Supporting Growth Through Relationships
My partner and I have been on a mission. We have a cozy place located in the European-sector of Vancouver B.C, where the streets are always bustling with life and activity...and yet, somehow, for the life of us, we cannot manage to harness that vital-energy to keep our house-plants alive.
Ok, in all fairness, my girlfriend has been able to maintain her portion of the flora-kids admirably. I may be overgeneralizing a tad as a result of my bias toward my prized baby—a dieffenbachia plant...also known as a ‘dumb cane’--which seems to be having challenges thriving and growing into its own. I tried everything an amateur indoor-plant grower could think of. It received the proper watering, had fresh soil, adequate sunlight (being positioned on the prime, central real-estate on the ledge of our living room window); even received a few drops of multiformula plant-food every few weeks—recommended by a store-clerk. And yet, as each new growth spurt would occur, with the advent of a new leaf emerging, it would languish for a few days before shriveling up and unceremoniously breaking off. Each time I was left scratching my head and questioning my intelligence...”I just finished my thesis and graduate degree...”, I would tell myself. “I think I can figure this out!”
The solution did not present itself until weeks later, where one morning my girlfriend and I looked down at the plant, then at each other, and exclaimed: “the pot!”. I had been training all my attention on the plant and ensuring it was receiving all the proper care and nutrients it required, but I had forgotten about attending to the environment in which supports its maturation. Evidently, there was nothing wrong with the plant. It had every intention of growing into its full potential. But without a big enough container to allow space for its roots to deepen and spread, it’s destiny was bound to a cycle of arrested development.
Once we provided it with a base that was at least fives times bigger than its predecessor, sure enough, within a week a transformation had taken effect. One of the main stocks, which had previously acquired a sickly yellow/brown colour and drooping with resignation, now sprung up tall and sprightly with a healthy green appearance; the leaf, outstretched pointedly towards the sun. It reminded me of a still-image of the infamous Michael Jordan dunk from the free-throw line, with Jordan’s arm darting out with full expansion towards its target. This plant was making its presence known, and I couldn’t be prouder.
Why I say this today, and how this information could be helpful to you, is because our growth as individuals can only go as far as the roots we have planted in our support network.
--- The question thus becomes, “How big is your pot?”
Think about it this way: when seeking to invest in yourself, you can spend countless hours reading self-help books, meditating and exercising, or journaling and vision-boarding, but at the end of the day your drive to thrive will be thwarted without having a strong base of people that you can bounce things off of and who can be there for you during challenging times of doubt. Because doubt will be present in your road ahead, as all things that are truly meaningful involve some degree of risk. You want people you can trust to be there for you at the moments that count.
So I took it upon myself to come up with a few attributes that I consider to be ‘Big-Base’ material. Perhaps you can recognize some of your friends, family, and significant other in these; and maybe there are some areas that you recognize as currently vacant and wish to fill on your roster.
* They’re there when you are Up, as well as Down.
Suffice it to say that having people who are there to support you during trying times is absolutely essential as a catalyst for recovery. We are social beings, and the burden of emotional pain that we can experience as a result of loss and hardship can be overwhelming if confined to bearing it alone. The power of someone being witness to your experience, and knowing somebody has your back is invaluable. That being said, this kind of foundational support can only take you so far. The role these people are embracing is that of a crisis-worker/caregiver.
Another aspect of support that tends to go unnoticed is the role of advocate or champion; those people who insist on celebrating the highlights and achievements of your life. It can be expressed either publicly or privately, but the underlying message you are receiving is that they value your relationship and the impact you have on their life. Seeing you succeed and be happy makes them happy, and they want to be a part of that experience.
* They’re able to treat you like an Adult.
Initially I was going to describe this quality as having the ability to give you ‘the good, the bad, and the ugly’, but this too would be an incomplete picture of true support. Having someone in your life who is able to meet you head-on and tell it ‘as it is’ is certainly helpful in grounding you back to reality...but whose ‘reality’ are you coming back to? Typically these people are going off of limited information and are filtering it through their values and beliefs. Is what is being said resonating with you? There is a big difference in wanting ‘the best’ for someone, and then assuming a stance of knowing exactly what that is.
Instead of immersing yourself solely with people who are great at direction-giving, it could be interesting to compliment this with individuals who continually bring the inquiry back to you: ie. “Yes, deciding between these two things is tough. Sitting with these two options now, what values do you hold high, and how do these two things measure up to that?”
Why this can be enormously helpful is that it strengthens your internal processing powers so that you can move forward in life with more clarity and confidence. The decisions being made aren’t coming from a head-space of ‘sounds right’, but from a felt-sense of knowing. This enables a growing sense of maturity and individuation.
* They make room for you to Grow Apart.
They say the only constant in life is change. So why is it that we can struggle so fervently to hold onto the familiar when it comes to relationships? You will undoubtedly have some people in your life who you have known for ages. Perhaps you were inseparable growing up, doing all the same things with the same group of friends. But now, in your adulthood, you find that both your interests have evolved and some of the things you used to see as fun and worthwhile together has lost its appeal. Is your friend able to support your decisions and incorporate your new lifestyle?
You might have heard the statement: “Man...you’ve changed.” And the ideal answer to that would be “Thank you! I am an evolving person and I’m glad you are noticing that”. However, the tone you are picking up is one of disappointment mixed with resentment. While it is perfectly acceptable for your friend to have this honest moment, does it seem like this attitude is carrying over into all your recent interactions?
Given the idea that change is a natural part of life, and that relationships are dynamic and constantly evolving, it can be comforting to consider that a recent divergence in interests and time spent together doesn’t necessarily mean it will stay this way forever. As we cross each stage in our journey new considerations and situations unfold that can bring a reemergence of life to age-old relationships. However, if and when this does occur, the two of you who are meeting are not the same as before. You each come with your new life experiences, interests, hobbies, and beliefs. And when the relationship is based on true support, you both welcome these new persons with excitement, grateful to share another moment of each other’s lives.
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