The BS of “Bloom Where You’re Planted”
Updated: Mar 18
For Mother’s Day several years ago, my children bought me two small fig trees. It was an amazingly sweet gesture. It wasn’t a secret that I loved figs and had a soft spot in my heart for their face-sized leaves and the cool shade they provided. On a number of occasions, I had spoken longingly of spending my childhood summers plundering the giant fig tree in my grandmother’s yard for its ripe fruit and hiding under the shade of those leaves. This gift was precious and thoughtful.
I was thrilled and began my research to find just the right spot for them. I went online, read articles, and monitored our yard for the perfect conditions. I was disappointed when I saw that what we had in our sizeable yard didn’t mesh well with what I was reading. No where on our property did there seem to be enough room for them to get the light or space they needed. So, I planted them in the largest pots I could find and put them in the sunniest corner of my backyard patio. I did not have high hopes.
Over the course of the next few years, those trees steadily grew from tiny twigs to small, sturdy branches. Each winter, they dropped their leaves and each spring, they sprouted buds again. In the summers, they actually started to produce fruit – we savored a fig or two every year and marveled at how despite not giving them much attention at all, they managed to do what fig trees do. They topped out at three feet and held steady for a few summers, but I was pleased at our little homage to my grandmother and went about my business.
That next spring, we had several limbs removed from a giant oak in our side yard. Soon after, I began to notice my husband staring out of the window at that particular spot of real estate. When I asked him what he kept looking at, he told me that he thought he’d found a great spot to transplant the fig trees. I scoffed at the suggestion, citing my earlier research about sunlight requirements and the like. It would be a waste of energy and resources, I argued. Besides, they might die altogether. Wouldn’t it be better to just leave well enough alone and be content with those tiny trophies and the memories they held?
Before I knew it, I had my answer - Hal was clearing a spot, amending the soil, and removing the fig trees from their potted home they’d had for quite some time. Their roots were gnarled and tight, their leaves pale and discolored. I didn’t have high hopes, but it had been a fun little run with them, so all was well. He finished his transplant, watered them well, and that was that.
Until it wasn’t. That summer, they grew six inches. The next Spring, they shot up three feet. The year after that, they spread wide and three more trunks appeared. By the time we sold our house and moved, those two little twiglets had turned into a massive fig tree reaching 18 feet in the air and producing handfuls of sweet fruit each season. Every time I looked at that tree, I could practically see it growing. And every time I saw it growing, I thought about how limiting my beliefs had been…on many levels.
The phrase “Bloom where you’re planted” is originally credited to St. Francis de Sales in the 16th century, but it was Mary Englebright who etched it into my head and my psyche with her cheery calendars and platitudes that plastered my walls in the early 1990s. I’m sure there are some wonderful applications to that phrase – about the resilience of life and all of that, but when I hear it now, it grates on my nerves. It reminds me of the years I spent as a passive participant in my own life. It screams at me, “Stay in your own lane” and it makes me sad for all of the times that I did.
I’m grateful for a husband who sees opportunities and takes risks and makes things happen. But for too long, I relied on him to do all the risk taking for both of us. That put too much pressure on him and it made me doubt my own strength. And that’s certainly not something I want to pass on to my own children. While it is beneficial to make the best of the situation you may be in, it is also beneficial to take action, take part, and create the kind of environment that will be even better for you, even if that means taking a step backwards initially. It’s scary and there are no guarantees, but at least your roots will have a chance to spread and your life will have a chance to grow.
If you feel stuck, chances are, you’ve outgrown your pot and the deepest parts of you are asking for room to stretch and sink into some new soil. That can be a scary realization. You know your old pot. You know what to expect each season and you’ve even managed to produce some good things while there. There is a natural cycle of life for not only all things, jobs, relationships, hobbies, passions, but also the patterns within those arenas. Don’t settle for a small pot when the fertile earth is just a few steps away. All it takes is all the courage you don’t think you have. And all you have to do to access that courage is to clear some space, till some soil, and embrace the chill of the air for a bit on those cramped roots. What might feel like fear is really the kiss of the wind and the promise of growth.