"When I‘m feeling anxious or impatient about my growth, I think of the Chinese bamboo plant. For the first four years of its life, all you can see is a little tiny shoot growing out of the ground. However, during those first years, an intricate, deep, and wide root structure is developing. Then, in the fifth year, this bamboo plant can grow up to 80 feet high. Even when I can‘t see it, I‘m growing (as long as I‘m doing the work!)." Anonymous
When we've been working on our personal growth by, for example, making sacrifices, overlooking slights, forgiving hurts (intentional and unintentional), holding our tongue or showing kindness when we really want to show out, and/or standing strong when we want to give up, it's often difficult to keep pressing forward in the face of setbacks. Setbacks sometimes occur when our efforts don't seem to be appreciated. In those instances, we may become frustrated and revert to our previous behavior. But when we realize that the growth is for us (even though others may also reap the benefits), it helps us regain our focus. We can only control ourselves--not others or how they respond to our efforts. Life's experiences--the ups, downs, joys, pain, sorrows, disappointments--help us to establish roots. Roots that strengthen us, build character, teach us courage, patience, forgiveness, etc. It may take longer than we expect or anticipate, but if we persevere, we will see growth in our branches. So we press on. One step at a time. And little by little, our roots will grow and get stronger. And then, when we least expect it, we will find ourselves in situations that reflect the exponential growth in our branches--beyond anything we could have imagined. And we'll learn to accept that we had to endure the growing pains so our roots would get strong enough to support the growth of our branches. But it's important to remember the weeds. They, too, have roots that will grow if we don't pull them--that is, do the work. There will always be challenges that provide opportunities for growth. However, once we've seen progress in one area of our lives, we can be encouraged that no matter the challenge, with hard work and diligence, we'll see growth again.
Living My Joy
I'm fascinated by tulips. Specifically, how once cut they begin to stand tall and open, and the next thing you know they're drooping. And just when you think they're on their last leg they close and stand tall again. Curious about this behavior, I did a little (very little) research. And now I know that my fascination with tulips is related to my fascination with trees, which I wrote about here.According to ehow.com, "As a cut flower, tulips have the distinctive characteristic of continuing to grow in the vase and stretch toward a dominant source of light. This trait can cause a carefully arranged floral bouquet to disassemble itself into something quite different as the stems may extend by as much as 2 inches, causing the blossom heads to droop. The flowers also open wide in bright light, sometimes exaggerating the drooping effect, although they usually close again at night if the room temperature is moderate to cool."Much like a tulip, I tend to grow and stretch toward my source of light (God) when I'm cut (wounded). While I'm prone to self-examination even when all is well, I find that I tend to dig deeper when I'm "enduring" life's pruning process. And, sometimes, during that process, my countenance changes and my head and shoulders droop from the weight of the circumstances. But before too long, I start to see a bright light and open myself to the lesson. Although my head and shoulders may still droop, as I get stronger the temperature of the lesson begins to moderate and cool down. Gradually, the wound begins to close, I regain my composure and begin to stand tall again. Tulips (and trees) . . . so reminiscent of my life.
Are you giddy with excitement? After all, you've done it . . . you've realized your dream. It's time to celebrate! Your dream has come to fruition, and it's now time to live it. Give yourself credit for your vision and making the journey. I hope you took time to enjoy the journey. In my case, the journey was as important as--and at times more important than--the dream itself. The journey helped me learn my capabilities and who I could count on for encouragement and support.Living my dream helped me learn more about what I'm made of and who I am. Because living your dream makes you deal with the realities of the dream in context. And reality can bite. Sometimes the bites are nibbles; sometimes they create wounds that require stitches. Don't get me wrong, my life in Paris is rich--full of diverse experiences. I have wonderful friends, there's a rich culture, a diverse population, great food, art, the Eiffel Tower, the Seine River, Louvre Museum, Opera Garnier, Sacre Coeur, Montmartre, and so on and so on. But, like life, it's not always sunny. As a matter of fact, it rains quite often. And the only time birds have pooped on my head (and face) has been in Paris. It's become fairly routine. I mean, really, is there a message?! There are issues with unbelievable bureaucracy, daily life, etc. And my life in Paris revolves around my illness. Unfortunately, the realities of life don't take a vacation because you're living your dream.What I've learned, however, is that it's all in how you cope. If/when the tough times come, it's paramount to be more focused on living (enjoying) your dream than surviving it. For example, when I'm faced with challenges unique to being in Paris, I take time to walk along the Seine River, look up at the Eiffel Tower if it's near and, more often than not, savor a macaron or other yummy pastry (that I ordered in "Franglais"--my combination of French and English). I've been through the fire and had to wing it in the midst of struggles while living my dream. But it's been worth it. I have no regrets. The Paris I see now--my Paris--is more beautiful than I imagined because it's touchable, relatable. I've learned to appreciate it despite its imperfections, which I see more clearly now. While it's often true that you can't know what you're getting until you get it, what you see when you take off the blinders and the rose colored glasses (the fantasies of your dream) can be a beautiful blossom. It may require a shift in your thinking, but learning to see things, people, and situations for what they are rather than what we want or imagine them to be, is one of the greatest lessons we can learn in life. Living my dream has taught me as much about life and myself as it's taught me about life in Paris. No matter how difficult, it's been a joyous, enlightening, and enriching experience. Very few things in life are as perfect as we imagine, right? With that in mind, you may need to remind yourself a time or two that this dream is what you asked/worked for. As with anything else, you must take the good with the bad. And no matter how living the dream turns out for you, bear in mind that it took a lot of effort and courage to get where you are. Even if it turns out to be something less than you envisioned, don't overlook the blessings/advantages. You now know you're capable of doing something of this magnitude, and you'll always be able to say you lived your dream. No one can take that from you. And you don't have to live this dream forever. There's no shame in deciding you've had enough of the dream. Others may view it differently, but it was your dream and you fulfilled it, so you've succeeded in what you set out to do. And that means that if you're so inclined, you can plan and live another dream. You are strong, capable, and courageous. And even if you don't know it, you have inspired others. I applaud you. Bravo!One of the greatest blessings of living my dream has been the ability to use the experience to help others. It would be a hollow victory if I were the only person served by realizing my dream. I pray that sharing some of my experiences has been a blessing to you. It's been a joy for me.
A couple of my friends have expressed concern because I have a thing for trees. I've had it for years, but never understood why until I found joy (or medication, they would say). I see divinity in trees--the way their branches reach up to the sky. Seeking something higher. It's as if they are trying to reach God. But it's in the crookedness of the branches that I see myself. Me, with my crooked branches, trying to straighten out my life to reach higher each day. To do better, to be better--more loving, more giving, more caring, more compassionate, more forgiving. Of course, I don't conduct a self-examination every time I see a tree. How would I accomplish anything? But when I take the time to just be still--which I do often--I focus on a tree and how representative it is of my life. Sometimes an old branch will fall off a tree. There were branches in my life that had to fall off for me to find and maintain my joy. Branches full of baggage and pain. Dead or too heavy for my trunk, so they had to go. And in their place grew new branches, full of life, hope for growth. And, just like a tree, there are times when I need pruning. Like when I can't get rid of the bad branches on my own and it has to be done for me. And pruning is so painful. But it's so necessary. Because if the dead branches don't fall off or get cut off, I take the chance that my trunk (my essence, my joy) will die. And, for me, that's not an option. So I view the pruning as necessary but something I try to avoid by getting rid of the dead branches on my own. And each time I do it, my remaining branches seem to get a little straighter, reaching higher. What a joy.