Growth is not linear. I wish it were – that way I could plot the trajectory of my life on a graph. It would be so nice to see, especially when things feel hard. To have the reassurance that, sure, I might be here today, but look at the growth that will come in 12, 24, 36 months! We’re on track!
Instead, growth feels much less certain to me. And sometimes I lose perspective and wonder how the current state of affairs will lead to improvement.
Last week my Psycho Therapist (that’s literally what she calls herself and I go along with it because she’s magic) asked me how I was feeling and so I described an image that’s been in my mind lately. Because, that’s what she and I discuss every other week – the images, thoughts, anxieties brewing in my head. This is the picture in my mind:
A rotund toddler. (The one pictured above happens to be my adorable younger brother.) Growing in girth, without actually lengthening. Beefing up, without sprouting. The flesh piles on and there’s nowhere for it to go. It’s distributed over 30 inches of human. And the result is leg rolls. And kankles. A stalky cherub that moves with awkward and heavy steps, struggling to get from point A to B. Finding it hard to stand up, roll over, bend at the waist, etc.
That’s how I’ve felt for the better part of the last 2 years. Like a chubby toddler. Weighed down. Moving clumsily, stumbling over my own weight at times. The weight isn’t a result of hardship, but rather the remnants of adventure, risk and experience. Stretching and exciting stuff, mainly centered around a purposeful change of scenery and cultural context. Months and months and months of stories, lessons and challenges accumulating. Piling on. Kankles. Because experiences don’t have to be “difficult” to weigh us down. The actual growth has yet to show. And I’ve felt awkward and uncomfortable. Like I aught to have progressed more than this.
My Psycho Therapist’s response? “That’s right. Growth isn’t linear. We progress in fits and starts.”
I am not a line graph. My growth cannot be plotted. (And neither can your’s.)
Beefing up, in any sense of the word, is not comfortable for me. It feels heavy and weighs me down. I wish for agility and confidence, but instead feel heavy and slow. Tired. I take risks, expecting to move closer to freedom. Instead, I feel paralyzed. I wonder, “Where is this life leading me?” I cannot see the purpose.
A portly toddler trying to break free, but moving without speed or grace.
The ironic part is, most of us adults gawk and fall in love with the chubby little one. Because it’s enduring. And because we have the experience to know that plumping up is a necessary part of growth. They’re about to shoot up. Soon enough, their steps will be light, swift and confident.
But that chubby cherub doesn’t know that promise.
And neither do I. I lose perspective. I get impatient. I expect results. NOW.
I sit with what I’ve accumulated along the journey and wonder, “What I’m going to do with all of this? What’s it worth?” I get anxious. Frantic. I feel insecure. I doubt myself and my decisions. I want something to show for my efforts. I am desperate to be further down the road.
I’ve found myself without much to say at times. Confused in my own thoughts and insecurities. Honestly, it’s not a circumstance that brings out the best in me. And I’ve been dissapointed, more often than not, in myself and my “performance”
That’s where I’ve been hanging out the past two years. Disoriented in the chubby toddler phase. Wondering where my mind, heart and soul are moving. If at all.
Now, for the part that brought a smile to my Psycho Therapist’s face. There’s been a recent shift. Moments lately when I realize my mind has opened. I hear my own thought and recognize maturity. I check in with my heart and find deeper empathy. I listen to myself give advice to a friend and hear freedom and truth. Wisom even.
I’m starting to sprout. The kankles are shrinking.
Retrospect and heinsight are once again available to me. And I see that the past two years of experience, risk and adventure have in fact moved me further along on my journey. The growth isn’t tangible or obviously noticeable to anyone but me. It’s subtle, but huge. I am closer to freedom. Stitched tighter by love. Empathy comes more naturally and so does acceptance of that which is beyond my control. There’s internal peace.
It feels so good. Somehow the mystery of the growth cycle makes me that much more stoked about sprouting. Maybe focusing on the next right step, instead of the trajectory of growth, frees me to live in the present. Perhaps it’s the experience of disorientation followed by sprouting that is the real gift of growth. Because it is in that moment when I can juxtapose the two and really appreciate who how far I’ve come.
And for that I am grateful.
Happy Thanksgiving to all of you, my Friends. May your celebrations be filled with laughs, love and gratitude. And may you be in the company of others who acknowledge and celebrate you and the journey you’re on.
Image Credit: Journey by Jenn Roark