“If you want the juicy fruit, you have to torture them a little.”
I don’t think my Ya-ya meant to be so dramatic, but the lesson stuck with me. If you want to get the most out of your tomato plants, you need a bit of tough love.
With most tomato varieties, if you don’t give them any water as they’re coming into fruit, they put all of their energy into the fruit, rather than the bush, and the tomatoes become extra juicy and sweet. Delicious.
It’s one of the funny truths of life. The journey to peak potential involves periods of ‘torture’, or at least, less than optimal conditions.
Imagine you had been raised as an indulged monarch from birth. You had never known excessive heat or cold. You never had to exert yourself. You had never gone without a protein and energy rich meal. You never even had to wipe your own arse.
Imagine the kind of being you’d be.
Probably fat, lazy and incompetent. Completely useless.
And a long, long way from your potential.
Optimal conditions, all of the time, are disastrous for humans and tomatoes.
We probably want a cycle of sweet and hard times. Exercise and rest.
This lesson is easy enough to take into the future. From now on, when ever I meet a challenge or go through a period of failure, I will remember that whatever doesn’t kill me makes me stronger, and I will soldier on.
I’ve written about this more than once.
But what about the past?
Are we able to look back at the full stretch of our lives and be grateful for everything life has ever thrown in our road?
If we look back at our failures in business or school. The relationships that never worked out. Can we see those as experiences grooming us into the beings we are today, ready to be the beings we’ll be tomorrow?
It’s easier said than done.
Or what about if we go back to our childhood? The mother who had something negative to say about everything we did. The father who stomped on our ambitions. The siblings who stole attention, or bullied you.
All those factors that shaped the frameworks you met the world with when you finally went it alone. All the subconscious beliefs you were saddled with – that there’s never enough to go round, they you don’t have any talent, that everyone’s out to get you.
The things that can take a lifetime to unwind.
Can we look at these even and be grateful for the lessons they taught us or are teaching us – for the beings they’ve help us become?
That’s harder still.
Or what if we go even further back to the lottery of life. I was a talented footballer in my day, but I didn’t quite have the genetic gifts to represent my country for a living. Should I waste time resenting that? Or be grateful that it’s pushed me into this game instead – my real calling?
We’re all born with different strengths and weaknesses. Some people have smarts, some people have looks. Some sods like me have neither.
But can we look at our “failings” too and be grateful for the way they’ve shaped our lives?
Few people ever really take this work on.
But I hope you can see how necessary it is.
The secret, I reckon, is to allow.
We need to allow these pressures in our lives. We need to accept that we weren’t the prettiest or the smartest or the most talented at school. We need to accept that our pop was a mean old bastard most of the time. We need to accept that our relationship with our ex descended into a screaming bunfight that burnt everybody.
And by that I mean, we have to allow the fullness of these experiences. And that means even the pain. We have to be able to allow the pain of these experiences.
We can’t resist them. We can’t try and compensate for a shorter stature with faster cars, or plumper legs with fancier shoes. It’s a massive and fruitless waste of energy. You’ll never win.
And if we can’t let the pain in, then it will never shape us in the way it’s meant to. If we’re always resisting it, always holding our own shape against the pressure of the experience, then we’re resisting an opportunity to grow.
Like a tomato plant refusing to face the reality that there’s less water, continuing to pump life force into the leaves, rather than recognising it’s time to give energy to the fruit.
(Man, I hope I’m making myself clear. Sometimes I find myself half way through these things thinking, what the hell am I writing? Y’all feeling me?)
There’s also a lot of trust here. Trust that these painful experiences are ultimately exactly what you need. Trust that life has some plan for you, even if it’s not the one you wanted.
Everything happens to you for a reason. It’s your fault. You called the lesson in. Now you need to find the inner-strength to fully allow the experience and everything it has to teach you.
You thought you wanted to be a bush, but life wants you to grow fruit. Life knows best. I thought I wanted to play pro-soccer, but life wanted me to write horticultural wealth psychology.
I trusted life, and it’s the best thing I ever did.
But don’t think I’m just talking about changing directions – just a shift in the compass. I’m talking about allowing painful and challenging experiences to reshape you at your core – even if it smashes you into bits and you have to put yourself together piece by piece.
The Japanese have an art form called ‘kintsukuroi’. This is where they taken broken pottery, like bowls and stuff, and repair them with gold or silver lacquer.
The idea is to celebrate the brokenness. It’s the brokenness that gives the piece character – that gives it beauty.
The bowl would have been lamenting its fate – to smash on the kitchen floor – but now its elevated from utensil to high-art.
You never know what life’s got planned.
Trust and allow.
And let life torture you a little.
What painful experiences or personal failings are you grateful for?