Lessons from My Plant (or why nurturing makes a real difference)

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in Happiness,Personal Growth

Every so often, I discover that the gorgeous plant gracing my bathroom has fallen over in despair. Its graceful branches flop over the side of the container and hang there. Wilted. Dejected. Lifeless.

I have forgotten to water it – again.

So I splash a drop of water on its depressed form and pray that I haven’t left it too long, that it may be revived and restored. Each time, I am convinced it’s on its last legs and won’t make it. But, somehow, it does. That small amount of water – that focused bit of care and attention – brings it back to life.

Aside from the fact that any plant should be wary of having me as its caretaker, there is an important lesson to be found in those sagging branches and withered leaves.

What is neglected will certainly not thrive – and, worse yet, might not survive.

If you don’t take care of something – if you don’t nourish it – it will waste away and die. If you only give it sporadic attention – as I do with that poor plant – you might see it survive, but you will never see it burst into bloom.

Sobering and glaringly obvious.

But how often do we ignore the obvious and hope for the best? Think that somehow things will take care of themselves and that everything will be OK?

If you ask my plant, the answer would be: too often.

Our lives are littered with the relics of neglect.

They are easy to spot if you look closely. They might be the dust bunnies that have gathered under your bed because you have neglected your home. They might also be your burgeoning debt because you have neglected your finances, your strained relationships because have you neglected your emotions, or your bulging waistline because you have neglected your health. They might even be the barren days that populate your weeks, months, and years because you have neglected your life.

At this point, you may want to jump into a frenzy of action and shout, “No, I will not have it,” and begin to attack these neglected items with extreme discipline and acts of will until you become a twisted whirlwind of activity that ultimately leaves you exhausted and despising everything about the process.

But there is another way.

You can choose to nurture those neglected areas of your life. Gently. Compassionately. With love.

Nurturing starts with noticing what hurts and what needs to be healed.

Nurturing asks you to dig deep within yourself to cultivate the conditions for flourishing; slowly, patiently, one revelation at a time, until you are rich with possibility.

Nurturing invites you to cherish the process by acting tenderly, lavishing consistent care and attention, and fostering a climate of encouragement.

Nurturing demands that you protect all that is growing within you as if it were a child – fiercely, loyally, and with heart.

Nurturing allows you to love new ways of being into life so you don’t just survive but thrive.

What needs nurturing in your life right now?

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Nicole Castro May 3, 2012 at

These insights are so true. I feel as though I nurture everyone else in my life. I don’t nurture myself at all. I try every day to tell myself that I am worth nurturing, but then I go to bed at night telling myself that tomorrow I will take care of “me.” Women are notorious for nurturing others but not themselves. Thanks, Andrea, for the reminder!

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Andrea Olson May 4, 2012 at

Thanks, Nicole! It is so important to nurture ourselves … otherwise, we have nothing left to give anyone else. Besides, nurturing doesn’t just help us get by, it gives us more energy and heart. Lovely, indeed.

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Ronna May 3, 2012 at

I love this, Andrea. The message is one of self-kindness – something that most of us lack and are so desperately hungry for. Thank you.
Ronna recently posted..Where we’ve gone wrong in our search for God

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Andrea Olson May 4, 2012 at

Kindness is a lovely way to capture it … what if we approached our neglected places by asking how we could be kind to them? Think of the possibilities! Thanks, Ronna.

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Jackie Walker May 4, 2012 at

Ah the whirlwind approach – yes, I recognise that pattern, to the point of resentment which starts the cycle off all over again! But a little drop here and a little drop there, makes such a difference – please say thank you to your plant for its glorious lesson!
Jackie Walker recently posted..What’s the difference between unconditional love and martyrdom

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Andrea Olson May 4, 2012 at

You are spot on, Jackie. It does start a cycle of resentment that keeps us trapped in doing things the same old way. Nurturing has the opposite effect, I believe … gentle, progressive, kind. Thanks!

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Diane Easley May 9, 2012 at

I so appreciate these words Andrea: “Nurturing invites you to cherish the process by acting tenderly, lavishing consistent care and attention, and fostering a climate of encouragement.” I have played with the idea of fostering such a climate for years and am now seeing the effects of consistent care and attention. Tiny steps, taken often, can move one far. Thanks for your words.

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