I have found that growing up means being honest about what I want, what I need, and who I am. – Epiphany
Just last week I decided to take some time off to work in my yard. You know, plant a few flowers, trim down some hedges and pull a few weeds. The kind of task we all look forward to on a day off work, right? Honestly it was kinda fun, because I knew exactly what I wanted to get done and I actually gave myself time accomplish it. So yes, there was a goal in mind and I was destined to reach it.
So as I was in the yard, gloves on, safety glasses on, scarf tied around my head to capture the sweat from my brow, I became fully engaged as if I was someone’s highly paid yard worker. Lo and behold I stumped across one hedge that has been in my yard for at least fifteen years. I decided it was time for it to go. It was over grown, partly dying and no longer adding beauty to my once illustrious curb appeal. Well at least to the new curb appeal I envisioned.
So like any decent yard worker worth his/her salt, I retrieved the right tool for the job and begin to whack the thing down. This bush stood only about twenty-four to thirty inches tall and about thirty-six inches in diameter, but what seemed like a fairly simple task suddenly become a lot more challenging. There were limbs after limbs intertwining all over the place on this beast. The roots went deep and I discovered the drip system installed by the builders years ago, was still supplying water to support the life of what I believed to be an almost dead shrub.
Okay, so what is my point with all this you ask? Well in my own unorthodox way of thinking, (and also being a little bit different I suppose) it made me think about how we grow, how we can actually determine if we have, and what factors make it sustainable. Now it is not my objective to necessarily answer these three questions in this post, but I would like to challenge you (the reader) to reflect on your own growth, what caused you to realize that it was necessary for you to grow at any given time, what impacts your growth has made on your life or others in your circle, and finally what actual steps did you take to begin the process?
Although reflecting can bring a sense of dis-ease, especially when there are things we would rather not be reminded of, every once in a while it is important to look back. Not to dwell on a negative past, but to learn and to apply lessons for a positive future. So indulge yourself for a bit and let’s become like that yard worker. Get your tools and let us go to our figurative front yards and observe, prune, trim, plant and ultimately cultivate our lives by seeing how much we have grown.
Reflecting on your growth…Whenever I begin to think of my past along with the present, one thing has remained fairly consistent. I have always been a deep thinker and a deep feeler. In most cases this attitude has served me well, however at other times it became my stumbling roadblock, locking me into futile questions that led to nowhere, depending the situation, but as a kid I remember always looking into the sky wondering about life with thousands of questions most people could not answer.
The difference for me today is I still have many questions that go unanswered, but I am content on my personal search that leads me to answers and people I cross paths with that unknowingly help me as well. I have learned to balance it more effectively I suppose that is the most valuable lesson. I no longer get in my own way (as frequently) and enough people have shown me what it looks like to live in the moment, versus short cycling myself with the “what ifs” of life that I will most likely never encounter, but what I do I realize is that I will be ready because I have enough in me to overcome.
How did I know it was time to grow up…This is an easy one for me, although it did not come so easy. So after many failed relationships and two failed marriages, one would think, “it must have been me”. Unfortunately common sense is not always common, but as we keep living and our loved ones pray for us, some of us finally gain the necessary knowledge to accept responsibility for the havoc we have created. I mean look, I was not 100% to blame for everything, but who cares. All I can ever do is work on me and that is enough. I cannot concern myself with someone else deciding to grow up or not. The one person I have control over is that guy staring at me in the mirror.
So what’s the lesson here? Well after leaving a trail of broken hearts (along with my own), I took a deeper dive into my seemingly innate inability to truly connect. I discovered it is (still the correct tense) easier for me to build a wall at the first sign of an issue because it was my learned defense mechanism while being molested as a young boy by a woman. How did I not believe that would impact every relationship I ever have, especially with the opposite sex? Guess I was just ignorant to the facts, but there is nothing like a painful breakup to kick you in the gut, and force you to realize you have issues that need to be addressed. Address them or suffer for the rest of your life. Another lesson.
I am still on this journey today and I suppose it will last for the remainder of my life, but I know that today I am winning the battle. I have learned my triggers and I quickly and authentically confront them when they arise in real-time.
The impacts my growth has had on others… I cannot begin to say how much my growth really has impacted others in my life, because it is not like I have sat down and asked that many people the question. Many have no idea I have even grown at all because literally we are simply no longer friends, but for those that hung in there with me and knew that I was still blooming (thank you) I have exchanged words with. I can honestly say that my growth was a spark for their own growth and their growth equally inspired my own.
The Bible says, “How can two walk together less they agree?” I take a principle from that and say, “How can two walk together unless they are like-minded in the fundamental areas of their lives?” That said, there lies the lesson for me in this area. I understand that with all that has occurred in my life, and the people I hurt and was hurt by, some were not meant to continue walking with me and if I dwell on what I cannot change I will be forever doomed and miserable.
A big part of the impact of my growth on others is the real transparency that exists between us today. I will never call wrong right or excuse some of past behavior, but those that remain loyal to me in the midst of my hard season are my reward and true friends. There is nothing like going through a rough time with someone and being able to say you are still friends. That is awesome, rare and truly life changing.
What steps did I take to start the process…I am a firm believer in counseling. The Bible says, “In the multitude of counselors there is safety.” So that is what I did. Not with many, but with trusted, proven, qualified and often professional people who I unraveled the hidden parts of my life with. I will admit initially I had no other choice. It was the politically correct thing to do to save a relationship, but getting to the real truth was not happening for me back then. There were words that sounded good, but not based on the truth, not because I was trying to be deceitful, but I was simply afraid of my own truth and dark secrets becoming exposed.
At some point I also begin to journal. Writing was always therapeutic and easy for me, so that was also helpful with my healing, but the key lesson here was connecting those words with the painful truth of why, which was the core of my issues. Once I began having truthful dialogue with myself, it became easier to have that same truthful dialogue with others, even if it meant I was not revealed as perfect or right in someone else’s eyes.
So I would chalk this one up to be, I first became real with myself and authentically confronted the lies, and one by one I addressed them each from a place of love, acceptance and personal ownership.
Writing this today is easy, because I have accepted what has happened and done something about it. I chose to not remain in bitterness, a dark place or with unforgiveness in my heart. I am on the journey and have not arrived at the promise land yet, but I will get there. Just like I set out to pull that overgrown bush in my yard, I am committed to myself to strip off the things that misrepresent the real me. I will do the work and live to see the manifestation of a finished product, kinda like the curb appeal I sought for my yard.