My friend had a new pep to her step that day. She brought her family over for a playdate; something that has become so rare in pandemic times. Her eyes lit up like an inner light was turned on from within. It was exciting to see, but it was even more exciting to see why.
After we caught up on life and children and everything in between, I could tell she couldn’t hold it in anymore. The best part of having a light from within is that it begs to be shared. She HAD to share, and I was grateful she picked me to share it with. She pulled an unexpected goodie from her bag and opened up a small mailer that was merely the delivery vessel. She turned the manila envelope on its side and out came an abundance of tiny new beginnings. Just because something is small doesn’t mean it doesn’t hold more life than one could count; and she was holding thousands of new possibilities in front of me.
I realized this as I attempted to count how many fruit and vegetable seeds she had purchased and was willing to share. She had more variety of seeds than I knew possible. Some were large, like the size of a bean or a melon seed, and others were as little as a pin tip, easily to overlook and nothing more than a speck of dirt. Each packet she opened gingerly and encouraged me to take as many as I wanted so that I would have a fighting chance for the garden of my dreams. Her offer was one of the kindest acts a friend could give, and I left with over 30 bags of potential awaiting the perfect conditions to put into motion their purpose. I stored them away for the perfect time, and that day was this past Sunday.
If you’ve ever grown a vegetable garden, you may know some of the strategies that one could take. You could buy “starters” from a store or a farmer where they have grown the plant from a seed, saving you the worry of investing your time, energy and funds in the most unstable and worrisome part of the growing process. Or, you could open a seed packet — just like my friend Emily had done — and open a small patch of dirt to watch something grow from seemingly nothing. For years I had attempted a hybrid approach of the two, but this year was different. This year, I had different plans and Emily was going to share her tips and tricks along the way.
I knew how to grow vegetable plants from seeds, or so I thought. It couldn’t be that hard — just put some soil in a pot and sit the pot by the window. Adding water regularly should do the trick, right?! Last year I was so confident, so when my plant starters became weak, molded and withered to nothing, my confidence diminished. This year, if I were to have any success, I had to try something I never had before. I just didn’t expect to have to face one of my biggest “fears” in the process.
Emily’s gardening approach was different than mine in so many ways. I have always been “by the book” and she is more “roll with the punches.” I have always followed what has worked, and she is always up for trying something new. I have always been fearful of saving seeds, of attempting the unknown for fear of failure. She sees it as a new challenge that has potential. Emily’s gardening purview was destined to rub off on me, especially after I savored her tomatoes, squash and more last year when my garden didn’t product anything. Maybe, just maybe, overthinking it wasn’t the best approach after all.
Last week I received a text from her; a friendly reminder that it was time to wake up the seeds and let them know it’s time for business. And within the text she shared a photo of her unorthodox approach to do just that — one that even a year prior I would have never attempted. Instead of beginning her seeds in the soil, she created mini greenhouses by placing each seed on a moist towel and inserting that in a Ziploc bag to place in front of a window with good sunlight. The sun’s heat mixed with the moisture from the towel should provide the seeds with the perfect conditions for sprouting. And sprouting before placing in soil allows you to see which seeds have the most potential before you invest too much time into them.
Her approach seemed logical, but there was only one problem. The moist paper towel. And that wasn’t just a little problem. For me, it put me in a situation that I had attempted to avoid at all cost for decades. Those who know me personally know that I have a very unusual and quite irrational fear or annoyance of wet paper. Yes, I said it. It’s embarrassing and odd. It’s something I have held close for years, only telling my dearest friends. But it’s true. Wet paper, especially wet paper towels, are my archnemesis. I do everything in my power to run from them, and yet, to attempt this approach, there was no other way. Believe me, I checked.
So, on Sunday I faced my fears head on. I had my husband stop by the convenience store on the way home from work a few days prior to pick up paper towels (yes, we don’t even keep them in the house because I hate them so much) so that I would be ready physically when I was ready mentally to tackle something I didn’t think I could do. I strategically folded each seed type its own towel, and I proceeded to run water over it. I was methodical and patience, allowing the water to seep into every crevice. And as it did, I realized something quite powerful.
I know this may not sound challenging to you, but the first few times prepping the towels was downright hell for me. Here I was, holding in my hand, something that I despise. Something I’ve run from for years became the nourishment for something I craved. I’ve let this fear stop me from doing things in the past, but it was the only way to accomplish what I so desperately wanted this time. I could no longer hide from something that gave me the heebie-jeebies. And the more I faced my fears head on, the more I realized they weren’t so scary after all.
My struggle had the potential to bring to life something that could nourish our family. My seemingly silly concerns, while real as they were, didn’t have to become an excuse for why I couldn’t do something … it could become an excuse for me to do it anyway.
Working through fear opens your eyes to the fact that most fears we carry are fears we’ve created for ourselves. Working through them gives us power knowing that we don’t have to always like something, someone or a situation, but we can tackle it anyway. We can turn a challenge into a purpose.
Just because you don’t like heights doesn’t mean you can’t close your eyes and get on a plane so that you can travel the world. (Believe me, I do it every time I go on a trip.)
Just because you get nervous getting in front of crowds doesn’t mean you can’t share your message of inspiration with others. (Believe it or not, even though my career path took me down this road, I still find myself working through this fear.)
Just because you worry what others think, if you will ever be good enough, how you will get it all done, doesn’t mean you can’t trudge through it and make it to the other side anyway. In fact, right now you have a pretty good track record of getting to tomorrow, no matter what situation you may face today.
When the days get tough, don’t let your fears stop you or block you or mock you. Don’t let them create detours or seemingly unattainable mountains for you to navigate. Don’t let them hinder your growth, for your next move may be just what another needs to grow as well.
When the last paper towel soaked up the water from the faucet and I positioned the tiny seeds perfectly upon it, I felt accomplished in a way I hadn’t before. I know it was something small, but for me is was monumental. I felt freer and lighter knowing that something that had held me back doesn’t have to anymore.
Who would have ever known that the process of planting a tiny seed could help unlock so much within me even before it unlocks the seeds’ potential? Imagine what planting a seed in your life has the possibility to do for you. Be bigger than you fear.