Bringing out the best in flowers, especially roses, requires the painful practice of pruning. Pruning is the act of cutting back. It is the proactive decision to limit growth. It is the aggressive severing of branches, blooms and beauty for the health of the whole. It is about ending something to allow something new to blossom in greater beauty. It is accepting the present pain for the betterment in the future.
While we sit in our houses confined to social distancing many of us are frozen in fear and panic, confused about how the greatest intellectuals, the most powerful, the wealthiest could not have planned for such a time as this. Now we face not just pruning but the death of entire systems.
Pruning in our world of economics, in our health care systems, in our social systems and our environmental destructive industries are being tested and found wanting in the face of the reality of a pandemic. We have awoken from our slumber with a panic as the systems that we rested upon crack under the weight of the reality of the terribleness of such a viral outbreak.
The financial institutions in the downturn of the 2008 recession were significantly pruned of the useless, unsustainable dead wood of mortgage-backed securities. In the fallout and recovery many processes and standards were cut, eliminated. As institutions they had to re-invent and rebuild themselves in the wake of the loss of billions of dollars. Today if you asked any of the institution leaders if they are safer and more secure for the forced changes, they would say ‘Absolutely’.
I cannot wonder, though, why no one had seen the need to cut such dangerous branches from the plant in order to maintain health and growth. What is it about we humans that avoid the difficult, the painful? Why is it that we do not want to hear what we do not want to hear? Why is it that the only thing we learn from history is that we as humans do not learn from history?
The environment is crying out to be heard, but we do not want to change our lifestyle. Even if we lose it all in the end. Yet the world has a way of getting our attention.
In a similar manner, you may hear the grown of sadness from your soul, the spinning stuckness of your spirit, or the sluggish muck of your motivation. But If you lean your ear to your heart, and go deep, not being distracted by busyness, you hear the sounds of things coming to an end.
But we don’t like to hear such bad news. We don’t want to lose what is. We don’t want to leave and go on. We begin to wither like a dried up rose bloom, grieving the glory days. So, we cling so dependently to what was, afraid of what is to come. We all want happy endings to our stories. However, every great story had an ending and someone overcoming either themselves, nature or an adversary in order to create that great ending.
All beginnings started with something beautiful coming to an end!
Like a seed that is planted in the dark lonely soil, the outer case begins to rot and disintegrate to allow a new shoot to break old casings and to emerge bursting with life and hope. Still not knowing what it will look like but courageously accepting that endings are the birthplace of a new beginning. It is the nature of life.
Today we isolate in the darkness of COVID-19 not knowing what we shall be. For many of us, we will need to end relationships, jobs, hopes, dreams and plans. They will have to be let go. For some, the pruning will be forced on us. It will cut deep and it will be very painful, to the point of despair. For others, they may listen deeply to ‘the sound of endings’ and look to the promise of what is to come.
There is so, so much I do not know!
But what I do know is that after all of our isolating and social distancing, and when we open our doors to our world, it will have changed. Many of us will have changed and, I believe, for the better. But if we do not change, we will wither and die, hanging desperately to what was that can no longer be.
In the face of our own fear and uncertainty, let us all try to let go of what needs to be pruned from our lives. It is for our own good! Let’s gently release our grip together and let go.
Executive Director of the Bayridge Counselling Centres
For more on the importance of ‘Endings’ you can read Dr. Henry Cloud’s book on ‘Necessary Endings”