Live, Love, Grow … and Be You (a Lesson from Kauai)

Kauai is an island where once nothing grew.  It was barren and isolated and raw, with only iron in its soil and nothing living on it at all.  Not a single thing breathed on that island.  It stands today as a tiny and vibrant island in the Pacific, sure-footed and majestic in its exuberant life.  It has earned the moniker “The Garden Isle” because it is so full of life.

How does one get out of the rut of lifeless existence and reach abundance beyond imagination?

Sometimes I’ve wondered that in my own life.  When I feel stuck and hopeless, or even just a little bit blah, how can I begin to feel good?

I believe it all begins with acceptance.

For Kauai, life began when settlers began to bring seeds, and plants, and animals.  Today, you can hike in someone’s backyard and find unimaginable signs of life.  There are roots and vines sprouting and clinging.  There are branches entwined with each other in incomprehensible ways, and they stretch toward the sun regardless of their position.  Moss-covered rocks are foundations for fallen trunks, on which new plants become new soggy homes for mice and lizards and taro plants.  All of these life forms, which were not innate but instead had to be transplanted and introduced there, found a home and took root and said, “Here.  Here is where I will flourish.”  They had no choice.  It was grow, or die.  They had to accept the soil and weather conditions as they were, and find a way to grow.

And grow they did, and do, and will.  It’s as if these organisms looked around and said, “I will fight for my life here.  It is hard.  It is messy.  But I will.”

There have been times in my life, as I imagine there have been in most people’s lives, when I’ve entered a place where I didn’t seem to belong.  Places where I doubted my worth or questioned what role I could possibly play in a perfectly orchestrated, seemingly flawless world.  What right did I have to go for a career in special events planning with Mile High when I had never worked at that level before?  What made me think I was good enough to play a friendly game of completely recreational softball at the company picnic when I had never really played softball before?  I allowed doubt, fear and insecurity to flood my brain and I let those feelings control my behavior.  I sabotaged the special events planning opportunity, and I declined to play the softball game (leaving at least one base unmanned).  I made decisions based on the fear that I wasn’t good enough rather than look for the ways I could learn, grow and develop.  I alienated myself, when the world was really welcoming me in.

At one point, the new seeds introduced on the barren island of Kauai had to say, “Yes!  I belong here!  I may not look like the plants around me, but that’s okay.  I have worth, and I will fight to live here, on this earth, in this messy, unknowable, undiscovered part of the world.”

At what point did I start to believe that I, too, belong?  In starting to accept that I am who I am, I’ve started to see that I, too, have worth, even if I’m different than the people around me.  I am starting to believe that my weird, different self might actually belong in my own corner of this messy, unknowable part of the world.

I often need to remind myself that life can be messy, and hard, and I may be thrown into situations where I don’t know anyone or anything.  I may be thrust into a situation that no one has been in before, but I still might belong there.  I may not be native to a land, but I can wiggle my way into it.

Life finds a way.  We have to fight through the discomfort to find our own way sometimes.

Like every form of life, we imperfect but ferociously (or even cautiously) capable humans can plant our seeds and stretch toward our sun and root ourselves where we never thought we could.

Maybe you’re that seed.  You look at a place and say, “I don’t belong here.”  And perhaps you’re right!  Maybe you don’t!  Maybe no one really does.  But maybe anyone can.

We all have to learn and adapt in order to grow.  We have to discover what we have inside of ourselves.  Sometimes we have to fight to flourish.  We can’t sit idly back and bloom.  We don’t have to settle.  We can recognize our rightness in our imperfections.

So, go ahead and plant your seed.  Bloom where you’re planted.

Go ahead and be you, even if you don’t think you belong.  Decide you belong, and let yourself live.

where you're planted.-

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