LIFE IN A NUTSHELL ◽ YOU
My daughter, Dotty, is planning on starting middle school sports this year. In preparation for this, she participated in her school’s six week summer workout program. Monday through Thursday I dropped her off at the high school football field at 8:00am and then, depending on what all was planned, I picked her up a few hours later.
Many mornings my sports loving girl grumbled, moaned, and whimpered as she rolled out of bed, stumbled to her closet to dress and then pulled her hair up in a high ponytail to get it off her neck. The days were proving to be long, hot, humid, and hard. Most of the time was spent on agilities, lifting weights and Dotty’s favorite (not) running. Dotty was learning a valuable lesson.
As her muscles were growing stronger, leaner, and longer, her body was aching from the process. Many mornings she begged me not to make her go, but I have always believed in the sports saying, “You earn your trophies in practice…you collect them at the game.” Plus, I am a child athlete of the 90s where gyms didn’t have air conditioning and my coach’s favorite saying was, “Y’all will run until I get tired,” so Dotty didn’t get much sympathy from me. Needless to say, she had perfect attendance.
By the end of the program Dotty had visibly developed muscles in her legs and arms, and I have no doubt that she was quicker on her feet. However, what I am most proud of is the growth that happened in things a rack of weights or a stop watch can’t measure.
Dotty grew in the intangibles. She learned she was stronger than she realized. She found out that when she was hot, tired, and her legs were wobbly she still had something left in the tank to sprint down the field when the whistle blew. She learned to cheer for her friends to encourage them to achieve their best. She learned that being first is great but being first is not always possible, and we celebrate those who get the victory. She learned there are good days and bad days and there are more days in between. She learned hydration is very important and to never drink chocolate milk before you go outside and run in the heat (no need to elaborate there).
Growth is a part of life and it can be beautiful. When it comes to my flowers it is lovely to watch a plant grow up from the dirt, bud, and bloom. When it happens in our family’s pecan orchards we consider it financial success to watch the pecans form their green hull, grow, and eventually open up to produce the pecan inside.
I was working in my gardens the other day and I noticed my crepe myrtle tree was definitely experiencing some growth. The older bark had cracked as the tree swelled in size and it was peeling away to expose the new bark underneath.
The process looked kind of painful. All around the base of the tree were dried up grey strips of dead bark that had fallen to the ground as they broke away from the tree. But the new bark looked so healthy and tan.
It kind of reminded me of a chemical peel I once got in my early 30s. My face was bright orange when I left the salon and for DAYS it peeled off in huge flaky strips, and I left a trail of dead skin wherever I went. It was really kind of disgusting. But after about a week my new skin felt so tight and smooth and it looked so fresh! The process of getting there was a bit gross and painful, though.
There have been other times in my life where growth was gross and painful, too. Those days I felt like my heart was cracking and like my soul was being peeled back to expose all the raw areas of me. Those were tough days. Back then I didn’t always want to get out of bed and show up to whatever faced me that day. I moaned, whimpered, and grumbled on several occasions; and many of my growth periods lasted longer than a six week school workout program, or even the seasonal shedding period for a crepe myrtle.
Some of my growth periods took years…and some are still happening. But like Dotty, I have learned a few things. I have learned I am stronger than I realized (and probably stronger than some other people thought, as well). When the pain becomes too much to bear and I feel like I am going to crumble, I have learned to dig deep and push through. I have learned that there are good days and bad days and there are a lot of days in between. And I have learned that I have survived every bad day I ever had. I have learned that some days I am strong enough to succeed on my own and some days I need friends to encourage me along the way. I have learned that “this too shall pass” applies to both good and bad days, and so I enjoy the good ones and I know the bad ones won’t last forever.
My growth hasn’t always been pretty. Sometimes my attitude, thoughts, feelings and words were ugly and sometimes they were directed at people that got hurt by them. And sometimes those people were the ones I loved the most. But like the tree bark, I pray that I am dropping the old ways and emerging with newer, better, and brighter ways of loving and living with those around me.