Nicole Law reflects on what can happen when you plant a seed.
It was a quiet afternoon. I had just de-seeded a ripe avocado for my salad and looked at the large brown stone with interest. Without much thought, I buried it in a pot of soil that was lying around in the balcony and left it there. I knew avocados were not suited to Singapore’s climate and had never seen an avocado tree in the country, but decided to see what would happen. I surprised myself that day. I am not a particularly spontaneous person and, ordinarily, would have done some prior research before embarking on this experiment.
I went about my business for the next few days and forgot about the seed I had planted. My mother commented that nothing had happened to it for the past week or so, pointing to the flat soil, unperturbed – not a single shoot breaking forth. I dismissed my experiment as a failure and left the pot alone, apart from some occasional watering.
At some level, I was hoping that something would break through the soil. It made me think about the indeterminate season of waiting and hoping which many people experience at different points in their life. They harbour hopes yet are wary of disappointment if they set their expectations too high. There’s a tension between caring and not caring about the outcome of any endeavour we find ourselves in.
As much as we may claim to be indifferent to what happens, we do hope that the wind will blow in our intended direction.
I find the same applies to our relationships with others. Our expectations of other people’s behaviour, for example, are often uncommunicated but implicit. We hope our ‘significant other’ will surprise us with flowers next week, we hope our friends will show up at an online performance we are part of, we hope our sister may help out around the house tomorrow night… add to the list as you will.
Similarly, glancing at the fresh soil, I was hoping that green shoots would break through. Yet, despite the stark signs of ‘non-progress’, I continued to water the seed and check on it from time to time. Unconsciously, I was starting to get invested in its growth. A few weeks later, my father dropped me a text while I was at work, noting that a few green leaves were visible. I took a closer look at the image and smiled. The slow growth of the avocado plant over the next few months taught me much. First some green shoots, then a woody stem and finally beautiful fleshy leaves.
The plant that started out tentatively peeking through the soil grew rapidly and steadily. The key takeaway here is steadily. It paralleled an important aspect of strong and stable human relationships – that of a steady unfurling of the self and a sense of consistency.
Far too often we are more concerned with the speed at which our relationships progress than with the steady rhythm that carries them forward.
All too often we focus on the initial rush of emotion instead of the consistent effort needed to sustain any human relationship.
And like the avocado’s growth, much is unseen, hidden beneath the soil, with watering which seems to have no effect. There is so much about our relationships with others which is beyond our vision, beyond our control. Our discreet example, the fumbling beginning of any human interaction, what we do more than what we say … All this is the watering, without knowing what impact it might have on the other.
It applies to relationships with our family as well. Parents taken up with the business of making a living – spending hours in the office instead of living a life with their loved ones – end up more detached from their children, resulting in a distant dynamic within the home. It applies to relationships with friends as well. If we fail to check in with them, by a simple text or hello, we start to erode the foundations which support a strong friendship.
The avocado plant soon reached shoulder level, growing up towards the sunlight. I marvelled at how its thin but sturdy stem stood firm in the face of the strong monsoon winds we experience in Singapore. One night, there was a particularly violent storm and I recall racing outside to check on the plant. Remarkably, though bending in the wind, it remained resolute and did not break. I drew strength from the image of the plant at that point – a reminder that even perceived weakness or vulnerability can withstand challenging circumstances.
The plant continued to grow upwards, though I had envisioned it would reach a maximum height. Yet, again and again, the plant defied my expectations and I couldn’t help but smile. It was turning out to be the visual reminder I needed – a physical representation of the growth process. That growth occurs at different paces for everyone and so does life. That growth is sometimes uncomfortable.
That growth is more about the roots we put down than a race to the finish line.
The word ‘growth’ is the mainstay of motivational thinking these days. We see it bandied about on social media – ‘focus on your growth’, ‘a growth mindset’. There is an undeniable allure to ‘growth’ but we have to learn to let growth take its time with us.
As I grow older, I am starting to appreciate the wisdom of the avocado plant. To have days when nothing seems to be happening from the outside – time to reflect, recharge and regroup. A slow and steady progression rather than an ‘I want it now’ mentality. And finally to keep growing even if I feel like I’m not equipped for the journey.
The avocado plant is waving at me right now, its leaves dancing in the cool evening breeze. Nice …
Like what you’ve read? Consider supporting the work of Adamah by making a donation and help us keep exploring life’s big (and not so big) issues!