and waning of the chosen colors and the day-to-day shifting of shapes that evolved during my time with the flowers.

At twenty-seven days… I still had eight spider mums and two stalks of orchids alive enough to cherish and bring a smile to my face. The gift I’d given myself provided the jolt of caffeine, the peace after an ecstatic yoga class, and the gentle calm felt when holding a quietly content new born baby in my arms.

The heavenly scent followed me for days. My nose became aware of many other elixirs signaling the coming of spring. I felt as if there was ether wafting in my presence that smelled as sweet as the cotton candy at a carnival. How liberating it was to know I could give this gift to myself at any time. I no longer have to wait for someone else, to depend on another’s kindness, thoughtfulness or generosity. Instead of looking gratefully at what a lover gave me, my lover is with me all the time.

All this received for thirty dollars. Perhaps it’s not such a high price to pay.

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Lisa Guest, a diarist since the age of twelve, has been a trunk writer for years and is finally attempting to share her words with the world. She does on-site stress reduction chair massage inside Los Angeles creative settings, and is concurrently writing a book about online dating. Lisa can be contacted at: leaseaguest@hotmail.com .


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