On Resilience

My neighbor and I share a cactus. It is planted directly between our two front yards and stands about five feet tall. At least, it used to. One weekend, unbeknownst to me, my neighbor decided to trim the cactus. He took a saw and cut off most of the branches. Maybe it needed a trim. I don’t know much about cacti. But my neighbor proceeded to leave all the trimmings there in the front yard. I thought maybe I should finish the project, seeing as how we seem to have joint custody of this particular cactus, but it rained for the next two weekends, and I did not have a chance.

On the first sunny Saturday, I made my way out with the green rolly receptacle and some heavy-duty gardening gloves. As I picked up the discarded branches, I noticed something spectacular. Although branches were no longer connected to the cactus and should be totally dead, I had trouble lifting them from the dirt. You see, each of the holes where the needles used to stick out of the cactus for protection from attack had transformed. Roots now emerged from those holes into the ground as the plant tried to survive. What was once a prickly danger was now a means of survival.

The more I think about that cactus, the more I am impressed by its ability to survive. From the places where the plant used to attack and fend off danger came its means to live and grow.

Humans are sometimes like a cactus. We get cut down by the struggles of life. It may seem hopeless. And when we think things can’t get worse, just like the cactus, when it rains, it pours. Situation after situation can bring us down and it feels so out of our control.

Yet, the durability of the human spirit is powerful. If we are willing to soften the prickly parts of our nature, we can find new life and growth. Like the cactus, we may need to rethink our strategies. Perhaps in our struggles we try to fight off any attempts at trust or vulnerability for fear of being steeped in more turmoil. However, the needles sticking out from the cactus couldn’t save it from the inevitable breakdown and we cannot always control what happens to and around us. It was only when the needles were discarded that the plant found a way to grow. So, when you feel in the midst of struggle and despair, remember that you are much stronger and more resourceful than a cactus. Maybe there is a new path toward growth and sustenance. Perhaps finding the place or person where you can let down your guard is exactly the way you can grow new roots. You and the cactus are stronger than you realize.

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