- I am grateful for my rain boots
- I am grateful for fantastic friendships
- I am grateful for Trader Joe’s flowers:
People love to use the image of a garden, when talking about growth. I enjoy the image of a garden when talking about growth – last week’s post is evidence of this.
But what about the inevitable periods of our lives when growth isn’t all delicate seedlings and whimsical watering cans? Growth can be ugly. Painful. And can leave you feeling like a discarded mess before it leaves you feeling like a rose. I guess what I’m saying is that sometimes growth feels more like a junkyard, than a garden. But not to worry, I’m not about to write a post about trash. At least not totally.
Here are some things that have been on my mind lately, regarding deep, messy, junkyard growth:
- In order to do it, we need to be willing to fail miserably/be bad at something
- We can’t be lazy, or get complacent. We have to stay present and do the work
- When we seek out a particular kind of growth or experience, life may very well hand us something that we need to learn more, and we might not like it. But we don’t really get to choose. We can choose to shut down, hole up, and ignore the lesson, but it will only circle back around until we face it
- Our ego/pride is going to want to take charge, because we feel violated. We feel vulnerable. It’s up to us to decide whether or not we let pride take the wheel
- The best kinds of growth are rarely comfortable. Sometimes they are excruciating. And we are faced with the choice – would I rather be comfortable, or would I rather be a student of the world?
That’s a lot, right? It feels like a lot to write, and I’m sure you’d agree that it feels like even more to experience. What do we do when growth hurts? How do we deal with the discomfort of life’s difficult lessons? How do we remain compassionate, empathetic, and open-hearted when growing pains have us feeling down in the dumps? There’s no one answer. But here’s what I’m playing with:
- Reminding ourselves that we are whole people. Whatever it is in your life that you are struggling with – a relationship, your work, your creative life – reminding ourselves that that one thing is not the sum total of who we are. Taking a moment to cultivate, celebrate, and appreciate the other parts of ourselves can be, I think, very healing and offer us a more complete perspective
- Speaking of perspective, another thing that I’ve found helpful is reminding ourselves that…the man we cross paths with in the coffee shop, the woman who helps us at Walgreens, the kids we see coming home from school…they don’t know about our struggles/junkyard feelings – they have plenty of their own. And in the big scope of the whole world…what we are experiencing is like one bazooka bubble gum wrapper in the bottom of the entire junkyard. You know? Not to diminish our growing pains – but to say we are not alone is a gargantuan and perhaps comforting understatement
- I can’t take a bit of credit for this one, but I’m excited to share it. Yesterday a friend and I were talking about how sometimes growth brings up emotions in us that we hate, or even resent experiencing. This friend made the excellent point that… in the course of our lives, how wonderful it is that we should get to experience all of the emotions/feelings/sensations possible. I don’t want to get to the end of my life having never experienced something so rich as pure joy, deep sadness, even hatred. I want to know all of the colors, intimately. Not only will they make me a richer person, but knowing them gives me the ability to empathize more completely. Even things we’ve labeled as “less desirable” emotions. I want to experience them in all their nuance and complexity. And even if it doesn’t feel like “good timing” for a particular sensation to come up…probably it’s actually the best possible timing
- We can choose to look at the growing pains as evidence that we are engaging in an act of bravery. We are fighting stagnation. We are risking something. We are being given the great opportunity to engage with discomfort and come out better for it
- I can’t take credit for this one either, but I can agree with it wholeheartedly, and share it with enthusiasm: at the end of the day, we are only as good as the way we treat others. That’s what counts. As we bump up time and again against our own growth, egos, struggle, and are faced with making decisions about how we want to move through the world – how do we treat the people around us as we figure it out? Are we giving as much as we take? Are we supporting the growth of others, or leaving carnage in our wake because we are dealing with our own stuff? If we’re going to find ourselves in the junkyard of life from time to time, do we want to stink up the place, or do what we can to make it a little fresher?
So whether you find yourself in the garden or the junkyard, be gentle with yourselves this week, Celebrationists, and always. Know that you’re going to mess up, too! But there’s no living backwards in this life. Let us move forward embracing the great teacher of life, like the constant-students we are.