It stuck me this morning that maybe what I have always thought of as ‘healing’ really is something else, and that something else is growth. Maybe it doesn’t even matter what I call it, just so I continue to experience it! But if I think in terms of growth rather than healing, an entirely different set of images comes to mind — and a whole different set of metaphors, as well.
I have a little plant growing in a Styrofoam cup that my sister started from its seed and brought over to me a few months ago. I have it right by my kitchen sink so I can keep my eye on it and notice when it is too dry and begins to wilt so that I can take good care of it.
This is a Mexican Bird of Paradise plant, but we won’t know which variety it is until it lives long enough to bloom. Is it the hardier (for my altitude and climate) yellow one, or is it the more warmth-oriented red one? I hope for red, but either way I admire that my sister was able to get this seed to sprout in the first place because doing so requires some special treatment.
I don’t know what actions my sister actually took, but I have heard that the seed must be pounded to crack its shell. It is a desert native, so on its own the species has provided its offspring with some way to make it forward in the world. I am just glad to have this little plant, and today I am going to move it into a bigger container, but I will still keep it where I won’t be likely to ignore its needs.
As I watch the little stems bud and lengthen I think about this healing vs growth idea of mine. That plant isn’t healing, at least I wouldn’t name its process that. I would say it is growing. And as it grows I certainly cannot predict the shape it takes. It’s growing in its own way although of course it depends on me to give it what it needs to do so.
Perhaps every single thing I have done in my life, and certainly as I try to ‘heal’ from the terrible trauma of 18 years of severe abuse from my mother as I grew a body-brain, was not and is not about healing. Maybe it was simply about growing — then and now.
Somehow as I think about this growing angle rather than a healing one I feel less pressure to do ‘it’ right! Certainly this little plant I am watching doesn’t care if it grows right or not. It just does what it naturally does — and grows! If it didn’t grow, it would die. That’s a simplicity I can understand.
I have intuitively always found today’s emphasis on ‘recovery’ impossible to swallow. Now I know that due to the circumstances of my early abusive environment that changed how my body-brain-mind-self developed I have nothing to go back and get — nothing to ‘recover’ unless I go all the way back to my body as it grew within my mother’s womb and try to find something back THERE that wasn’t permanently altered by my trauma-influenced development during all the stages after my birth.
I’m not going to be able to ever ‘go back there’ and recover any sense of being a safe and securely attached person in the world. I didn’t get to grow and develop any safe and secure attachment patterns or circuitry into my body from the start. As I recognize how my experiences changed my very body forever, I am also recognizing the patterns of my life that happened to the largest extent because my development WAS so changed in a malevolent environment of trauma.
Yes, I survived. And yes, I have looked at what I do now as ‘healing’. But I am beginning to think that I might just want to throw that word out completely as ‘not relevant’. What I am doing is what everyone does who is breathing their way from one past moment, through a present one, and hopefully into a future. I am growing. Simply growing.
As I begin to think in this new way I understand that my growth is not always predictable. I am often surprised by what ‘comes up’. My new little leaf here, my new little root tip there, my branches extending off in this direction or that one. Learning how to not only watch my own growth happen, but to begin to understand that I ONLY have to be willing to let it happen frees me to appreciate all the interesting twists and turns I have always taken along the way — throughout my life — from the moment I was born.
Looking at my life in terms of growth rather than healing might also change how I look at ‘surviving’. Perhaps all that my survival really has been from the beginning is my growth. I just continued to grow from the time I was born through horrific experiences in a very nasty environment. Somehow I had and found what I needed to do my growing in spite of all of it!
I am free to anticipate all the interesting and clever ways my growth takes place each day. And because I am my own little plant, I don’t have to compare myself to anyone else’s growth process, either. If I can see and appreciate that what I needed for my continued growth was there for me from the start of my life, I can more easily appreciate that whatever I need to continue my growing is also right here, right now for me today.
Some good soil, a little water, just the right amount of sunlight, a little darkness at night, no weeds to crowd me out and nobody to trample on my little sprouting branches and I am all set to go. If healing happens while I am busy growing, that’s OK with me.
I suspect I need to pause to notice all this because I am preparing to go back into the past of my horrible childhood to retrieve my own story — so that I can write it. I need to remember that I am never actually going backwards. Growth is a forward affair. No matter what crap I may encounter as I remember myself in my childhood, I know that all it can do is act as good fertilizer for the growth I am doing today.