The Roots, Petals, and Weeds of Life

Hi Everyone!  I think it’s only appropriate for me to use my first real post to explain the theme of my blog.  Although I do love gardening and even grew vegetables in flower pots one summer, “Cultivating Kristin” represents more than that.  Last September, I was sitting in a large ballroom for the University of Michigan School of Social Work new student orientation.  Faculty members and current students introduced themselves, welcomed us to the master’s program, and gave us their words of wisdom and tips for success.  While I don’t remember everything that they said that day, I do remember an activity that they had us do.  They gave us a piece of white paper and several different crayons.  They asked us to draw a flower, complete with strong roots, beautiful petals, and tangled weeds.

On each root, we were told to write one thing in our life that kept us grounded, made us who we were today, and helped us flourish. When identifying my roots, I was reminded (yet again) that my family, God, friends, exercise, and nutritious food are critical to my happiness and well-being.

In the center of each petal, we were asked to write one thing that brought us happiness and brought beauty to our lives.  At first, I had trouble filling in all of the pedals.  Seriously, how sad is that?  I’ve been so caught up playing the “This is what I should do,” “This is what should make me happy,”  and “Who cares what makes me happy…I have a to do list!” that I have truly forgotten what makes the real Kristin happy.  After some thinking, I decided that being outside, spending time with God, drinking coffee and eating breakfast (haha it’s true, I find it so peaceful), helping older adults (I have a bachelor’s degree in gerontology and I’m getting my MSW in geriatric social work), cooking, and exercising were the petals of my life.

The weeds represented the things that caused discomfort and frustration and kept us from reaching our goals and flourishing.  My weeds were the easiest to pick out and write down.  Perfectionism, restriction, exercising too much and getting injured, negative self-talk, anxiety,  and never feeling good enough for my standards.

While some students viewed the activity as childish due to the crayons and simplicity of the drawing, the activity was incredibly moving and thought-provoking for me.  Notice how exercise and food show up in every category in one way or another?  Hmmm….funny how that can happen, isn’t it?  I think it’s another example of why moderation is the key.  Nothing relieves my stress (root) and brings me joy (pedal) than a nice, long run…but nothing makes me injured faster (weed) and meanly competitive with myself (weed) than TOO many “nice, long” runs.

Since September when I completed the flower activity, I truly feel that I have learned more about myself and grown more than I ever thought was possible in just 7 months.  Ann Arbor and every part of my life there has been a saving grace.  Make no mistake, my weeds are not gone and there is still work to be done, but I have made huge progress.  I am SO grateful to God, my mom, family, and my new friends and colleagues who have helped me (whether they know it or not) cultivate the true me, the Kristin that has been missing for the last three years.

Let’s Grow Together questions:

1.  What is the biggest root, pedal, and weed in your life?

2.  Are there any things and/or activities that serve as roots, pedals, AND weeds in you life?

3.  What do you do when you feel like your weeds are taking over your life?  Do you have a “weed removal” strategy?

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