"Did you see where this tomato plant decided to grow?"
My husband was pointing down to where the cement wall meets the asphalt ground. A tiny tomato plant was sprouting out, as though telling the world, "Surprise! Bet you didn't expect to see me here, did ya'?"
I smiled and reminded him of last year's pumpkin palooza. We had pumpkin plants sprouting all over the back and front yards. Then there was the one sunflower and one cornstalk growing by the pond. We never intentionally planted seeds in any of the areas in which these plants had taken root, but it did drive a point home for me. We may plant seeds at some point in our lives, and they may not produce when we expect them to, but my goodness, when they take root when you least expect it and in the most surprising way-boy, does it bring a spectacular amount of joy to your heart.
Rewind to three years ago. I was determined to have a little garden at our new home. I went all in, bought a crap-load of seeds. I had no idea what or how to create a vegetable garden. I remember laying out where I wanted certain vegetables to grow, and thought, "Ahhhh, sure, a foot of space between them should be enough." Phew. When I tell you I was wrong. So wrong.
Lesson number one. Always leave about two or more feet of space between seedlings. If you're trying to grow squash or pumpkins-don't even bother planting anything else around those plants. They grow like huge octopuses , arms sprawling out in every direction, gripping whatever is around them-including other plants that are trying to thrive. I had so many vegetable plants growing, and some did well, some not so much. It was just too overwhelming, and the squash plants either strangled their neighboring plants or cast shadows over them, compromising their ability to get sunlight.
Lesson number two. Strawberries. Have them in their own dedicated location, separate from all other plants. I'm not from a big city, but call me a city girl. I did not realize strawberries grow in patches. I did not realize these jump around, invading neighboring territories. Mind you, I had planted two blueberry bushes next to the strawberries. The strawberry plants spread, and I literally had to put up a small fence to stop them from spreading past the blueberries into the vegetable section. The blueberries did not fare too well. A moment of silence for the blueberry bushes please.
Lesson number three and the lesson most relevant to the moral of this blog post. Wherever you drop a seed, whether intentional or not, the seed has potential to grow at its own time, when its ready...and in its own way. In honor of Ochun, my mother in Ocha, I have laid out pumpkins at the pond. Three years ago, my children, a close friend and I, placed several little gourds and two big pumpkins at the foot of the pond. I never removed them. Just like I never thought to remove the little tomatoes that had fallen onto the dirt on their own and had been invaded by ants.. To be honest, there was a part of me that felt it was a more natural way of doing things. Let the tomato, or pumpkin, run its course, and before they began to rot, I would just bury them. The winter came, the snow came, and then the spring came. I was going to be careful this time, and strategically planted things as I learned from the previous year. However, what I did not expect was for the seeds of those tomatoes, and squash...and cilantro...to take root and grow. I couldn't believe when the squash octopus reappeared, this time in my vegetable garden and at the pond, and all over the yard. And then there was also the sunflower and cornstalk at the pond-the most random of all-which I was later told could have both been the product of wind, or birds...who have a habit of carrying things and then dropping them while in flight.
Fast forward back to present day, where we are now growing, once again, pumpkins at the pond, and tomato plants are sprouting out from the driveway. It's been a busy year, and I have not planted my vegetable garden, and we most definitely need to mow the lawn this coming weekend. But even so, the seeds took root on their own and are thriving in their own way, in the least likeliest of places.
Now, shifting gears and talking about people. We are like these plants. in so many ways. There will be some people who will overwhelm us, cast shadows on us, and even try to strangle the life out of us. There will be others who will want what we have, and try to invade our space, or cross our boundaries and violate us in different ways, emotionally and physically. We could try to avoid these people, but we can't always run and hide. We need to learn how to survive, how to thrive, even in the midst of the chaos. Even in the least likeliest of places. We need to learn how to be like seeds. And we need to learn how to plant seeds as well. I was given the gift earlier this week of bumping into a patient I haven't seen for years. Someone who would share about his constant struggle with suicidal ideation. When I saw him this time, he had a smile that was beaming, and he appeared genuinely happy. He shared how his life had changed. He had goals now, big goals, and he was hopeful about the future. At one point during our interaction, he said to me, "There was a time I couldn't see myself living in the world. Now, I can't see myself not being in the world. I have a life now. A future."
Hold up...holding back tears. Even writing those words gives me chills, and my eyes are welling up. I'm so freakin' proud of this person, and if he were to read this, I want him to know how proud I am of him. You know who you are. And you made a change in me too. You reminded me of the power of planting seeds, the potential for change and growth, and how much hope and faith matters.
Regardless of the pumpkin Octopuses and strawberry patches out there in the world, whatever it may be, whether its a toxic relationship, an abusive past, a trauma that haunts us in our sleep, an addiction, or our own anger, whatever it is....we can overcome it in time. We just need to be as persistent as the seed that waits underground, in the dead of winter. Because in time, our time will come, and we will say, "Surprise! Remember me? Bet you didn't expect to see me here, did ya'?"
It's a rainy morning and I should be out of bed, preparing my almost-two year old's lunch. I should be taking a shower and getting dressed before the kids wake up. I already had a cup of coffee but coffee doesn't do anything for me anymore. I have reached the cap on the tolerance scale when it comes to coffee and the only other option would be energy drinks or pre-workout. But I don't want to feel energized right now. Instead, I want to remain in bed, cozy, listening to Luna snoring beside me and enjoying the silence of the dim-lit room, the sound of a bird's chirping outside my window, the rain clapping against the top of the air-conditioner. I want to stay here, in this moment, before the day gets rushed, loud and busy.
The time is 6:56 am, and I have been up since 5 am. Not by my own choice, but by my husband, who wakes up early to head out to work by 5:30 am. He woke me this morning with a light kiss, and a laugh, when I squinted open my eyes and he informed me I was snoring with my mouth wide open. He was holding a mug in each hand, and I was grateful. My gratitude pushed me out of bed. How could I turn away his effort? "Okay, I'll get up," I said, and rolled out of bed. My first destination was the bathroom, where I emptied my bladder and washed up. Second destination was the front porch, where we tend to sit together on mornings and late evenings, typically with our coffee and cigarettes. In the morning, our time together can vary in two different extremes. Either we are talkative, and share about the day we each have planned ahead of us. OR-we sit in silence, privately preparing ourselves for the day we have ahead of us. Today was for talking, although there wasn't much to say. It is raining after all, and therefore the kind of work he does is limited to indoor activity, which he had one or two indoor jobs lined up. There wasn't much going on with my day that would be different from any other. Get up, get the kids ready, drop off the baby and go to work. Leave work, pick up the baby, and work some more. So, instead of sharing about my day, I shared about the book I've been listening to on my car rides to and from work.
"It's motivating. I like it. And he's funny too," I said, referring to Kevin Hart. I recently finished listening to his first book on audible, and moved onto his second, The Decision. I told my husband about some of my favorite points so far, including the topics of blaming others and playing the victim. My husband seemed interested, and he commented on how much better it is to listen to a motivational speaker who is funny, than one who can be drawn out and boring. "You know, like therapists. They can be so boring," he said, in his Ricky Ricardo accent. Actually, it's his real life, heavy, latino accent, but I like to refer to it as the Ricky Ricardo because people understand what I'm describing.
I gave him the side eye but let him finish his point. (ahem....keep in mind I am a therapist, and I don't think I'm so boring...but let's not get caught up on that thought). When he was done, I thought back to the days I worked in a residential program and remembered how fulfilling it felt to speak to the patients about not only their pasts, but their potential. "You know," I started, "I really enjoyed working at the program because everybody was there all the time. You really got to know the patients. And I have realized through the years, I enjoy talking to people not only about the "why" but also the "how'. I'm a therapist, and I know it's important to understand why we feel what we feel, and why we do what we do, but if we get stuck there, we won't get to the moving forward part. A lot of people get caught up in the why, but only some think about the how. Like how do I get better, how do I stop doing the same things over and over again. How do I stop repeating the same mistakes. How do I change my life. How do I reach my goals. How do I move forward." I paused. "What does it matter to know the why, if we don't think about the 'what now'?" He nodded his head in acknowledgment, and we both remained silent for a moment. i think we both needed a second or so of silence to think of our own lives, the journey we each have lived. He has his, as I have mine. We both have made several mistakes and taken detours with dead ends, but the one thing we have in common is we both have persisted to achieve something. So far, our shared something is our family. Not to say our marriage and family life is perfect-but we were two wounded human beings, with our own baggage, who both wanted to make something better for ourselves and for our kids.
I sat there, thinking about my vision for my practice, still figuring out what it will grow into, and certain of what I want to do. I enjoy motivating people, seeing their eyes light up with hope. But I also realize that I'm not the hero of anyone's story. It is the individual who has to make a choice. It is one thing to think about the how, and another to act on it. To be willing to take the risk of "failure", knowing you will face judgment and criticism, and remembering that those same people who are judging you and criticizing you are human also, with their own pasts, their own baggage, and at the end of the day, they are human just like you. We are all on a journey trying to figure out what success and happiness looks like, and it doesn't have to be a big feat like becoming a Nobel Peace Prize winner or a New York Times best seller. Happiness and success could be as personal as not picking up that drug each day, or not having an angry outburst and rupturing yet another relationship. The goal can be holding a job long term, having meaningful relationships, or perhaps, just for today, it can be staying in bed a little while longer, (after your husband has gone off to work) and enjoying the sound of the rain.
It's now 7:34 am and the little one beside me has awoken. A little smile and mischievous giggle can do a lot more than coffee to get the day going. Til next time-