A tree is known by its fruit; a man by his deeds. A good deed is never lost; he who sows courtesy reaps friendship, and he who plants kindness gathers love. ~ St. Basil
The Harvest Theme is prevalent this time of year. All cultures, from indigenous peoples to urban landscapes, seem to take time to relish hard work's results. Many elementary schools will offer field trips to go apple picking, churches will be hosting harvest festivals, high schools will have homecoming weekends and businesses will even bring their financial picture to a close for the year. Although the calendar year continues for several more months, the time of harvest is one of celebration, appreciation, goal accomplishment and bounty. It's also a time to take stock in what went well in the past year, and a time to plan ahead for next. Whether we are evaluating our home's garden, or our financial gains, we have an exceptional opportunity to see which areas bore fruit and which did not.
In a garden, most plants will bloom each year, given the correct conditions. Plants need the proper amounts of sunshine, water, fertilizer or nutrients and soil. They need to be pruned regularly to remove excess growth in the wrong places. They need to be studied and cared for. Yet, despite our best efforts, there are years in which our trees do not bear fruit, our flowers never blossom and our vegetables remain stunted. Our garden may appear to have stalled. We can pour over our notes, ask other gardeners and inquire of our neighbors similar plants. In the long run, however, if a plant has stopped bearing fruit, despite our best intentions, then it's time to cut it back to the ground. Some plants will respond well to this harsh treatment; they'll come back fuller and healthier the next season. Others, however, remain lifeless and useless. These are the plants we need to remove, roots and all. If we don't take the roots out carefully and completely, weak stems will continue to spring up and will suck the life away from healthier plants. We have to excavate all trace of these plants to allow those around them to flourish, and to allow for the sowing of new plants in their place.
Our lives can sometimes feel like a garden that's not doing well. There will be some areas of our lives that are thriving. These aspects are receiving the correct, balanced amount of time, care and compassion. Other areas may seem to suck the lifeblood out of us. We may feel drained, angry, bitter, unappreciated and uncomfortable. However, for many of us, we would rather carry on in a job, a relationship or a habit pattern that is unhealthy than to hack away at the life-draining roots of the problems. It's never easy to make those cuts. We don't want to feel like "quitters". We don't want to let people down. We don't want to feel as if we have failed. If we change our attitude regarding this non-fruit bearing areas in our lives, we will find that we can make the drastic cuts with a clear conscience.
The first step is to identify those parts of our lives from which we receive no satisfaction, from which we feel stymied from making a valued contribution or from which we feel distressed. We have to take an honest appraisal of our schedules. What is taking up the most time? How do we feel about that commitment? Is it gratifying or soul-wrenching? Not every part of our day is going to be fun. Yet there are some commitments that act like emotional vampires, robbing us of our ability for growth in our more productive areas. Sometimes, this may entail walking away from a committee, on which we find we have absolutely no voice or role to play. We may find that
we spend more time debating than accomplishing our mission. For others this may involve ending a relationship. At one time or another, all of us have been involved with people who are draining, volatile and overly demanding. They give us no positive reflection in our lives, but only take what they want, treating us badly. It's never easy to cut out a person from our lives, but there are times it must be done in order to preserve our other relationships...and our very well being. We have to be methodical, polite and pragmatic in this process, acknowledging our own enabling but in the end, still cutting that person out of our lives, down to the root. Leaving a job that's not working is also challenging, especially if we need that position for our income. In this instance, it may not be possible to simply slash and burn as we quit. We need to think of our future as we would planting a garden: we tend to prepare the soil by contacting employment services and reading the classified ads, as well as to inform our contacts that we are job hunting. We need to prepare our resumes as we would prepare a seed to be planted, and then scatter those seeds in the places we believe they'll take the firmest hold. Finally, we need to add the right amounts of confidence and persistence, as we would add sunshine and water to our garden. When the new plant of our new job begins, we can remove the old roots...politely.
The bearing of fruit in our lives is incalculably important. We want to be productive, positive, joyful, creative and engaged people. This will not happen overnight. Just as a garden can take years to cultivate and grow, so will the fruit of our efforts. But, if we make small changes to improve our outlook, our perspective and our goals, we can begin to see the tiniest green chutes of success begin peeking through the soil. With attention, focus and meticulous care, we can find that our harvest, one year from now, will one of plenty.