Like a plant that starts up in showers and sunshine and does not know which has best helped it to grow, it is difficult to say whether the hard things or the pleasant things did me the most good. ~Lucy Larcom
Summer is such a metaphor for growth. My garden is the perfect example of how the painful and uncomfortable heat along with the constant discipline of water bring growth and change. The green beans and edamame have outgrown their appointed patches and are mingling into a sort of bean festival of sorts and the edamame with its bright yellow flowers is branching and stretching out with long green tendrils. What started as seeds has endured and is bringing me a tasty harvest.
A month after my trip has ended, I am still processing the challenges and harvesting the fruits of my summer and beginning to understand the difficult and overwhelming process of growth. Somehow I’m prone to believe that growth is one of lifes deepest purposes.
Traveling alone to a foreign country brought so many opportunities for me to be stretched and pushed. I’m sure you remember my story about the flight from Miami to Lima and how I’d decided I wanted to come home and I hadn’t even gotten there yet! I remember thinking (multiple times in Peru), “this is the hardest thing I’ve ever done!” and really not liking that feeling much. While I was there, my roommate taught me a useful phrase that relates to this process…basically that you have to “swim through an ocean of crap before you can get to the oasis of good.”
In addition to traveling to Peru, I’ve spent the remainder of my summer working in a day treatment type setting for a mental health agency. And if I had to describe it I would probably use more of the “swimming through the ocean of crap” metaphor than the “oasis of good”…imagine a small class of children with mental health diagnosis and difficult trauma histories all in one place trying to have fun, with the result being minimally successful. I’m spending a lot of time in amazement at these 6 year olds’ swear word vocabulary and capacity to deeply wound each other (both physically and emotionally) and in the mean time trying not to take it personally!
In spite of the I realize that this all adds up to some important gifts. One being hilarious and outrageous stories, two being new friends (fellow teachers/counselors) and the third and most difficult being: growth.
Peru provided me with intensified and short term tidbits of being able to trust in the growth process…Being able to see my stress and gain new skills and adapt. I had no idea how much I would need that during my summer. I have often acquiesced to complaining and despair in the midst of the challenges. Summer has provided me with an opportunity to become stronger, to grow up and to make choices about who I am and who I will be.
As I look back, I am finding a not so short list of new skills and knowledge and gifts available to “harvest” and enjoy.