The Cactus: A True Story
A 5-year-old boy presented his mom with an adorable mother’s day gift: a little Indian Head cactus, planted in a three-inch pot. The care instructions claimed it would blossom once a year. She followed the directions with precision. It grew, and eventually outgrew the little pot. But it never blossomed. They transplanted it several times into deeper pots as it grew taller. Thirteen years later it had grown to a height of three feet, and had become top-heavy. Soon the pot was too large to keep on a windowsill, but there was no other location that provided the direct sunlight prescribed for a cactus. Even though they rotated the pot, the cactus grew—slanting precariously towards the sun. They propped it carefully in the corner of the windowsill, so that it would not tip over. But one day it toppled. The mom happened to be standing there and instinctively reached out to catch it, so it wouldn’t tumble to the floor and break. She forgot that half-inch spikes covered its surface. In a painful and stressful flash, her hands now looked like a red “connect the dots” game that hadn’t started yet!
The incident hinted loudly that they couldn’t keep the cactus any longer, despite its becoming ‘part of the family.’ Enter a hobby botanist friend who lived nearby and agreed to adopt the cactus. He was an exotic-plant expert, and they’d be able to visit their cactus. A couple of months later over at his home on Sukkot, she noticed the cactus perched outside in a corner behind the house, looking shriveled and abandoned. The dirt was dry and cracked, and it obviously hadn’t been watered for a very long time. She knew their friends would not agree to take care of the cactus, and then not do so but didn’t feel comfortable asking why the plant appeared to be neglected. Several other visits found the cactus in that same corner, dry and shriveled, clearly absent any care.
Fast forward to Pesach. A text message arrived: a photo showing a beautiful shimmery large blossom sprouting atop a huge plump green healthy cactus, surrounded by 12 additional buds! A new text photo came as the buds bloomed in succession, each a sight to behold! Rather than the cactus being long gone and forgotten, here were the most vibrant and unexpected signs of life thriving! What happened?!
The botanist friend explained that they had taken “too good” care of the plant: too much regularity with water, too much sun, the consistency of a stable indoor environment. No cold nights, no desert heat, no drought—in other words, no stress that a cactus needs to reach its growth potential. So it got lazy and complacent, and didn’t bother itself to bloom. Only when stressed as a cactus requires could it develop as it was destined to be.
Stress is not always bad. We all need certain kinds and levels of stress to thrive, to be creative and productive. In fact, peak performance and effective teamwork thrive on this kind of “good stress.” It’s described (both by elite and professional athletes, and by flourishing business leaders) as being “in the zone.” And it’s something we can learn.
However, inordinate, unrequited or protracted/chronic “bad” stress—or more accurately, distress—is different. This kind of stress can be detrimental physically, cognitively, emotionally, psychologically if we lack the tools to manage ourselves in the face of the stress we experience. One of the biggest challenges of stress arises especially when the stressful situation is forced on us and/or without options, as in the current COVID crisis and its seemingly infinite and alarming ripple effects. More than 75 health disorders are attributed to chronic stress, or worsened by it—or both. So this response is something we need to “unlearn.”
We already live in highly stressful times, now compounded by the added stress and fear engendered by COVID and the new world it’s created. Adjusting to this stress, while different for everyone, is challenging for many people. It demands that we change, and most people resist change because they have not learned the skills of tolerating the discomfort of change long enough, until that change can become the “new comfort.” Resistance often occurs, whether the change is compulsory or even an elective, desirable change. The frequent result is either maladjustment, or in reverting back to “the old way,” because it “feels so much more natural, more comfortable.” Classic example: abandoning a new fitness commitment before there is time for it to become tangibly effective.
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Call 888-242-2732, ext. 2 or visit www.Avitaicare.com. Tell them The Cactus sent you.