It’s 2020! For the nursing world, it’s the Year of the Nurse and Midwife. Exciting!
Yet, how many of you feel as if that miraculous transformation you were expecting to happen once the clock struck midnight on January 1, 2020 didn’t quite happen that way, and you still feel like you’re carrying the weight of 2019 (or any other year for that matter) on your back?
How many feel as if you have encountered more challenges, seen more hardship, been more overwhelmed in this first month of 2020 alone, and not encountered all the progressive, innovative, fast-paced movement that seemed to take place just months prior?
How many just feel stalled? Like everything just got put on hold all of sudden? Just me… okay.
But, to be fair, I have had some major moments of revelation, reflection, and vulnerability in these beginning weeks of the year, as well. I have finally had a time to even fully process what I’m doing, where I’m going, and why and how I’m spending my time. I’ve learned to press into those challenging moments, as painful as they are sometimes, to appreciate what’s going on around me. And, what I’ve realized is that: sometimes it’s good to slow down -- even if for a moment -- to get a clear trajectory, and not just ride on the tailwinds of adrenaline, which is a sure fire way to burnout, and I’m not playing that game anymore.
For me, some of it meant intentionally stepping back from social/professional networking for a bit. Some of it required actually writing things down. Some of it required taking what I thought was a good opportunity off my plate to make room for my true vision. All these things were innately good things, but not the best things for my vision and my desire to make a more influential impact. What I also had to push past was the illusion that I had somehow become stalled in my growth and trajectory of my vision. I had to let go of the feeling as if I wasn’t keeping up the pace, and could potentially lose my “place” in the wave of change. Most importantly, what I actually realized was that all of these feelings were just that -- an illusion.
Just because a dream or vision appears stalled in growth does not mean it’s over or dead. If there are still signs of life, even if stalled for a time, there’s still opportunity to grow.
A seed (read: vision, dream, mission) carries life, and relies on the environment around it to grow. By default, if there is soil and a moist environment, a plant will stay alive, even if stagnant for a long time. I’ve learned this first hand.
I live in a pretty rural area, so most of my visionary revelations have started coming from gardening and agriculture, concepts I really never got or appreciated when I lived the big city life. What I have finally come to recognize is that there is beauty in this slower way of life, because although visible change does take a LONG time, you are almost most certain to dramatically appreciate when that change does happen, because it’s a BIG deal. And for the first time in a while, I have started to see this in the context of my own vision, but specifically, through a very small plant that is in our house.
This plant, I promise you, had not grown for MONTHS. The funny thing is that the plant wasn’t dead. Nor brown, just stalled. A small green leaf that despite how much sun I gave it, water I put in, soil I stirred, did nothing. And, I literally started to abandon it and say, well, what’s the point, because no matter what I did, it did not seem to change. At least, from my vantage point. What I later realized was absolutely transformative…
Just because it’s stagnant doesn’t mean it’s over. Like I said, this plant literally stayed the same size for months. At first I was watering it and trying to put it in the sun, but it still seemed as if the leaves were just getting weak and breaking off. Also, this plant was originally supposed to produce flowers, but since I’ve had it, it’s never done that (pro tip: comparison is the thief of your purpose). However it’s always had these wonderful, long green leaves. So I kept it around. Moved it to a bigger pot. Added more soil with nutrients. But, as the weather got colder, it seemed harder to keep up with it, and it seemed the leaves weren’t lasting. I stopped really watering or checking on it, until it got down to one little leaf. Yet, it did not die. Instead, that one little leaf stayed green, but at the same time didn’t grow. Until one day, my mother-in-law came to visit (she has this knack for plants and foliage), and she went around to all the plants, looked at this particular one, and said, pretty matter-of-fact — it’ll still grow, just needs some water.
I was shocked! Just like that. It didn’t matter how I protested it hadn’t grown for months. It didn’t matter all the other things. She just said, "it still has a green leaf, it’ll grow." So, sure enough, I started watering it again. And it was like all of a sudden I “saw” little millimeters of growth. A portion of me wondered if it was just in my mind, because I believed her matter-of-fact confidence. But regardless, I really believed it.
Funny enough I still ended up leaving it for a few weeks more without water as I traveled, but when I got back something prompted me to look at it, and it had grown significantly! I even saw the “tan lines” and several inches and new leaves that hadn’t grown in forever! The weather had warmed a bit while I was gone, and it seemed the extra sunlight and just that little bit of water had taken an effect on reigniting the growth again. Yet, there was one thing I also hadn’t realized: my plant was a perennial.
Context is everything! For those non-foliage type folks: this basically means the plant will inherently live for a significant amount of time, some up to nearly three years. HOWEVER, because it lives so long, it actually has a dormancy phase or “winter rest.” SHOCK! Awe! Wow! And it hit me: sometimes growth IS seasonal and that’s a good thing! And, just because it appears stalled, it doesn’t mean its over.
From this grand realization, a flood of understanding (Holy Spirit for sure) gave me a wave of encouragement on how to keep going when it seems growth may appear stalled:
1. “Stalled” growth may be needed as a temporary form of self-preservation, and actually may be a healthy part of growth. Periods of stagnancy, even if for a little bit, especially during a harsh season, are actually beneficial to the longevity of your vision, goals, and dreams. As long as there’s some life -- it’ll grow.
2. Sometimes it (read: vision, idea, goal) just needs someone to look at it, someone who already knows -- with matter-of-fact confidence -- the nature or character of the matter, and say, “it’ll grow.” For me, just having that reminder from someone who’s seen what feels "stalled" change, is all I needed for my mind to come into agreement with what I should have believed, but gave up for a time.
3. Once you know it will still grow, nourish it! Even if this plant (read: your vision, dream, etc.) is meant to rest for a time, it still needs a little water, warmth, and light during that time, too.
4. After you see a little growth, you may need to re-train yourself to take care of it again. It’s easy to forget -- especially if you’re no longer in the habit (read: tired, other priorities) of tending to what was once precious and important to you -- how to tend to your dreams and vision.
5. Seasons change! And, sometimes you get respite (a win, an open door, a favorable result) to show you that growth really is happening.
6. You still have to keep watering and stirring up the soil, but you may also need to be careful who sees you doing so. When I spoke to my mother-in-law and was excited to show her she was right – that now it had really grown -- she was of course not phased, and said, “now mix up the soil a bit and keep watering.” But, she also said, don’t let the kids see you doing it, because they may try to copy you and mess it up. Sometimes you have to mix up the soil, but also be careful who sees you doing it. Even the “innocent” (read: well meaning/intentioned) can mess it up if they don’t know what’s really going on, especially when things are still re-settling themselves. They may just copy what they see you do, but could end up damaging [your dream, vision, goal] before it’s strong and viable.
7. Again, keep watering; move the plant; expect change. I started placing this plant in a sunnier spot. I became concerned again. I see growth daily, even when it doesn’t seem dramatic. But, I also have come to expect change, too. As a pediatric nurse practitioner, one of the biggest questions I got from parents was about growth and development. Will my child grow? Is she growing? When will they grow? Sometimes when you’re in it daily, it’s hard to see growth, to expect it. But when you are able to step back, or even see it from someone else’s eyes, that fresh perspective is actually what you need to remind yourself that: yes, growth has happened.
8. Once growth is visible, grow with it. Don’t keep squeezing back into the same habits, situations, roles, when you KNOW it’s time to expand. Just as much as we want growth, sometimes we try to re-stall our growth by not being willing to change with it.
9. AGAIN: Rest is a part of growth, too. Sometimes you just need to be in a season of rest. Sometimes your resting is keeping your seed (vision, dream, idea) alive until it’s the right season, time, moment. However, with this rest, it's incredibly important for to avoid letting fear try to be your primary driver for change, because fear will literally steal your rest, and eventually lead you to start making decisions that ultimately aren’t sustainable. Side note: Sometimes, I don’t like the idea of “fomo” (fear of missing out). Yes, I do believe that when it’s time to act, you should, but I also don’t think you should just let fear be the determining factor for actions -- it’s not healthy. Sooner or later, that fear often times pressures you to a place that you actually can’t sustain. You may get there, but you may also sputter out too quick. Yes, get over your fears, but also know, stalled growth does not mean: no life. Do you need to try something new for a little bit of time? Do you need to read or learn more? Do you need to pare down on some things? Do you need to table some ideas for a moment? Change positions a little. Watch it grow. Step back; evaluate where you need to rest.
10. Evaluate the right voices at the right time. Then, believe it and own it. Believe me (and I cannot say this enough), when change does happen, again, fear will still try to creep in. Fear will try to try to make you believe that things will go back to before, or even that your changes are going to mess everything up. Just relax. Watch the cues. Trust yourself, and be open to tweaks where you need them. But also know, seasons shift, and cycles change for the better, too.