We had a fairly short winter this year. I’m from the northeast, where winter is hard and cold and grey and spring brings such great tidings of renewal. I love to see the little shoots of perennials poking through the debris. There is something about winter and the need for dormancy that allows that new spring growth to emerge. Now that I’m in Texas, I worry about my spring plants coming up in February. I’m all: “no, little plants! too soon! too soon! You will freeze! it’s not time yet!” But this year, it seems, February did not deliver one last surge of bitter cold. Therefore, my daffodils are safe – and blooming! I looked out the window last week and saw them and exclaimed, “oh, look at that! blooms!” and got all excited about writing about them, and yet here it has a been a week since then and I’m only just today sitting down to do it.
This caused me to question: why do that? what’s more important (or, probably more accurately, what’s more urgent)? That got me thinking about that little chart that productivity coaches use: the four quadrants with important/urgent, important/not urgent, unimportant/not urgent, and unimportant/urgent (this last one being the pit of despair where we too often find ourselves). I think for me the important/not urgent (which is the best and most productive quadrant) gets pushed aside like some kind of self-inflicted delayed gratification. I spent some time wondering whether delay is a necessary part of adult-ing, or if I was really just procrastinating because I’m afraid to do the important thing (fill in the blank of whatever project that is) because, well, frankly, it might not be as great as I think it will.
Perennials are all about delayed gratification. They embody the rhythm of life: gathering energy (some roots don’t even bloom for a few years until they are established in the soil), sending forth tentative little shoots, then an explosion of bloom, and they sink back into the background. Their showy appearance is brief and their growth steady (not like those annuals who flaunt it big and bold all season and then scatter seeds to the wind hoping some will take root later). The daffodils in my yard are ready to be divided; they have duplicated themselves many times – new plants with the same steady, recurring cycle and a kind of time-full (yet time-less) beauty. Not thousands of new ones, but a few, small at first and growing year by year until they too become mature.
People are like that. Some people are like annuals, some like perennials. I waffle on which I am most like. Hmmm.. maybe that depends on my mood or self-image at the time. In moments of sense and thoughtfulness, though, I think I desire to be like a perennial: dependable, beautiful in my time but unassuming, steadily creating and developing the potential in others as they grow in maturity. I’ve thought of these things before, yet there is new thought that comes today: perennials stay together in their clumps. They don’t really move around – nor do the offshoots. While annuals toss seeds by the thousands to birds and on the wind, you never know where a plant might pop up – it may be right next to the parent plant, but maybe not. On the other hand, perennial bulbs do eventually get too crowded and need to be thinned out, lest they compete for the same resources to the peril of all. What do those two ways of reproducing suggest about leadership and community? How intentional have I been?
Having spent all weekend in the throes of a project which is in the important/urgent quadrant, it becomes obvious, the difference between intentional and not. If only I could be so productive and energetic around the important/not urgent. Deadlines help us do that, so the question becomes twofold: when is it time to be dormant and when is it time to come out and bloom? Secondly, when is the time to be the steady, cultivating offshoot grower and when is it time to throw caution to the wind, be fabulous and hope for the best in the aftermath? Are these just different seasons of one life cycle or are they different kinds of plants altogether? Or maybe I’m thinking about it too much and I just need to sit down and do it. That’s the hard part, after all.