Please, Call Me a “Pansy” Anytime

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You may even add “little” and “purple” as adjectives before the insult.  Or is it really an affront at all?  To be sure, when I was a kid and someone called another kid a “pansy” it suggested they were “weak” or a “pushover.”  Perhaps “cute” but lacking any real mettle.  As an adult I realize what a misnomer this is.  Tending to “my little purple pansy” this year has changed my view of the class and the connotation of the word.

My little purple pansy was a rescue of sorts from one who had less than a green thumb with her.  She was hanging in a basket without full sun exposure.  Half of her was blooming beautifully and healthfully while the other side was like the dark side of the moon-shriveling and drying up.  So I staged a friendly intervention with a wink and a nod from the homeowner.  Off we went to my deck where her future buddies, sage and basil, were blossoming and welcomed her happily into the neighborhood.


My little purple pansy plant flourished with full summer sun warming her each day and the rain bathing her much of last fall.  When I harvested my basil and sage for pesto in late August I was grateful for the enduring beauty this little pansy plant brought to my balcony.  Purple is a buoyant color and she indeed rose above the paler shades of my condo and the deep greens of the trees alongside my deck.  I just loved looking at her.  And I was so I impressed at how she grew even as temperatures fell.  One night I brought her inside concerned that the drop below freezing would be too much for her.  Turns out, she wilted.  So I breathed-in deep, said a little prayer and put her back outside.  She was blooming and robust by my first sip of coffee that next morning.

Late this January on a Monday morning Mother Nature hurled her first snow balls at us and I remember the moment I realized that my little purple pansy was outside all alone to brave the nasty chill of the sleet that was falling fast.  She was on my mind in an important appointment I had and on my mind when I dashed up to prepare my horse for the change in weather.  She was on my mind when I entered and exited my session all the time being careful not to reveal to my client my worry that would seem so silly in the context of our serious work.  I drove home as fast as slippery roads would allow and ran into my condo and over to the deck.  There she was, covered in snow.  I felt terrible, even guilty.  I knew when I left that morning that I had forgotten something.  The forecast was spot-on but I blew it with my little purple pansy.  You know the story of the winter of 2015.  She was buried in snow like the rest of us.   I put her out of my mind with pseudo-comfort stemming from the notion that pansies where “annuals.”  Heck, they’re just nice to look at.  Good for garnish.  Not meant to last.  They’re even edible.   You can “have ‘em for lunch.”

I put her out of my head, but not my heart.   Once the snow started to melt this March and the tippy-top of the black handle on her hanging basket came peeking through my heart skipped a beat.  As the sun and warmer temperatures melted away the snow the more I found myself becoming irrationally hopeful that she was there.  I looked out there for her every single day.  But what little creature could have survived Mother Nature’s relentless assaults this winter?

Turns out, my little purple pansy is alive and well!   Yep, I Just stepped out on my deck, mouth open, eyes wide and there she is.  Greens fill her basket and that little purple bloom is intact.  I can’t stop smiling!

This has me thinking about those of us who have been through so many seasons and exposed to both harsh and loving treatment.  Humans and Mother Nature have been cruel, kind and indifferent.  Sometimes we flourished.  Some parts of us withered.  Sometimes someone benignly neglected us or we tried an environment that didn’t facilitate our growth.  But none of that dooms us or seals our fate – not if we are “pansies.”  We may appear buried or disposable to some, but underneath— if we’re true to our nature—we are both in bloom and looking forward to the next season.  Call me a “pansy” anytime.

 Lisa Bernard has prepared and represented people from all walks of life to speak publicly at meetings, on panels, in their places of worship and as keynoters. She herself has addressed audiences as large as 2000 and designed and delivered over 500 workshops, seminars and college-level courses on oral communication.  She has slowed down fast-talkers, turned “uhmers” into smooth-speakers and moderated accents from Brooklyn to Beijing – all to develop confident communicators.  Lisa has a Masters Degree in International Affairs from Columbia University and today manages Lisa Bernard’s SecuritySpeak, LLC, a consulting firm that makes available experts on national, global and cyber-security for distinguished lectures worldwide.  You can reach her at (203) 293-4741 or and like her firm at