Beat the Blerch: Stillness and Motion in the Cycles of Self-Growth
Updated: Aug 29, 2020
Scrolling through the Design For America Instagram today, I came across something called the Rose, Bud, and Thorn feedback method. A hopeless romantic at heart, I jump on any excuse to buy a fresh bouquet of roses for me and my loved ones (now more readily than ever, as a newly single gal on a journey to self-love). I particularly love the types will everything attached, speckles, thorns, and more. My ex (and still a most dear friend to me) is much less enthused by these gifts, and questions “why girls are so into flowers anyways.”
Girls aren't the only ones who love flowers. August 2020.
Well, there’s nothing quite like Mother Nature's raw and organic design, which is thorough in both its pleasantries and non-so-pleasantries, the combination of which makes it the awe-inspiring force that it is. The dichotomy here reminds me of the yin and the yang; the feminine and the masculine; the shadow and the light; order and chaos. When expressing these pairs, it’s often clear which comes before the other. The sequence is predictable and the cyclical binary, ongoing. There is a contrast of equal opposites which hand in hand create a balanced whole. We can appreciate this dynamic in scientific terms as well. The first law of thermodynamics (conservation) states that energy is always conserved—it cannot be created or destroyed. The total amount of energy and matter in the Universe remains constant, merely changing from one form to another.
While some might find satisfaction in the aesthetic simplicity of it all, for me, this train of thought often leads back to a lonely, vast, and paralyzing point between curiosity and despair. This place is called existentialism and it feels like the edge of a great cliff where the world falls away. Self-improvement in spatial terms looks like a path forwards and upwards, towards the future and the sky. But what use is this if the edge of your world, or what lies beyond your abilities, is always an endless uncertainty? What is direction but a construct to distract from the stillness of the universe itself, and what are earthly goals but a distraction from the vastness above? Is infinity the same as death?
The mind chatters on.
The Rose, Bud, and Thorn method also remind me of a whole verses its pieces. The rose represents the good; the bud, room to grow; and the thorn, points of pain and annoyance. However, I would argue that a rose in its totality is perfect as it is, even in its fluctuating stages of growth and decay. So too can a human reflect beauty, growth, pain, and frustration, all the while remaining lovely and divine, as another creation of Mother Nature.
Did I mention I love flowers? Feb-March 2020.
How do we balance satisfaction with our innate perfection with the hunger to actualize our untapped potential? One is still and present, while the other is geared to a motion which once started can hardly stop. I came across another blogger (Annie Mueller) who called this antonym of gratitude ambition. At its best, ambition is a fire that fuels. At worst, it is one that burns. It is up to you to temper the heat of the mind and emotion. It is this tension of gratitude and ambition that I sought to release this week, with the help of my friends, my chattering brain, and the wisdom of bloggers before me. I capture my learnings in the simple nuggets below:
1. Growth takes time
My friends get the credit for this bit of wisdom, and they elaborate that “adulthood is a testament to how disciplined and organized you can be while accepting that some things only happen with time.”
Illustration by my talented friend JoJo Lee. You can find him on IG @breadman.designs.
Nobody looks at a sprout and blames it for being small, and yet it still blooms. Thinking of my own experience as a new mother of several plants: I sometimes catch myself growing impatient, wishing for a pothos to drape just a bit more so I can show off a majestic curtain of green hanging from my bedroom ceiling. But to deny a plant's natural pace is only counterintuitive. As many a smothering plant mom before me would know, overdoing the daily recommended doses of sunlight and water can be a death sentence--you can only do your part, then allow nature to take its course.
In the meantime, I remind myself that I picked up plant care as an exercise in discipline and gratitude. Bearing witness to the changing cycles of the seasons and sun and acknowledging that myself and my plants are the same to large extends in our dependence on larger forces in a humbling experience. When I remember that, as with my dear pothos, my growth occurs bit by bit, I redirect my thoughts towards the present moment, where acceptance, gratitude, stillness, and curiosity can co-exist. I fill up a tall glass of water for us both, open the blinds, and take in the fresh air.
Breathing in the prana at Smolak Farm in North Andover. July 2020.
2. Don't take yourself so seriously
I've recently found that the surest anecdote to the dreaded spiral into the void is a sense of humor. In the same vein, I've also found that accepting what isn't in your control and redirecting your thoughts to what is a sure path to creativity. When you take your mind off of dead-end problems and catastrophic thoughts, you find design challenges, which in their essences are not dissimilar to a brain teaser or game. All games begin with rules, but these make rather than break the fun.
Taking it a step further, I'll experiment this week with reimagining words like discipline, which can take on a restrictive and punitive connotation (like a ruler to the hand), with self-authority (a far more autonomous activity) or in my more dramatic moments, alignment with Source (in the words of Esther Hicks/Abraham). I was pretty obedient as a kid, but I felt this was often at the expense of my freedom and suppression of my imagination. Now, I find this has manifested in some mischievousness and disdain for expectations, though I'm accustomed to keeping up appearances. Addressing the same tasks but with more creative or playful language takes the serious and mundane quality out of it, adding some enchanting back into my everyday life.
Don't wake me, I'm photosynthesizing. May 2020.
All creations of Mother Nature follow her law. Accepting and engaging with them puts you on the track of direct alignment with your potential while denying them would be to fight with reality, which is the cause of more pain, frustration, self-sabotage, and more. Even then, the path you are meant to be on will be fraught with thunderclouds and rainstorms. It is better to walk through them then attempt to catch each droplet; and you may even come to enjoy the weather.