Protecting Tender Shoots (In the Cards)

Today’s card from my In an Open Hand deck focuses on the decay of old growth and the buried seeds whose germination will benefit from the nutrients of the past flowering. In particular, it draws attention to guarding inner promises that, if uncovered too soon, would wither away. One such kernel for me is best summarized as to whom I answer in terms of my goals and dreams.

In capitalist societies such as America, the concept of our time frame and goals being self-directed is both an idealistic striving for autonomy and an experience far from our lived experiences. I have achieved a greater level of freedom in this regard than most people I meet, but it has come at great cost. On a conscious level, I accept the alienation and lack of social capital I am building by refusing to adhere to expectations to live up to my family’s perception of who I should be, or to engage in “people-pleasing” behaviors to make myself more appealing as a friend. I feel that it is a slavish devotion to self-determination that drives me at times.

To contextualize my thoughts, I had a friend contact me today lamenting how much they have to get done in the next few days to get ready for the holidays. I felt torn between offering to help (even though they’d not asked for my help directly) and wanting to spend my time in the way I’d planned. I knew they would likely refuse my help if I offered, that they were perhaps testing my loyalty by asserting “I have a problem,” but I could not bring myself to reward the indirectness of their statement nor did I feel particularly like helping them! I desire people who can ask for what they need and build trust with me rather than play games of “come close-stay away.” Moreover, I do not like when my plans are viewed as disposable, ready to be tossed aside at a moment’s notice if anyone else needs something from me.

I want generosity of spirit and I do not have it. I want to give people the benefit of the doubt and I cannot do it. I view the people I encounter IRL as desiring to subjugate my needs to their’s, as always tearing at the edges of my plans and strivings in order to take from me what they can. My inner drive is both seed and old growth; already achieved and always trying to spout new bloom.

What emerges as I sit with this tenderness is a desire for collaboration and the interwining of resources. What would it look like to develop relationships in which both my goals and the other person’s were clearly stated and considered valid? What would it feel like to foster each other’s strivings equally? To build each other up? I’ve had this at times but it can turn so quickly into me hiding my needs, both because I do not trust the other person to honor or meet them, and because of their actions that I interpret as betraying the idea that they are really just in it for themselves.

What I want most in terms of an in-person friendship is someone who is artistic and who is working on a project like I am working on mine, where we can both hold each other accountable and build up each other’s confidence and enjoyment. What feels withered and what feels emerging in your life? What goals do you want to achieve and how much support do you have for doing so? To what extent do you put aside your own dreams to help others succeed?

A photograph of a sunny pond surrounded by greenery.

Today’s Simple Pleasure: Photographing a Pleasant Scene

Sometimes the most enjoyable moments in life are those that are unanticipated. After drawing a “go photograph something” card from my Simple Pleasures deck, I headed off to a local park with my dog. I imagined my experience would be a peaceful, solitary walk, and was therefore disappointed when I arrived to discover that the park was hosting a soccer tournament. Hundreds of children and families, filling the grassy fields, threatened to disrupt my tranquility.

I forged on nonetheless. As my dog and I rounded a bend on a path surrounding the park’s pond, I came across four children on a mission. A soccer ball had landed in the water and, appearing to have escaped the watchful eye of their caregivers, they were determined to retrieve it. One of them hoisted a bent reed into the water, which had zero effect as the ball was floated at least ten feet from the boggy edge. Next, they began chucking good-size rocks they’d salvaged from a nearby drainage ditch into the pond, hoping to create ripples that would move the object closer to their grasp. An older child praised a younger one for the effort put into tossing a stone, only to realize the distance covered had fallen short and created an impressive mud splash. They all gathered around the youngest child, who was now speckled up and down, including their white shirt, in dark brown mud. “It’s even on your forehead” one remarked with a mixture of glee and the foreboding of a child many times scolded.

At this point, my walk took me away from their pleasant scene. I snapped my photograph a few minutes later at the other side of the pond as I wanted to respect their privacy. Somewhere off camera to the left, a soccer ball remained floated, although the breeze had brought it a tempting distance from their location. I ended my walk and left without knowing whether they succeeded in retrieving it or how much trouble their rock-tossing landed them in with their caregivers. All-in-all, I was both entertained and encouraged by the collaboration and ingenuity I observed. The kids are alright and they made me smile. What have you observed (or photographed) today that’s made you smile?