The right conditions to flourish

“If you took a blue spruce tree and planted it in the desert, it would obviously perish. How do we forget that we too are living systems, and each of us have unique environments, needs, and conditions within which we flourish or wither?” ~Dawna Markova

Although we are far from desert conditions here in the Midwest, the last couple years of hotter, drier weather has taken a toll on the blue spruce trees in the area. I have four of them in my yard. One didn’t make it through last summer, and the other three are struggling despite the fact that I have been watering them in the dry spells. My trees are far from alone, though. I now notice other blue spruce trees everywhere I drive around town, and I’ve seen many others that are dead or struggling under these conditions.

Therefore, this quote from Dawna Markova really resonated with me. There are conditions where it is obvious that a given living specimen will not be able to survive, like a blue spruce tree in the desert or a fish on dry land, but there are also conditions that are sufficiently stressful to an organism that even if it does not kill it, it will stress the organism enough that over time it will begin to show the ill effects.

It took me many years to understand that I am the same way. I first took the Myers-Briggs Type Inventory (MBTI) in my mid-twenties and discovered that I am an INFJ, one of the rarest of the personality types. I remember at the time being so relieved to finally have a reason for why I struggled to function in our normally extroverted world.

However, I still approached this for a long time as something to be defensive about and apologetic for. Even though I wasn’t fully conscious of it, I approached the fact that I didn’t function well in what most people considered to be “normal” environments to be indications that I was inferior or broken in some way. I was always trying to “fix” it and make myself deal with conditions that were stressful to me in the hopes that I’d “toughen up.”

It never worked. I could survive in the conditions I tried to force upon myself, but I never flourished. Like the blue spruce trees in my yard, I showed increasing signs of stress as I withered from the challenging environment.

It’s only been the last year or so that I’ve finally embraced the unique needs I have for an environment that is different from that in which most people I know prefer to live. I’ve turned down several invitations lately without the slightest bit of guilt because I knew I needed down time to rejuvenate. I’ve refused activities that I knew would leave me drained and crabby without any self-abuse. I’ve set boundaries that needed to be set in order to protect my own resources for the things that matter to me.

It feels good to live in cooperation with the way that I was made rather than fighting it all the time. In the process, I’m noticing something interesting. The creative spark in me that I had thought long dead is slowly blossoming back to life as I honor my own needs and give myself the space I need to flourish. It’s still just hints and whispers from my muse, but at least I am hearing her sweet voice whispering again in my ear.

I suspect the world around me will always find me eccentric. But the joy I am finding in nurturing the person I am instead is worth every bit of judgment that may get thrown my way as I blossom into the creative life I was meant to live.

A Note on Comments: A chrysalis is by nature a fragile and vulnerable place to be, so I am committed to keeping this a safe place for me and for my readers. Comments sharing your own journey, even if your experience is different from mine, are always welcome and encouraged. Expressions of support or encouragement are also welcome. Comments that criticize, disparage, correct, or in any way attempt to undermine the validity of another person’s experience or personal insight are not welcome here and will be deleted.

2 thoughts on “The right conditions to flourish

  1. Dear Dryad
    We are all unique spiritual divine beings and we are all equal, regardless of our background culture, race, colour, creed, qualifications etc. etc. Buddha’s Noble Truths tell us we are all born into suffering (Dukkha), caused by attachment, and we work towards letting go of those attachments to relieve our suffering – and this surely includes how we become attached to our own misconceptions of what we are supposed to be! So celebrate your uniqueness! Once I discovered that I was a Highly Sensitive Person I could understand why I so dislike noise, crowds, etc and that made it easier to live with myself and then understand others “in the same boat.” Only once we are compassionate to ourselves can we show compassion to others – and we all need compassion so much. Howard Thurman once said “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” So stick to your own instincts – you know yourself – come alive in your own unique divine way – be kind to yourself – and don’t ever say “I should…. !
    Blessings to you.

    • Thank you, Eleanor. I am also an HSP — another part of myself I fought for a long time. I find that the combination of being a strong introvert and an HSP tends to make me challenging for other people to understand. It’s also not often easy to balance those needs with my strong desire for connection with others. But I am learning over time to be much more compassionate with myself, and I have also found that this makes me more compassionate with others, as you mention. The “shoulds” still raise their ugly heads, at times, but I am learning to recognize them as warning signs that something is out of balance in my thinking rather than listening to them unquestioningly. Thanks again for the encouragement!

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