How to grow like a tree

041-magnoliaOnce in a while, the realisation hits me that where I am right now in my life is perfect. Is absolutely right. Is completely where I need to be. And not because where I am is fully formed, or makes perfect sense, or because I’ve suddenly achieved everything I want to achieve.

Nothing of the sort.

This realisation is all about the perfect imperfection of my life. Sure, some parts are more formed than others. Some parts are certainly more established and secure. But there’s a ton of stuff that’s not. Stuff that’s barely even got going. Stuff that, like an un-blossomed bud, is full of potential and possibility, but is not yet ready to show itself to the world.

And sometimes it’s unbelievably tempting to look at those whose bud has already blossomed – whose petals are open wide to the sun, showing all their beauty in all its glory –  and feel disheartened. It’s tempting to feel less-than, and somehow less worthwhile – sitting as I am, all un-blossomed, full of unexpressed potential – gestating wildly, but invisibly.

I remember when I had my first child, and would spend time with friends with more established families. I would look on in awe. I would marvel at their confidence, their fluency at child rearing. It felt unimaginable that I would ever feel that way. Impossible that I would have one of those families myself. Or that I, like them, would one day be a fluent parent as well.

Similarly, I am fluent in zero other languages than English. When I am in another country, surrounded by native speakers speaking at high speed, only able to understand a tiny percentage of what it is they’re saying – I can feel massively frustrated by my sorry attempts to communicate.

In both scenarios, my default has been to go to that place of unworthiness. That place of self recrimination for not being more fully formed. For not knowing more – even though I’ve not yet done done the learning or the growing required. And instead of allowing those ‘fluent’ people to teach and inspire me, I turn them into rods to beat myself with. People to unfairly compare myself with. People who remind me how unworthy I am.

Which sucks. And is unhelpful.

And I’m starting to choose differently.

Due to the untimely passing of our beloved pet cat a few weeks back, we now have a young magnolia tree in our front garden (beneath which our sweet cat is buried). It’s a beautiful and ongoing reminder for us of his short life, and provides us all with a focus when we want to think about him. But it’s also started to represent something more.

It’s young. In contrast to the fully formed, established magnolia trees visible as I drive around at this time of year, it’s tiny. No one would notice it as they drove past our house. It’s not big enough yet. You’d have to be walking past and checking out our front garden to notice it. You might even need to pause to notice it, because it’s still young. It’s still settling in.

But if you do stop and look at it, you’d see it has a ton of buds on it – and some of them are blossoming. And those blossoms are no more or less beautiful than the ones you see on an established tree reaching 20 feet up into the sky. There’s just fewer of them at this stage in its life. And they’re slightly lower to the ground.

Which is absolutely where this tree needs to be right now.

All being well, this tree will have many decades of growing ahead of it. It’s going to steadily, and gradually establish its roots deeper and deeper into the ground. It’s going to gradually produce more and more blossoms, until, at a glance, people driving by will see it in all its unfurled glory.

Right now there are absolutely areas of my life that feel a great kinship and oneness with that young magnolia tree. And when I allow myself to be tree-like in my own growth, my impatience about those areas of my life dissolves. When I am being tree-like I stop rushing at life and trying to control the heck out of it.

Because you can’t accelerate a tree’s growth. And neither should you.

It takes time.

Growth and gestation requires trust and patience.

But the results are beautiful. Magnificent even.

And today I’m choosing to remember that.

Care to join me?

Like what you just read? Feel a bit better about the world? Want to pay it forward? Share this post!

Did this resonate with you? Are you interested in applying the perspectives here to your own life? Work with me, and we can really get into it. I love talking about this stuff even more than I love writing about it (and that’s a lot).

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