If you hang out in the in-between place of a transition for a while, it can start to feel like you don’t even know who you are anymore.
A drawn-out period of “figuring it out”—or the even less-empowered period that you may experience before you are taking active steps to figure it out—can get exhausting and draining to the point that it leaves you feeling like a muted, immobile version of yourself.
I’m reminded of a passage in one of my favorite YA books, The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau.
It’s a fantastic and brilliantly written story of a boy and girl growing up in an isolated city that is struggling with dire shortages of food and electricity, and working to find a way to save their city before the lights go out forever.
In this scene, Clary, a greenhouse worker, talks with Lina, a teenager.
“Clary put a hand in her pocket and drew something out. ‘Look,’ she said. In the palm of her hand was a white bean. ‘Something in this seed knows how to make a bean plant. How does it know that?’
‘I don’t know,’ said Lina, staring at the hard, flat bean.
‘It knows because it has life in it,’ said Clary…. ‘Take a lamp, for instance. When you plug it in, it comes alive, in a way. It lights up. That’s because it’s connected to a wire that’s connected to the generator, which is making electricity…But a bean seed isn’t connected to anything. Neither are people. We don’t have plugs and wires that connect us to generators. What makes things go is inside them somehow.’ …She handed Lina the bean seed, took a little pot from a shelf, scooped some dirt into it, and handed the pot to Lina, too. ‘Stick the bean in here and water it every day,” she said. ‘It looks like nothing, like a little white stone, but inside it there’s life.”
When you’re feeling really stuck, untethered, unanchored, disconnected, hard, and flat, it can be tough figuring out what to water within yourself. What to nurture.
On the hardest days, it can even be hard to believe there’s anything there worth watering.
One of my most treasured hand-me-downs from my grandmother is a little tote bag that says, “The greatest oak was once a little nut that held its ground.”
This reminds me that just as an acorn holds the roadmap for the mighty oak, we hold what we need inside of us to develop into the mightiest—read, awesomest!—versions of ourselves.
We need to water it, nurture it, encourage it—but the life is in there.
When you are stuck, remember this:
No matter how lifeless you may feel—no matter how disconnected—what makes you go is inside you somehow.
Just as something in Lina’s seed knows how to make a bean plant, (and just as the sedum knows how to root itself), something in you knows how to make a thriving…you.
Clary instructed Lina to water a bean that “looks like nothing, like a little white stone,” on faith that there’s life inside.
It can take a leap of faith to “water” what’s inside you when you’re feeling a little bit like that totally inert little bean.
So even if you’re not sure what your own bean plant or oak is yet, trust that it is there inside you.
While you’re still figuring it out, it’s so important to help yourself light up…come alive…water yourself!
So here’s an exercise for you, inspired by The City of Ember:
1. Take a piece of paper (or open up a new doc) and write at the top: What Makes Me Go.
2. List the activities, settings, people, and topics that make you go—that light you up—that make you come alive. The things that make you FEEL plugged in and connected. Include whatever comes to mind, even things you haven’t done or seen or thought of in years.
3. When you’ve completed your list, choose three items from your list that you are committed to bringing into your life this week—in other words, three ways that you can “water” yourself.
I want to hear from you. What makes you go? How will you water yourself this week? Tell us in the comments.
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