Pruning For Good: Learning About Growth from Mother Nature

Recently, I returned home from a week-long vacation to find my potted plants scorched beyond recognition. L.A. experienced record-breaking heat while I was away, temperatures reaching as high as 115 degrees and I foolishly and regretfully forgot to find someone to water them.

I spent an hour pruning the plants, carefully trimming off the burnt leaves and branches while saving what I could. In some cases, healthy leaves were sacrificed for the sake of the whole plant. The newest growth was the most badly damaged; the more mature, heartier portions of the plant fared well.

When I finished pruning, I stepped back and surveyed the result. The plants are nowhere near as beautiful as they were only two weeks ago; they’re emaciated versions of their former selves. But the remaining leaves and branches are green, and I’m hopeful they will revive.

The metaphor is obvious, but I’ll state it nonetheless: I see myself in those plants. As I cut away the new growth, too weak to survive the heat, I couldn’t help thinking of all the pruning I’ve experienced over the last two years. Losing my mom, losing my closest friend (to Portland…not the afterlife), quitting my job, accepting that blogging as a career makes a lot less sense than blogging as a hobby, and most recently, pruning blogging out of my life altogether in order to try being “just” a mother and wife.

Little by little, I’ve lost or cut away many things I took for granted and cherished; not only relationships but dreams and ambitions, too. The process has been painful, humbling, and sometimes lonely.

But as I trimmed the burnt leaves off my injured plants, I felt hopeful. Clearing away the weakest parts of the plant allows the plant to deliver nutrients to the areas with the best chance of survival. The plants may be emaciated, atrophied versions of their former selves, but what remains is strong.

I don’t like being pruned. Lately, I feel more like an anemic, fragile, diminished plant than a sweet, flowering vine. But a plant must be pruned to endure. I’m trying to have faith that my losses are making way for new growth and making me into a hardier and more fruitful person.

Bearing fruit in your forties

I’ve held Present Perfect loosely these last few months. I’ve asked myself if it’s a branch that needs pruning or cut off entirely. It’s been liberating for me to do so. But I’ve also missed it. I don’t know what shape Present Perfect is taking, but I know it adds value to my life (and, once in a while, to yours). That’s worth saving. So despite my absence, I’m still here and am going to keep writing and publishing when it makes sense and brings me joy. Hopefully, that’s good news to you.

Thanks for reading. And thanks for waiting.

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