By the title above and the fact that I live in Florida, you might be led to think this post is about regularity… thankfully (at least from my viewpoint) it’s not! It’s about making room in your life for new growth, new experiences, new insights – no matter how old you are! In fact, today is the youngest you’ll ever be again in your life, and if you’re reading this post, it is so much better than the alternative…
It’s probably obvious to you that we’re all born into the world completely pure, unadulterated, fresh, … we are like an oak seedling just sprouted. We are ready for nourishment, sunlight and warmth (love), and ready to take on the world. For most of us at this point, life is good.
By mid-life, we’ve weathered seasons and storms and our branches bear witness to years of events. Our heads are filled to the brim with memories of experiences, hurts, biases, judgments, opinions of right and wrong, conditions, critiques and rules — so much so that there is barely room for anything or anyone new.
We find that we are now solid oak trees, each of us bearing a customized pattern of branches forged through a unique set of events, circumstances and relationships. These branches bear witness to our life experience and often form a mismatch of uneven projections shooting out in myriad directions. During warm summers (the good times in our life), these imperfections stay hidden, obscured by bountiful leaves and we can fully bask in our beauty. When winter sets in (the less than perfect times of our life), as it invariably does, our branches and scars are exposed bare leaving us feeling vulnerable and bare. Over the years, our “branches” build up layers of moss and hide skeletons of dead wood – emotional baggage – that can impede our natural growth. Sometimes this buildup happens overnight (such as a lightning strike or other stressful event), but more typically it accrues over time, seemingly unnoticeable as we go about our daily routines. That is, until something jolts us to observe that dead wood and moss impedes our future growth.
A colleague once told me (after a tumultuous time in my life): “You really need to prune your life – get rid of the dead branches (the toxic relationships and ways of thinking that no longer serve you) to make room for new growth.”
The analogy was “bang on” (as we say in Canada) and her advice came flooding back to me today as I read the following:
It hit me – to accomplish ANY of these things means getting rid of dead wood in our heads… taking out the rote programmed reactions and ways of thinking. Replacing the emotional baggage and dead end thinking with considerate, thoughtful, intentional responses to life. One at a time…
“Learn to love without condition.” Wow, this means I need to be conscious of and lower the biases (and judgments) that lead me to love others with conditions. (The conditions are like a wall intended to protect me from future hurt – but ultimately it limits potentially great relationships!) I need to consciously CHOOSE to accept and simply love people as they are, without conditions, (just as I would like to have happen to me.) This sounds like a good habit to adopt.
“Talk without bad intention.” Sometimes I reassure myself that I already do this, but if I am brutally honest, sometimes the good intentions are skewed when I am talking to someone with whom I have an imperfect past. If there has been some mal-intention on the part of the other (even perceived) some mal-intention back could occur. To talk without bad intention requires me to clear my head of judgment, before I speak, so that the words come out pure and the tone is positive. This gives the other party the chance to simply be and respond without their defenses being up. Sounds like another good habit to practice.
“Give without any reason.” If you’ve grown up with a scarcity mentality like I did (there’s never enough money, food, jobs, time, energy to go around), giving can end up being biased and giving ends up with some sort of expectation. Giving without reason means letting go of the need to get anything back in return (today or any day!) Giving without any reason, just because I can – this is another habit that will enrich my life!
And “Care for people without any expectation.” For me, this one hinges on my childhood learning of the “Golden Rule (do unto others as you’d like them <expect them> to do unto you.)” This learning always set me up for failure because it implied that there would be reciprocity – that kindness begets kindness, generosity begets generosity, and so on. The reality is that when I expect (not hope) something of others, I am imposing on them MY rules/code of behavior, my background, my need to control – and that is simply not fair. Letting go of the dead wood that expectations bring allows me to care for others as I can, while first taking care of my own needs (first.)
Pruning the dead wood in my life takes concentration and work to properly trim (not chop) so that I remain whole and healthy. Too much pruning at once or in the wrong season can be worse than not. Figuring out new habits, such as those above, is a journey to remove the old (negative) habits of judgment, bias, reaction, and reliving old hurts, and replace them with new (positive) habits of acceptance, love, response and openness.
While old habits die-hard – I realize that this old dog can learn new tricks and the added bonus is that my new life is enriched, full, and thriving!
Wishing you a great week!