Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Growing Pains.

A commonly-held misconception is the notion that growth causes pain. Until recently I accepted that as truth, but I no longer believe that to be the case, and think "growth" is getting a bad rap when all it's trying to do is to make us better.

I submit that the pain that we associate with growth is actually caused by our resistance to growth. Put another way, trying to reach the sky while refusing to allow our feet to leave the ground will rip us apart. And after our torso has been wrenched from our lower limbs, and we are writhing in pain on the concrete, others will make an example of us. Swear that we were too ambitious. That we were just fine where we were. And, in pain, we think that maybe they were right, and fearfully resolve to be more careful next time. Next time, instead of reaching for the sky, maybe we'll just reach for that low-hanging twig - that can't hurt too much, could it? And when we reach it, people will cheer like we've really done something special.

But inside ourselves, we know.

We still want to touch the sky.

In order to grow, sometimes you have to walk by yourself. Sometimes you have to accept that people who had their own designs on your life will be disappointed that your path diverges from theirs. Sometimes you have to let go of things that you thought you would (or should) hold onto forever. That's the part that hurts. The actual growing part? Not so much.

In a voice class in college, I was given the following poem to read, but I really didn't "get" it then, so I didn't do it justice. Now I get it. And I want to share it with you.

The Journey

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice--
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do--
determined to save
the only life you could save.

--Mary Oliver

Let go of whatever it is that you should no longer be holding. Most of that stuff isn't even yours anyway: it's stuff the media told you that you should aspire to, it's stuff your mama taught you that no longer fits the person that you are today, it's stuff you thought you should have accomplished by now but haven't... let it go. It ain't easy, but it's simple. None of that stuff is real. What's real is that right now, in your gut, you know it's time to fly. And you can't do that if you insist on keeping your feet in the trench that has appeared under them.

Take a deep breath. Then open your hands and grow.


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