by Melissa Price
For many people, the New Year sparks thoughts about change. With meaningful intentions, we make resolutions and set about accomplishing them. Defining how and why we choose to make a change is often straightforward enough. A common chant after the holidays often sounds like, I want to lose weight, or, I want to get in shape, or I want to learn a new skill.
Quantifiable resolutions such as these are more easily measured than the qualifiable ones – the ones that speak to the quality of our character and our attitudes. But how do we measure changes in our quality of life? Isn’t growth a byproduct of change? Are they same thing?
Does change result in growth, or is it the other way around?
Sometimes it’s either or neither, and sometimes it’s both.
Change is inevitable. Growth is optional.
Changing something about ourselves, even something we see as significant, doesn’t always cause us to grow. Change can catapult us forward, to be sure. Ironically, change can also leave us stagnant, or worse, it can cause us to move backward. With my birthday approaching, I was inspired to think about how I’ve grown and changed over the past year.
Is it measurable? I wondered. And then I stared at the succulent pictured here. I thought about that tonight while sitting on my porch on this rare, rainy desert night. Was that plant staring back at me? Maybe.
After my birthday beach walk on a sunny Southern California afternoon, I sat on a half-wall to take in the beauty of my surroundings. Behind me was a flower box under the window of the business on whose wall I was sitting. I admired the huge succulent, making a mental note to buy one of those plants as a birthday gift to myself.
Minutes later, when I stood to walk to my car, I happened to notice a one-inch long succulent stem on the pavement. Easy to miss, if it weren’t for the four teeny tiny leaves it had sprouted before it fell from its mother behind me. It was so little and fragile that I was compelled to pick it up off the sidewalk. When I reached my car, I took a small plastic cup from my trunk, poured a little water into it and gently placed the tiny plant in the cup.
A couple of hours later when I checked into my next hotel, I brought the plant-wannabe to my room, found it a sunny spot near my window, and gave it more water. Tending to it every day for the rest of the week, I wondered what to do with it when I checked out for the long drive home.
I wrapped the filament of stem in a wet paper towel, left a little water in the cup, placed the cup into the cup holder and drove it 400 miles to my house.
I never really thought the little guy would make it, but I wanted to give it a chance to thrive and not just to survive – to grow and not just to change. It’s one year later, and tomorrow I will purchase yet another larger pot for it, and feed it with new, healthier soil. Through example, this plant has reminded me to grow along with it. Each grouping of flowers helps me to recall certain events that have occurred during this past year. They serve to remind me that even the challenging times can’t restrain me from growing into something bigger, stronger and ultimately more beautifully connected.
I have tended to this plant nearly every day since the day I plucked it off the sidewalk. I’ve given it different pots and room to grow. In one year’s time, its expansion has gone beyond all expectation. I wonder sometimes if the succulent has been watching me grow, too.
I look forward each week to seeing the newest generation cling to its mother, who just a year ago was as small and vulnerable as these new babies.
What is clear to me about human nature is that it is impossible to grow without changing. And while change affords us the opportunity to grow, growth is not inevitable. It has to be chosen. It has to take root, to be cultivated, and most important, it must be nurtured.
That which we feed grows.
As we forge through the year, checking those resolutions off our lists, we must remember to ask ourselves, How have I cultivated my environment? and How have I nurtured my being? Have I allowed “toxic soil” to pollute my thinking or undermine my growth?
The situations (or people) who work against our best selves and lives, are merely weeds in otherwise rich soil. If we allow it, they can overtake the health of that which we cultivate. When we weed the pot of those negative influences, we thrive – we grow.
Growing forward may be as simple as removing any “toxic soil” from our lives while feeding our endless beauty. And that is change with an attitude of purpose. On any given day, weed out those who would feed your life with the wrong things and always grow forward.
Following chiropractic school in Los Angeles, Melissa maintained a successful private practice while furthering her jazz guitar study and writing short stories and magazine articles. Her novels include Steel Eyes and The Right Closet. She also co-wrote the authorized biographical screenplay, Toma—The Man, The Mission, The Message. While her house is in Phoenix, Arizona, she lives between some unnamed exotic Caribbean island and Paris’s Left Bank. Learn more at Melissa’s website.