What a Bouquet of Flowers Taught me About Feeling Worthy

I’ve had a rough go of it lately.

It’s one of those parts in the journey when just as I’m approaching light at the end of the tunnel, the tunnel caves in and the train blows up, and I’m left knocked on my ass for a few days until I decide I’d better start moving rocks and catching another train.

I’ve been lather, rinse, repeating that scenario for a few months. You’ve been there, right?

One thing this ordeal has taught me is who I can count on. As in, who will show up for no other purpose than to witness me in pain and offer comfort, and who will drop me off on the sidewalk across from my apartment after I’ve undergone hours of surgery, leaving me woozy and navigating the stairs on my own.

I had a good idea of how I expected those closest to me to behave. I was then faced with the stark contrast between what I wanted and what was – which is pretty much the cause of all suffering when you get down to it.

I want A, I get B, I become a real C.

Before I go any further, let me just say that I find the philosophy of “having no expectations” to be both unhelpful and unrealistic. In some contexts I see the wisdom, but in close friendships don’t expect me to not have expectations. Healthy relationships are reciprocal, and if I do what I say I’m going to, I expect my close friends to do the same. Which is why these past few months have been eye-opening friendship wise, and I’ve definitely made some changes in my inner circle.

What does any of this have to do with a bouquet of flowers and feeling worthy?

This past week, as I was breathing a sigh of “things are beginning to suck less,” I got screwed. Literally. As my oral surgeon was removing one of my temporary crowns, he accidentally unscrewed the whole dental implant which was painful, terrifying, and means that I have to start over with two more surgeries.

I texted a friend in San Francisco – let’s call her Lindsey because that’s her name – and she had the very appropriate reaction of “Oh no!!!” and preceded to let me vent my pain, fear, and frustration for a bit.

She then took her support a step farther, and a few hours later I was surprised by the delivery of a beautiful bouquet of flowers. I was so touched and grateful.

For about two hours.

And then I felt…shame. And complete unworthiness of such beautiful flowers and the money they must have cost.

I was floored by my reaction.

This was exactly the kind of care and attention I’d been longing for, and yet here it was and I felt awkward and squirmy about it.

It reminded me of an incident a month ago when another friend dedicated the better part of a Sunday to taking care of me. I had such guilt over all of the things she might be missing out on.

Those flowers brought me to an edge – a belief – I didn’t know I had.

It’s become very clear why I’ve attracted a disproportionate amount of people who seem to care less for me than I do for them. It’s because it’s more comfortable for me that way.

Being cared for is a more vulnerable thing than I ever realized. I’d always thought that caring for someone was the more vulnerable position, and over and over I’ve lived the painful unrequited scenario with both lovers and friends, not knowing I did so because it left me feeling safer and more protected than being loved does.

I’m used to doing what Brené Brown calls, “hustling for my worthiness,” but then Lindsey – who has definitely experienced my flaws – sent me flowers. And right up until that moment I didn’t know just how unworthy of them – and her love – I felt.

Now when I look at them they symbolize not just a friend caring about me, but me being open to being cared about, which is both exquisite and terrifying.

The bouquet is still beautiful, but the lesson, more so.