The Overlooked Underground: Letting Go of Resolutions for True Growth

I love planting bulbs. The digging in the dirt, sometimes with a spade to clump them all willy-nilly like Mother Nature took her beautiful hand and swept a single brushstroke of beautifully placed pastels, and sometimes with my official bulb planter, lining them up in likenesses-- pink tulips here beneath the tree, the frilly daffodils gracing the corners of the deck.

I could never have enough bulbs in my yard. I dream of coming home to a living Monet landscape. It doesn't seem to happen though. Fall whizzes by so quickly around here. Babak in the middle of his teaching, and me consumed with blitz builds and fundraising events, driving kids, and a seemingly endless list of projects around the house. Living in a university town, autumn is like new year around here-- we are a city that starts and ends with school schedules. So all of these new things, all of the buzzing just keeps us afloat on a jostling raft right through those class 5 rapids of life, finds us landing abruptly at Christmas.

We've had to take a couple of trees down this year as they died over the summer, and the landscape around the house has been looking increasingly bleak, especially now that the leaves are gone. I've been thinking of what to plant, and knowing what fall really is to us, I asked the arborist how late was “too late” to plant a tree. As long as you can get your shovel in the ground, it's never too late. Trees don't have any leaves in the winter, but they're doing a whole lot of growing where you can't see-- where it counts-- in the roots.

Then we hit New Years. The time the whole world seems to be making resolutions. Creating new energy for their intentions. Weight loss, exercise, eating better, launching new initiatives at work, being better parents... the list is unending, and on the years I've been swept into that pattern I find myself gasping for air, and frankly feeling a little inadequate. If I have so much to improve on, why the heck am I so tired from doing my best at life already?

The year Sam was an infant he barely slept during break, like maxed at 45 minutes cumulative sleep, and I was beyond exhausted. My new year's resolution was just to keep showing up: go to work, take care of Sam, and nurture the little life within me.

I remember getting a call from my ever-driven entrepreneurial friend first thing that morning, who greeted me in an enthusiastic run-on sentence “Good morning Kerry, happy new year to you, I miss you so much, and can't wait to see what the new year has in store for you, I'm taking the world by storm this year, my business is going to grow bigger and better than before.....” when her list of plans was finished there was a comma rather than a period, no pause, and “What is in store for your new year?”

“I'm feeling pretty good that I showed up at work today. Giving myself 5 gold stars in fact.” That's what did it. Admitting to my mentor that I was exhausted and maxed out already, that I didn't need another thing on my dream list gave me the freedom to never have to do that again. That was the year I decided turning over a new leaf can happen any time of year you want it to, and many times just living the way you are living and noticing the beauty you've already been given is enough.

It happens that new years usually isn't a great time for me to start something new, but I am always tempted. I read this blog just when I started thinking about adding some new things to my list; it was just the reminder I needed. Life is pretty beautiful just the way it is, and we are living things just like trees and bulbs. We need to find a quiet winter to root down deep. The seasons of our soul have times of dramatic upward, visible, measurable growth, sometimes even bursting forth into a delicately ordained tulip, or even a dramatic asiatic lilly trumpeting the landscape with dazzling vibrant color, but if we want that upward growth, we need to nurture those roots in the still hibernation of winter as well.

In the unseasonably warm weather of an el Nino year, I found myself planting a new Spruce and 20 tulip bulbs this new year. A marker for me of hope in unseen growth, a reminder to do my own work of being still, to see what's already been given to my rich abundant life, and to have faith that what needs to blossom has already been planted within me.

If your new years resolutions are already starting to flounder, perhaps there was already too much beauty on your plate to take on another thing just yet. Perhaps for you, like me, new beginnings can start in times after rest, your seeds need a time of quiet nutritive growth before they can bloom. Stop listening to that voice inside that says you have to do more, be better. Start listening to the tulips and find your perfect spot to root deep so you can push forth from the ground when the moment is right.