There were 7 of us gathered around the table, silently letting our bodies and minds arrive into the quiet anticipation of our time together. Our small monthly gathering of the Younger Women’s Support Group for cancer survivors under the age of 55 was about to begin. On the table between us sat a basket of unimposing flower bulbs, some rocks, glass beads and small vases.
A few days before, I met with the social worker who facilitates this group with me, and the idea formulated that we would lead the group in an exercise of focused intention. We were to focus on what we would like to nurture and grow, really feeling into what that need was in our lives. We used the bulbs as a structure to represent this idea, belief or habit that we were going to foster and grow by adding water and tending to.
The clear vase with white stones and blue glass looked beautiful when I brought it home. I was feeling inspired and hopeful as I added water and carefully brought it to the windowsill next to my crystals, potted plants and singing bowl. It was all set perfectly. Now I just have to wait for this bulb to grow, I thought. This didn’t turn out to be very easy.
Among us in the group, our intentions were as varied and personal as our inner lives. For me, I recognized a need for better self care and permission to rest. I find this feeling lives deep in my belly, in the core of knowing who I am. In the dark cob-webbed cellar of my being, there is an old rooted belief that my value as a person is tied up in how hard I work. Logically, I know this to be untrue, but coming from a long line of type-A workaholics, this belief can feel like an insurmountable hill when I’m in full tilt productivity mode. There is my heart work, my newly burgeoning coaching business, a few other side projects and jobs, my family, home, garden, friends and a myriad of other responsibilities. I like being busy and usually thrive on the rich diversity of my day-to-day. Until… I bottom out.
I know I have hit a wall when the deadened neuropathy in my fingers and toes comes back and it feels like I’m walking around with clothes pins on my extremities. It shows up in the dull ache of my low back, the ligament laxity that comes with full blown adrenal stress. It feels like the knotty kink in my neck. It’s really apparent when even after a cup of my strongest morning brew, I still want to face plant into the pillows. Instead of napping, I’m looking for what’s next. What else can I cram into my already busy day before my son gets off of the bus at 3 PM, before dinner, before bedtime, before, before, before… and then I’m dragging myself off to bed. Hmm, I’m wondering if some of this sounds familiar to anyone else reading this.
So it’s really no wonder that my bulbs refused to grow. At first, the water was evaporating too quickly. The heat from the bay windows sucked up so much water the first week, that I found myself adding more water every day. There was a tiny bit of root growth, that quickly shriveled up after a day or two of neglect.
I decided to add more water, hoping that my recent oversight would protect the bulbs from drying out. This only resulted in some mold growth. What else was I doing wrong here? Why was this taking so long?
I sat back and thought about what else I could do. As a gardener, I thought about the conditions that exist for bulbs when planted in soil. There is darkness, this required period of rest, before the plant has energy to send its first light green shoots up through the dirt. I reflected on how I was not living up to my end of the bargain. Despite my intentions, I was not resting. I moved the bulbs out of the sunny window. I changed the water entirely.
Conditions must be right for growth to occur. For both the bulbs and for my intentions for better self care and more rest, there were some requirements. These 5 R’s can be applied to any difficult situation or hang up you experience in life.
- Reality: I must be willing to take a hard look at what is really going on here.
- Responsibility: After making an observation, what am I taking responsibility for? Where can I realistically effect change? Am I over-watering the bulbs and overdoing it energetically? Am I over-scheduling myself?
- Responsiveness: It is time for damage control. What can I do to mitigate the lack of growth for my bulbs and in the realm of my own intentions? It is not enough to observe and be stuck in lamenting over what has not grown. I can choose to be responsive and make changes.
- Respect: After getting clear on my intentions, it is not enough to make a statement, have an intention setting ritual and just walk away. I must remain vigilant, mindful of what I am setting in motion.
- Resilience: I must hook into the part of me that knows how to stay the course and go the distance. Even if I stumble, make mistakes or feel like a flat out failure sometimes, I can learn from my mistakes and keep on trying.
I really didn’t expect all these life lessons could come from some tiny little gladiolus bulbs. I’m reminded that there are lessons all around me if I pay attention. By observing what my body and bulbs are needing, by practicing moderation and most of all, by BEING PATIENT WITH MYSELF, then yes it is true… what you nurture will grow!
Melissa Eppard lives in the beautiful Hudson Valley, NY area with her young son and talented musician husband. She loves gardening, hiking, poetry, art, music and spending time with her family. As a Life Coach she knows that life is more than a sum of our losses and seeks to ignite the spark of purposeful living and creative fire in everyone she meets. www.MelissaEppardCoaching.com