I've never been fond of birds of paradise. Too showy they are, I've decided, even as a single bloom brightening an otherwise sedate bouquet.
I was therefore surprised when, on my morning cab ride to the hotel from SAN, I was completely charmed by those planted in medians and flower beds, the flocks of flowers lifting their noses to the sun, completely unselfconscious in the warmth and brightness.
I even smiled at the dying blooms, their petals droopy and brown, as it made the bloom look more relaxed, having enjoyed its time in the sun and been content to grow in a less-pretty way, even surrounded by hues of vivid orange and blue from neighboring stems.
"Was that OK?" My partner-in-work asked as we drove away from one of the multiple meetings he'd arranged.
"Of course," I replied easily, thinking we were well-matched professionally. I like to think we're both wickedly smart and rather charming about it. We giggle and plot strategy. We offer honest feedback and discuss strengths and weaknesses of internal efforts. And I love working with him - consider him a brilliant colleague and trusted friend.
"I have a problem," he admitted as we waited in the airport one day and, distracted, I offered a wry comment that he didn't get to have problems. Problems were my area of expertise. I glanced up to see a slight smile stretch his lips and abandoned my task (I was probably looking for my drivers license again) and turned to face him.
"What's up, dearest?" I inquired and listened while he explained. I asked a few clarifying questions and offered a few expressions of understanding and paused to think when he finished.
"Well, kiddo," I began affectionately, "you know I'm of the emotional variety myself." He smiled and nodded and I grinned at him, unselfconscious about my own showy - and not always attractive - nature in the presence of a friend. "I'd advise talking to Adam about how he handles me," I offered. "But what seems to work is absorbing the energy - just listen and nod and understand what's so upsetting. You can also empower her - ask for solutions or help needed or a path to somewhere better."
"I want to help," he replied after nodding. "She's so talented and has this great potential. But I hate seeing her so emotional. I just don't know how to react."
"Some people are roses," I decided. "Beautiful and contained, petals sparkling with morning dew. And some of us," I paused to smile, "are more like the birds of paradise. Showy and silly and only pretty in certain circumstances."
I keep saying that I don't aspire to rosey status, but there is a part of me that wishes I sang soprano and was slender and toned. That I was less difficult and sarcastic and controlling.
I'll instead admit I do crave attention and feel better about myself when infatuated. I indulged in phone sex with a virtual stranger (first time for me - yesterday - it's...effective) and walk my half-blind dog around the neighborhood before most people are awake. I wear pajamas while at home - soft cotton that are always too big. I get depressed. Write a blog. Drink too much Diet Pepsi. Sleep with So Many Pillows. (Seriously - pillows everywhere.) I like watching sitcoms I've already seen. I cry at movies and would rather eat dinner early to avoid crowds.
"She does show great promise," I told my colleague of his direct report. "And I think if you accept her for who she is and try to direct that energy toward valuable projects and overall progress, we'll all be better for it."
"I just wish she wouldn't cry," he sighed and I patted his arm in fond comfort.
"Sometimes we're sad," I offered in gentle explanation. And perhaps having trouble accepting who we are and embracing those qualities rather than trying to morph our wide, glossy leaves into thorny stems and arranging our odd patch of petals into something they're not.