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Every year around our anniversary, we scatter the rose petals from Valentine’s Day in the garden.

The Goth in me loves watching the roses age in the vase and turn spooky. The romantic in me wants to do something more poetic than toss them straight into the compost. After spending too much time wilting on the dining table, the petals go into a crystal lotus bowl that came into my possession through a maze of curious events just before the millennium. When the petals get a bit old and no longer have a pleasant fragrance, they go into the garden as mulch.

This yearly gesture started with our commitment ceremony. Our minister was utterly on board with creating a highly personal set of rituals. She encouraged us to do what was most meaningful to us, regardless of what people expect at a wedding. It made sense to me to let go of the first rose my partner gave me, so we scattered the petals in the garden.

Commitment is about holding on, but it is also about letting go. It’s kind of like deciding to be a whole garden instead of a single plant. It’s intriguing in the garden to watch how plants change each other over time. Nothing stays exactly the same, even with dividing and weeding and pruning, because plants need to keep growing (just like people do). Plants have different rates of growth (just like people do), and behave differently depending upon their planting companions. Then there’s the weather, always crashing the party with a heat wave or a pummeling storm.

Letting go is as simple and complex as breathing. If you decided you would never let go of your breath, you would suffocate. Life requires a constant dance of hanging on and letting go, breathing in and breathing out. All living things breathe, and a living relationship has to keep breathing to stay alive too. Holding on is easy when you feel great love for another person. The true test of commitment is to also let go. In letting go moment by moment, we become bigger than mere individuals, greater than the sum of our parts, a growing garden instead of a single transient flower.