Trusting the roots growing beneath the surface
Can we be more loving and patient with ourselves and trust divine timing?
Field Notes on Flourishing is a monthly love letter exploring art, mindfulness, creativity, and the question of flourishing — by Ludi Leiva.
I’ve propagated more plants over the last year than I have in all my life.
Something about my own efforts to settle into a new place, I think, has spurred an impulse to make other beings grow, to lovingly tend to the life of other things because, on some deep level, I know their well-being is also tied to my own.
It’s hard to be a person in the world right now. So in search of some peace and spiritual stability, I’ve been turning my attention towards things that give me a creative outlet and an opportunity to (hopefully) make something meaningful. By far, the project taking up the most space in my life right now is my Master’s thesis project, an experimental comic/illustrated book.
I’ve spent the better part of the last twelve months thinking about it almost all the time—wondering how different experiences I have fit into the story I am trying to tell, and questioning so many things I’ve previously thought of or known about myself, my family, my ancestry, and my understanding of legacy. Let me tell you: this is one of the biggest and hardest things I’ve ever attempted.
For all the countless hours of work I’ve done, all of the days spent sketching and drawing and writing madly into the night, waking up in the early twilight hours to scribble down a dream or a thought or a question, I feel like right now I’m sitting on a pile of drawings, writing excerpts, and not much else.
How am I supposed to put this all together into something cohesive? Something coherent? I’m not sure of the answer to these questions, but I am doing my best to meet them with a gentle but firm response: I’m not supposed to know all of that right now. I need to allow things to take root and grow in their own time.
It’s easy for a lot of us, I think, to put immense pressure on ourselves to produce and make things as a sort of proof that we’re able, that we’re worthy. This leads, oftentimes, to unrealistic (and unkind) timelines and expectations that are actually quite antithetical to creativity. For all of our grasping and trying to control and ensure what we’re making will be “good” (or insert whatever adjective here—publishable, award-worthy, sellable, noteworthy, critically acclaimed, impactful, etc) we lose sight of the beauty and magic that is creating, that is allowing something to emerge from the deepest, mo loving parts of ourselves.
How many times have you spoken harshly to yourself, or thought unkind things about something you’ve spent time and effort on? By worrying about hitting deadlines or milestones or creating something “good,” we sometimes forget to enjoy the in-between, the liminal space that is the creative process, that is imagination, and growth, and hope, and progress. And so many other things that are already inherently good.
If any of this resonates with you, I invite you to release a bit. To loosen your grip and make space for allowing things to grow in their own divine, universal timing. To embrace uncertainty and welcome silence.
Whether it’s an artistic work, something in your personal life, a work project, a home-improvement project —whatever—we are all working on and tending to countless growing things in our lives. Allowing things to grow in their own time isn’t the same thing as being apathetic or indifferent to growth. It just means holding onto things a bit more loosely, a bit more lovingly. It means having faith and trusting the process.
In the same way that we wouldn’t sit next to a plant cutting and yell at it to grow faster, or incessantly measure it with a ruler to see if it’s meeting benchmarks, or check to make sure that its budding leaves are a green enough shade of green, we mustn’t do such things to ourselves.
Be gentle with yourself, and tend to the things you’re trying to grow in your life as you would tend to a baby bird or a little seedling. Show up for them, feed and water them, but allow them to grow in their own time. And see what happens.
I’ll be over here drawing, writing, and reminding myself to do the same.
Peek into my sketchbook pages and notes:
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You do not have to be good. You do not have to walk on your knees for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting. You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves. Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine. Meanwhile the world goes on. Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain are moving across the landscapes, over the prairies and the deep trees, the mountains and the rivers. Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air, are heading home again. Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, the world offers itself to your imagination, calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting– over and over announcing your place in the family of things. — Mary Oliver “Wild Geese”
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