GROW.

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GROW.

Ah, spring. Nature is fresh and new again, with lush green carpet covering the earth, and beautiful green hanging from the trees, bushes, shrubs and plants. Without fail, this promise is renewed every year. Winter backs down, making way for the return of spring. It may seem during the depths of winter that warmer weather will never come back again, bringing its green with it, but it always does. Always.

Gail has been busy with her outdoor gardening. The words Gail and busy naturally flow in the same sentence, so this should not surprise you. She sent me a teaser of what her yard and garden have in store:

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Suzanne, alas, had nothing to offer me. Her sole effort at growing anything is an indoor plant with just one leaf, and she declined to send a picture. And that’s okay.

I will confess that I am not an outdoor gardener. I am fortunate to have a husband who delights in gardening, so I let him do all the work. I simply sit back, and wait to enjoy the fruits of his labor. I know how lucky I am.

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I am, however, an indoor gardener. I have an abundance of green plants indoors, with this “ZZ” plant as my favorite. Its genus name is “Zamioculcas,” and it is also known as the “Zanzibar gem.” I like that name best.

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I found another smaller ZZ plant about a year ago to add to my collection. I repotted it, and set it next to the big one.  When Gail visited, I gave her a starter from the larger plant.  It is growing slowly, but surely–just like mine is.

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We recently remodeled one room; rearranging décor and another plant as well. I wanted to give the small ZZ plant its own stage; it seemed overshadowed by the larger one. This relocation drew my attention to the new growth on the smaller plant. I hadn’t noticed the new bud until now. Something told me to pay close attention to it. Something told me to take a picture.

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The next day, I noticed the slight, but measurable growth. So, I took another picture.

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And another one the next day. And, of course, the next day, and the next day…

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When I took the time to look and really see, the growth became a small miracle, unfolding every day right in front of my eyes.

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Many of my speech therapy patients are several months into their recovery from a stroke, or head injury, or perhaps treatment for brain cancer or other neurological disease. When they become discouraged, expressing that they feel like they haven’t made any progress, I remind them of where they started. When they take a moment to go back to recall those more difficult days at the beginning, they quickly realize they have indeed made progress, and this often buoys their determination to continue to fight to make more gains, to continue to grow.

The promise of spring is this: nature will renew itself every year, no matter what our personal, societal or universal struggles are. The current global pandemic couldn’t stop spring, nor could it stop the bud on my ZZ plant from opening up into glorious, glossy green leaves.

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If we are aware of it, there are so many ways to see growth in nature, both indoors and out.   And, if we pay close attention to the efforts we have made to grow as individuals, we can see our own progress. It may seem as slow and invisible as the bud on my plant, but it’s there. It may seem non-existent like it does for some of my patients, but if you look back to see where you started, you will likely not want to go back to the earlier, more difficult days.

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For myself, I am grateful to remain healthy. I hope all of you are, too. Most of us, however, may feel a sense of uncertainty about the future, and with good reason. I think we all know that the old normal is gone, and we don’t yet know what the new normal will look or feel like.

I have learned from the crises in my life that even though we have no choice but to face them, and also that the old normal is gone, there may be a grand opportunity for personal growth awaiting, but is disguised at the present moment as a crisis.

I was reminded by a Facebook post that, according to a popular psychological theory, that we must first meet our basic physical, mental and emotional needs before we can expect this growth.

This helped me understand that while I do have extra time right now due to decreased work, it has been difficult for me to focus on reaching some lofty writing goals I set forth a long time ago, goals that involve transcending this low-grade, but ever-present uncertainty and anxiety about what the future holds.

So, I cut myself some slack. This doesn’t mean I won’t work toward these goals; it means I realize that before I can grow, I need to feel a sense of personal security that has escaped so many of us right now. It means I realize that, much like the cold winter, this too shall pass, opening up opportunities for new growth in my mind—a mental springtime, so to speak.

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Much like my ZZ plant, I feel a bit trapped in the bud right now. I know, however, there are grand ideas swirling below the surface, and when the new normal asserts itself, and I have had time to acclimate to it, I, too, may just begin to bloom.

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I put the ZZ plant in this beautiful pot when I repotted it. I realize, however, that it may soon outgrow it. And, I may have to break this beautiful pot in order to get it out. It will likely become rootbound, needing more space to grow.

Perhaps, with careful observation, many of us may realize we too, are rootbound. Perhaps the old normal, the old soil and pot we were planted in is too small for us, cramping our growth potential. With a little luck and probably a lot of work, we can find the springtime within, and grow into a new and wondrous living thing.

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