Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Message from The Market: Do You Need Pruning?

"Old Blue" in all her pruned, fruitful glory
If you grew up in the '70s, you probably heard the Byrds cover of "Turn, Turn, Turn." The song was written by Pete Seeger, lyrics from the Book of Ecclesiastes. It seemed every wedding I went to as a child had this song sung during the ceremony. I was unimpressed. A time for planting, laughing, weeping, nothing at all about a wedding. Except maybe the "time for embracing" part. Boring. How about something creative, even surprising? "You Sexy Thing," for example. " I believe in Malcolm! Way from, you sexy thing, you sexy thing, you!" Those are the lyrics, right? You do believe in Malcolm, don't you?

Well, the "to every thing there is a season" concept that I took to be a yawn-fest as a child, has become a cornerstone of my adult life and decision making. Things change. We change. What worked before may not work quite as well now. Relationships we thought we'd die without, are just not as central any longer. It's tempting to feel guilty and think, "What am I doing wrong? Why am I feeling restless and unsatisfied?" You probably aren't doing anything wrong. You might just need a pruning. 

Pruning is essential for a full, healthy plant and a full healthy life. Like Pete Seeger, I borrow heavily from God with this analogy, but I believe there is wisdom to be found in the pruning concept no matter what your beliefs or spiritual inclinations. So, instead of the vine and branches, there is a blueberry bush in this story. I'll try to be brief.

Once upon a time there was a blueberry bush at my childhood home....blah, blah, blah...parents moving, blah,blah,blah..... "over my dead body" blah, blah, blah ....rope around bush attached to Suburban, blah, blah, blah....we have a "new" blueberry bush! With sentimental value! Emphasis on the 'mental'!

With so much invested in this dang bush's existence, I am loathe to cut ANYTHING off at ANY TIME. I have nurtured this baby. Miraculously, it bore many blueberries almost immediately. But, as the years went on,  I noticed the blueberries getting tinier and tinier. They looked like little American Girl Doll berries. I kidded myself, "Wow, look at all the concentrated flavor, ( imagining the shrinking process just like  the freeze drying process?) you don't find these at any old grocery store!" The truth was, the berries weren't extra delicious. They were, however, so painstaking to harvest that, for a year or two, Old Blue was little more than a landscape plant. Deep down, I knew what the bush needed, but I pushed those thoughts away. I avoided pruning by upping the fertilizing and watering. I think Kubler-Ross would call this "SUBCONSCIOUSDENIALBARGAINING."

You know where this is going. Berry research was done. Opinions were sought. Pruning did occur. And the bush bore-eth a multitude of large, delicious fruit and lo, it was good.

In this story, we want to emulate Old Blue, not the deluded, enabling gardener. Actually, let's be Blue with a mindful, caring gardener who has Blue's best interests at heart. Here are some thoughts and questions to assist you in determining if pruning is needed and which branches, once removed, set you free to move forward and be more of who you are truly meant to be.

List any obligations, activities or commitments you dread or find dissatisfying. Have you always felt this way?

If you answer "yes" but the obligation is a normal part of being a grown up (like laundry, feeding your children or paying bills) star those items as "non-negotiables." Give yourself a pat on the back for being a responsible citizen and good neighbor. Smile at yourself in the mirror and say, " Wow, these things are a drag but it's good to do the right thing."

If you answer "yes", and the thing isn't essential, then It could be you have entered into this obligation for the wrong reason(s). The joy of approval and the novelty of new activity quickly feels wrong if we said "yes" for the wrong reasons.Here are some reasons we say "yes" to things that aren't in our best interests:

-wanting to please the person asking/inviting      
-wanting to escape the "non-negotiables"
-fear we may never get another opportunity that is better suited to us
-pride because we are flattered and want the prestige afforded by our role
-Do any of these ring true? What other forces may have influenced your "yes"?

Identifying these things and being humble enough to admit we may have been mistaken is HUGE and wonderful. Well done! Begin your exit strategy....(cue sound of pruners being sharpened).

If no, I haven't always been dissatisfied with this thing, what changed? Examples: my goals/priorities have changed, I have new interests that keep pulling me away, I gave myself a pass to not do this, but now I want to step it up, etc.
If you're not sure what changed, ask yourself, when did it change? Examples: After a loss or life change? As a loss or life change was about to occur? After an argument or misunderstanding? Because of health issues?

Is it my attitude/way of thinking that needs changing or is the needed change external? 
If your answer is "I'm the one who has changed, and not for the better" what needs to happen in order for you to be happy again? Examples:  I'd like to forgive and forget, agree to disagree, lower my expectations of myself and others, stop the negative self talk,etc.

If the change needed is external, either begin mapping out an exit strategy or TAKE A RISK and begin this new change! Try to be direct, honest and gentle with yourself. Respect any others involved by giving them room to adjust, permission to have their own feelings about your decisions.

Throughout the pruning process, take a step or two back to see the big picture and how these changes will fit with the overall plan and purpose of your life. Taking time to consider what needs to be done at this particular time will enable you to avoid the impulsive, rash actions of one so uncomfortable with their dread and restlessness that any change is seen as relief. "Not so!" says the voice of Experience! Effective pruning is deliberate, gentle, and timely. It is done for the benefit of the whole organism, freeing it to grow wild, wonderful, and beyond anyone's expectations.

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