It is the shit in the soil that creates the best conditions for growth.
“We asked, ‘why is it that we learn from things that hurt us? Why do we need pain before we can grow?’ There aren’t any easy answers to this one, but all artists know the truth of it, and not only artists: it was Jung who said that there is no coming to life without pain.“*
When the shit hits the fan.
When we find ourselves ‘up to ours ears’ in it, or ‘up that particular creek without a paddle’.
When pain and destruction, and deliberate attack, or unpredicted misfortune fall on us.
At the time when we feel the stink of death is all around, and our burden too heavy to bear, we have a choice.
We can try to run away. Choose to flee from our pain, from anything that might unmask our suffering, or reveal our weakness. Using busyness, or a relentless routine, or the pursuit of pleasure, we refuse to allow any moments of stillness. By remaining on the run we aim to elude our disquiet, refusing to deal with what cannot be seen, what we refuse to speak of. We strive to avoid our suffering, to pretend it isn’t happening, we put our best foot forward and repeatedly swallow down the hard honesty that is festering within.
Or we can try to scrape off the shit. Try to make it someone else’s problem. To act as though we played no part in our downfall (because although many factors may be beyond my control, I am still here and to pretend I have no role to play is foolishness.) We can excuse and make excuses while we side-step the stinking pile, politely waiting for someone else to clear it up.
Or we can allow it to sit there, a layer of putrid stench following us around. Promoting the foul smelling self-pity. Sometimes enjoying the attention the smell brings to our door.
Or. Or. Or.
We can dig it in.
Dig in the shit. Dig it in to the soil of our lives. Allow it to turn things over, to disrupt us, to change us. Asking others to help us, to listen and talk and join us as we pick up our spade and move the earth.
Because it is the soil that has the shit – the manure – dug through it, that creates the best conditions for growth. It is messy and hard work. It is smelly and not at all glamorous, to dig into the difficult truths. But it is this movement, this work, that generates the right environment for growing the good stuff… the beauty, the food, for nourishment and health.
And if this feels like an analogy that is because it is.
Sometimes it is too hard to say things directly, to look at the light of truth.
At some point there will be pain and suffering. Sometimes things won’t go according to plan and there will be great losses. Don’t ignore it, try not to run from it, or create your home in it.
Dig it in. By prayer, by talking, by therapy, by meditation. And keep digging.
In my experience this digging is hard work. And at times intensely painful. The desire to walk away and pretend that I’m ‘okay’ now, with no need for further support has at times been overwhelming. To continually acknowledge my weakness and my need is humbling. Sometimes it would have been easier to slap a smile on and offer platitudes instead of honesty.
But I am glad I haven’t, and I wont. I am grateful for counselling and professional help, for therapy. I am thankful for a husband who is under no illusion as to who he married. And I am honoured to have friends who will sit with me when my capacity for hope is low, and I feel privileged when they allow me to do the same for them.
We have dug together.
And we will continue to dig.
A revolution of gardeners of the soul.
*From A Circle of Quiet by Madeleine L’Engle.