As you no doubt can glean from the title of my blog, I have a thing for sunflowers.
I especially like the ones that really tower, that grow alone or in patches to heights over six feet. Talk about extending yourself! Whenever I see flowers that tall, I’m impressed by two things. One is obviously that height. Two is this: just how deep and far must that root system go? And then I wonder: how do those sunflowers, or any plants for that matter, know when to push their roots down, and when to reach up? Or does the process happen simultaneously to achieve that perfect balance?
I envy the plant world that balance. When I’m confronted with a challenge, I teeter like a novice gymnast on a balance beam. Am I ready to take that big step forward? Am I strong enough to change directions? Am I capable of just letting loose and successfully executing a hop-twist-flip maneuver? Or…
Or is it better to just stand still on the beam, maybe crouch in a tuck, maybe even (!) climb off the beam for a moment?
The same dilemma applies when I’ve passed the point of confrontation with a challenge and I’m struggling in the middle of it. To press on (there is character being built here!), or…not?
I’m all for building character, but at what point does all that freshly-built character resemble nothing so much as an impressive but extremely unstable tower of Jenga blocks? Character — hard-earned, more often than not — deserves the chance to be reinforced before even more is piled on unchecked.
At the same time, though, who’s going to come out and say that building character is a bad thing? It makes us better people; it humbles us and strengthens us and, quite frankly, probably makes us better-looking. At least that’s what I like to tell myself when I return from a run with sweat, snot and spit all over my face.
Thus the need for a balance.
I have days when I come home from work exhausted, with seven kinds of hissy fit simmering just below my surface. On those days, I hear my name being called with equal amounts of sweetness by a nap, a good book, and a tall glass of wine, while the thing I’m supposed to do (go for a run) just sort of stands there with its hands in its pockets, not calling my name at all. But I opt for the run (sighing and muttering as I tie my shoes) and it works like magic to restore my equilibrium.
Then I have days when I come home from work exhausted, and I take the day off from running. Or I opt to not go out and be social, or not run errands, or whatever the plan was. Instead, I relax. I put my feet up. I cook something simple and filling, usually involving cheese. I read that book, I have that glass of wine, I go to bed early, and guess what? It works like magic to restore my equilibrium.
I’m nowhere near adept as a sunflower at knowing when to root and when to reach. But I can learn from it: I can keep aiming towards the light, with an uncomplicated trust that everything will work out just fine.