Three days with no shower, wearing the same pajamas, barely able to get out of bed.
This was me the other day as I was trying to dig myself out of my most recent bout of anxiety and depression. But then, two quotes came to mind.
The first about being planted, not buried:
“Sometimes when you’re in a dark place you think you’ve been buried, but you’ve actually been planted.” ~ Christine Caine
The second about blossoming:
“The day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” ~ Anaïs Nin
As I was feeling swallowed up by that dark place of uncertainty, these quotes gave me a little bit of hope. They were like little bursts of light in the darkness. The more I started to think about what these writers were trying to convey, the more I started to realize that perhaps my own unrealistic, self-imposed expectations of myself were behind my present emotions.
You see, when a seed is planted, it’s not afraid of the dark. It doesn’t ask why it’s there or what it did wrong. It doesn’t start to question its value or self-worth.
It just does. It just trusts. It just grows. And it doesn’t really spend much time considering whether it was planted or buried.
The earth protects the seed in its shell. The rain nourishes it, and the sun warms it. When its inner parts (the Plumule, Hypocotyl, and Radicle) begin to press against their constrictive outer shell, they don’t give up when they don’t see immediate, visible progress or fear change and the unknown. They simply press harder until they become free.
After this happens, the seed still doesn’t fear the darkness of the earth that still surrounds it. Instead, the plant pushes even harder. Instinct drives the plant upward toward the sun and the roots deeper into the earth, simultaneously grounding itself as it grows taller.
The tiny newborn plant does not chastise itself for being so small in comparison to the massive redwoods, nor does it question its worthiness to grow there. It just grows, day by day—until it, too, becomes a redwood, or maybe a fern.
I think I feel this pressure to know where I am going, and what I am doing, and what my purpose is to be, and what am I going to grow into, and, and, and…
Boom—the anxiety and depression take over because suddenly the world suddenly seems too great and too vast for me. I am suddenly overwhelmed with fear that I am not going to grow—and what even am I? Am I a redwood? A fern? A blade of grass? A snail?
I fall into this cycle of overthinking and believing I have to know all the answers before I even get started. There are certainly times when I’m feeling beaten down that it seems like it would just be easier to give up and succumb to the negativity and the darkness. But that’s not where growth comes from, is it?
I like to think that I am not the only person who experiences these feelings. How many of us are, at some level, overwhelmed by our own expectations? What if we spent less time worrying about the things we cannot control and becoming more like the seed? Trusting our instincts? Growing strong solid roots down as we thrust upward toward the sun? Having faith that our journey is supported by the earth and the sun and the rain (or the people in our lives, and our self-care practices?
Perhaps if we learned this and mastered it just as the seed has, we would shed our fear and our preconceptions of what we are meant to be, and simply become. Maybe it doesn’t matter as much as we think it does. Maybe we are just meant to be the best humans we can be. Maybe this is what’s meant by less is more.
In writing this, I am exposing a part of me I normally keep hidden. A part I don’t share with anyone—not my husband, not my best friends…a part of me that is true.
I’m not always strong, or positive and light. I too sometimes suffer from intense sadness, depression, and even hopelessness. I definitely do not have all the answers. But perhaps being brave enough to expose these softest and weakest parts of myself is not all that different from fearlessly sprouting like an emergent plant.
Maybe being vulnerable is what allows all of us as humans to be stronger as we grow. The tree that is a tender green sapling can become the mightiest oak, right? So maybe I need to stop thinking so hard. To stop worrying about figuring it all out and knowing how it all ends. To tap into what nature has given us and what we humans seem to have forgotten: how to simply feel and live. To try to be and do good the best way we know how. Perhaps then we can also become the mighty redwoods…
So be planted—and grow!
Author: Joan Blendowski
Editor: Callie Rushton
Copy Editor: Sara Kärpänen