“Sometimes when you’re in a dark place, you think you’ve been buried, but you’ve actually been planted.” -Christine Caine
When I first started my journey to bettering myself, I thought I’d quickly resolve all of my issues.
Unfortunately (or fortunately), it doesn’t work like that. Change is a b*tch, but it’s also extremely rewarding and transformative. As Zig Ziglar said, “Fear has two meanings. Forget everything and run, or face everything and rise. The choice is yours.”
I ran for so long. So, so long. But I finally reached a point where I decided I wasn’t going to run anymore. I was going to confront my bad habits, my fears, my defense mechanisms, and the false stories I’d been repeating in my head. I was going to unlearn what I’d learned. I was going to tear down the layers of pain and story, and make room for new things to bloom.
I was reminded of forest fires.
Did you know that forest fires are a natural and necessary part of the ecosystem? It might appear like total destruction on the outside, but inside, a restorative, beautiful effect is taking place.
All forests contain dead trees and decaying plant matter, and when a fire burns through them, these decaying plants turn to ash, which then return as nutrients to the soil. As the fire rages through the forest, it clears out too-thick growth and invasive weeds, thins light-banning canopies above, and eliminates diseased plants, which rids the area of potential stifling threats and allows sunlight to reach the forest floor.
Thanks to the higher levels of sunlight and a fresh supply of nutrients from burned vegetation, young trees that survived the fire actually have a growth spurt and become stronger. Native species begin to flourish. Wildflowers begin to bloom abundantly. Burned trees attract diverse birds and mammals. New plants are born.
A forest that endures a fire ends up being even more eco-rich, grand, and diverse than ever before. The unfavorable elements are cleared out, the good elements ride out the storm and grow even stronger, and new elements are cultivated.
Our lives are just like a forest fire. When we decide to change, the results do not come about easily and instantaneously. Rather, we must go through some crap—sometimes a lot of crap. It’s neither pretty nor fun, and it can even be downright terrifying at times.
But if we can remember that so much beauty is waiting for us, the sh*tty parts don’t seem quite as sh*tty. If we can look at our journeys and make peace with what’s happening, knowing that it’s all a necessary part of growth, we can eliminate some of the pressure, fear, and resistance and allow the beauty to make itself known much more quickly.
I need to remind myself of this every day: some days, change feels hard. So. Damn. Hard.
In those days, moments (or weeks), I take a deep breath and remind myself that I am a forest. I might be walking through flames right now, but they won’t last forever. They’re temporary. They’re necessary. They’re not out to get me.
They’re simply clearing out the old and undesirable to make room for the beauty, peace, and presence that I deserve.
That we all deserve.
This article was first published on elephant journal.