Sunday, July 3, 2016

Tomato plants, weeds, and life....

This past weekend I sat in a hotel room with my brother from another mother, Fred Smalls.

Fred was getting ready for the IFBB Wings of Strength show, and I had flown in to see my friend and help him out with some final preparations.

We had a day before his wife arrived, and if you read my past article about contest prep, you know that basically you're pretty much exhausted at that point so we just sat around and talked about life, our kids, and all sorts of deep shit that I don't think women think men sit around and talk about.

I told Fred about a metaphor that had hit me a few days earlier in regards to people and life, and how some people are tomato plants, some people are weeds, and some people are the support for the tomato plants.

"Tell me what all this means." he said.

I went on to expound on my metaphor by explaining it to him like this.

If life were a garden, or specifically a field of tomato plants, then most people you know fill some sort of metaphorical role within that garden.

Tomato plants, properly watered and fertilized can grow delicious fruit, obviously.  And I'm not talking the store bought kind.  Anyone who has had farm grown tomatoes knows they don't taste like store bought tomatoes.

But a tomato plant can't grow their fruit to its fullest potential without a stake, or wire cage you can tie the plant up to as it grows.  If you don't do this, the tomato gets very heavy, and can pull limbs or the entire plant to the ground.  Potentially snapping the branches in the process.

If any of those things happens, the fruit it bore sits on the ground, and is vulnerable to various diseases that will rot away at it.  That or some animal comes along and eats it.  Point being, without the support system, the tomato plant can't grow to its fullest potential without the support system in place.

At various times in our life, we are the plant.  And in order to grow and fulfill our greatest potential, we will need a support system to do so.  One we can tie ourselves to, and keep us protected, and help keep our branches strong, and free of as many problems as possible.  A support system that will keep us off the ground, away from diseases and predators that certainly don't have our bests interests in mind, and want nothing more than for us to fall to the ground, so they can devour us or take part in helping to rotten our lives.

We aren't weak for needing that support system.  After all, with it, we have the potential to grow into something grand and magnificent.  There's nothing detracted from our ability to reach our potential because we had support to help us climb up while we did so.  Not every battle has to be fought alone.  Not every growth spurt in life has to be done in solitude.

Most of the time, it's going to take a support system for us to find our greatest potential.  The kind that will be steadfast in the rains and wind, and tie us off so that we can focus on becoming the very best version of that damned tomato plant that we can be.

With such a support system, we can not just survive, but thrive.  And bear fruit that we couldn't have done so without it.

Of course, even with that support system, we will have weeds in our life too.  And their purpose is to do nothing but try and suck as much of the nutrients out of the soil away from us as possible. Without a good gardener, another part of the support system - who cares for and loves the plants, the weeds can take over really fast.  And eventually the tomato plants can succumb to the weeds.

At various times in our life, we need a gardener.  Someone who will alleviate the weeds that rob us of our nutrients, that keep us from growing.  Someone that will tend to the soil, and prepare it for us ahead of time to make sure we are given the best chance to succeed.  Someone who will get their hands dirty for us, and get on bended knee and do laborious work with their hands so that our foundation is strong.

As kids, it will be incredibly difficult to reach our potential as adults without a strong support system in place to help us grow.  This is why, our jobs as parents is so fundamentally important for them.  We are the stake in the ground.  We are the gardener.  We are the one that is supposed to tie them to us so they feel protected and loved and taken care of.   We are the one that is supposed to work tirelessly to pull the weeds from around them so that they have their best chance to grow without succumbing to what is trying to rob them of their potential.

It doesn't mean all out protection.  The rains and wind and storms will all test both the plant, and the support system.  They need each other to thrive even without the weeds trying to overcome them.

But even as adults, we need  to find our place with the people we love and care about in regards to these things.  Sometimes we need the support, and sometimes we need to be the support.  We need to understand when we need to tie ourselves off to that support system because our problems have made our branches heavy and wary.  And we need to know when to tie our loved one off to us, so that we can be the broad shoulders they need, and the strong arms that can carry them for a while.

Most importantly, we should never find ourselves becoming weeds.  We shouldn't find ourselves sucking the life out of the people we claim to love and care about, due to feeding our selfishness.  Yes, there are times where we need to be selfish enough so that we pull away from the weeds, but that's not really being selfish as it's more about personal survival.  People can and will suck the happiness and life right out of you if you do not pluck them from the ground they are trying to overcome from you.

It's not selfish to want to grow into something that is the best version of  who you can become.  It's not selfish to want to disconnect from people who wants to tear you off that stake or your wires because they want nothing more than to see your fruit lay rotting on the ground.

It's selfish to be the weed.

After explaining all this to Fred, he simply said "I see."

Nothing more.

But we sat in silence for a few and I could see him ruminating on the whole thing.

Fred is part of my support system, and I am part of his.  We've both been there for each other throughout various struggles and sufferings and have learned how to lean on each other for issues related to both training, and life.

Family, friends, romantic partners....the relationship should represent the stake, the gardener, and the ever growing plant.  The roles should all be intertwined and interchangeable at times.

Without surrounding ourselves with people who want to be those things for us, out of nothing more than their love and desire to see us grow, then we will struggle to grow the best to our ability.  And so will they.

Be a good stake.  Be a good gardener.  Be a bad ass tomato plant too.

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