Unless you try to do something beyond what you have already mastered, you will never grow.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
The past three weeks have gone by in a blur. I have been forgetting what day of the week it is. Monday? Sunday? Or my favorite day of the week, Wednesday, because it’s the most productive and restful day combined for me (usually)? Today I see from my calendar it is Thursday, but it doesn’t feel like any day in particular. Just gray. Blah. A bit depressing, really. Meetings, reports, managerial activities are on deck as I am far away from the bustle of the bench, where I can exercise creativity and produce results that provide the basis for all our movement forward in our work. It doesn’t help that it is cold and dreary out, a stark contrast to the sunny and warm tropical paradise where my core team resides. So I sit here, coffee in hand, and think about my day and the ones before that.
Three weeks ago I planted a new seed: I wanted to finish my novel that I have been working on for years if not decades. So I joined this writing group on Twitter with the goal to write 50k in 30 days. I try not to plant many new seeds as my life is so full already with responsibilities and roles I play. Anything new, be it a job, relationship, or activity, requires initial focus to make it grow. As when planting a seed, the proper nutrients, adequate watering, a warm and sunny environment, are needed, or the seed won’t propagate (some say singing to your plant promotes growth, but as I sing off-key about half the time, that’s probably not the best idea….). There is also the maintenance phase of the plant once its delicate branches and leaves reach past the surface and seek the sun and air. Care to seeing it mature, perhaps being rewarded by a delicate flower or a delicious fruit, is necessary. Faltering at any step, a lack of commitment in time or resources, not being flexible as issues arise, no true dedication to seeing the plant thrive, can result in the plant not reaching its peak, withering away, and in many cases dying. This analogy could be applied to most things in my life, and let’s face it, I have a black thumb. For me, I feel I have to put in extra effort to see things through with an already limited capacity. So, I am very judicious and thoughtful about what I take on in my life, as I don’t want to disturb my current balance with something that could throw my entire equilibrium out of whack, perhaps destroying not just my life but more importantly those I care and are responsible for as an adult.
So with all this, why make my life even more complicated by continuing another activity which is taking time, a readjustment in priorities, and learning and relearning new skills? Last night, as I finally put on my mom hat after a long day of travel and a particularly stressful 10 days at work and seeing the chaos I had to tame when I opened the door, I thought: I should streamline my life. Quit the project I had started three weeks ago. Logically, it was pretty much a foregone conclusion that I would not meet the goal of 50k words by November 30. I was taking time away from other things in my life that should perhaps be higher priority: activities to further my career, adding value at work, spending more time with my family and friends, focusing on my health, even just organizing my household to provide a more peaceful environment. On top of that, was this just a distraction from making decisions I know I should make? Time is the currency with which we play out our lives, and we each choose how we want our currency to be spent in the manner most meaningful to ourselves and the things we value in life. I could think of a million reasons why not, but when it all came down to it, here’s the thing: I need this. Not want, but need to continue.
For me, there are defining moments in my life, and some of them I openly share, here on my blog or with close friends. And there are many more that I do not share, the ones that no one else knows. The ones that twist us in ways we can never anticipate, the ones that reveal vulnerabilities we never knew existed. These moments provide the most opportunity for growth, for they shake our core and change us. For whatever it is worth, this activity is one I find to be a moment, or better yet a chance, to shake up what some days is a stagnant existence. Going through the same motions a million times to make sure that the status quo is maintained and being comfortable doing those tasks are all I can do some days, because it allows me to fulfill the responsibilities I have. And for the most part, that comfortable existence is what keeps me sane and provides satisfaction. Being a good mom, being a good friend, being a good employee and colleague, being a health conscious person and exercising, enjoying a few hours here and there of fun or relaxation, all are things I have wanted and worked hard for in my life to become or have opportunity to do. But for me, challenging boundaries, making new connections that lead to understanding in greater depth ourselves and our world, are what make me come alive. Already in three short weeks I have pushed the envelope of what I thought possible creatively, and I have made contacts which have enriched my life by exposure to new voices, views, and thought processes. Has this impacted my other “self?” The one who manages and fulfills the day-to-day obligations? In a positive way? Well, all I know is that as when I started running, I find myself tired and aching. But the neat thing is, I’m sore in places I haven’t used in many years or even knew existed. And as when I became a runner, I feel myself becoming stronger, more confident, and more importantly, creative. I have used my “left brain” so much the past three decades, I am enjoying finding out what my “right brain” is capable. Stopping this journey, though it seems the logical thing to do, the easiest thing the do, the smart thing to do…well, I am tired of always being smart and logical. Because though I wear the hat of someone who is scientific, I was never one as a child to color inside the lines. I have always strived to see the world with childlike wonder and awe. To imagine endless possibilities. To dream big. To drive forward change. To continually improve myself and in doing so what I can contribute and give back. And so I may tire, I may back slide, and I may become frustrated and depressed in my endeavor. But to give up now means that I give up not just an activity, but a chance to explore another side of myself. How can I pass up the opportunity to grow in ways I can’t conceive? I’ve reached a limit in my current state of being, and here’s the portal to the other side, the next level. I’m going through. It’s time to jump.
One thought on “On Rising”
You are right, we do grow only when we face challenges. Sometimes those challenges come from within, but usually they are from without. Other people, other conditions put us under pressure to change and grow. As we reach a certain stage in our lives, we begin to realize that we have been so busy meeting those external demands that we have neglected to review the internal needs. What do “I” need? That question has fallen by the wayside, because we have not had the time to tend to them. You mention tending to a plant in order to see it flourish. If a plant requires so much attention, how much more attention do our children need to flourish – and they are far more important than that plant – but the analogy is there. Personally, I say go with your needs. If you need to complete the novel — complete it. If you need to slow the pace a bit to get there — slow it. You are on your own time-table with this. Don’t make yourself sick to complete it. That is the most important consideration. Beyond that, “You Go Girl!!!!”
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