It’s not every day that a cactus teaches you about love…
So, I finally made it to California. It was a promise I made to the world via my high school yearbook, that California was in my future. That’s what it said under the picture of the long-haired, seventeen year old soon-to-be high school graduate.
It just took me 29 years to get there.
I don’t remember exactly why I wanted to go to California. I think it was because I had a crush on a girl who had plans to go to California someday. For an introverted kid short on self-confidence, my logic made perfect sense. The years went by and I never did think much about going to California. Or the girl. The whole California thing resurfaced at a time in my life when I began taking inventory of all that I had failed to do with my life. California was just one of many promises I made to myself that I had never allowed myself to keep. I became quite good at beating myself down for not living up to the dreams and expectations I set for myself. I became the angry master and the bad little puppy all in one.
THE SILLIEST GRIN The good news is that I finally matured to the point where I grew out of the beating myself down stage. And eventually, I got to California, an offshoot of a business trip to Las Vegas. I flew out to Las Vegas a couple of days early, rented a car, and immediately drove south on Interstate 15. Several prior trips to Vegas got me close, but this time it was going to happen. California, here I come. I remember the silliest little child-like grin on my adult face as I crossed the border from Nevada and into California. No one on Interstate 15 could ever fully understand the magnitude of the moment. I didn’t need to get to Los Angeles or San Francisco. I was just thrilled to be driving through the desert. I made it to California.
I drove as far west as Baker, home to the world’s tallest thermometer. (Who knew?) I remember how cool it was to see road signs for Death Valley. I finally stopped in the Mojave National Preserve. A lasting first impression was the bullet-riddled stop sign that had been used as target practice. I was so struck by the arid, barren landscape and the vegetation that was able to sustain itself in such harsh conditions. It was the first time I’d seen a cactus in its natural environment, and was amazed that anything could actually grow there in the first place.
LIFEBLOOD I’m told that the Mojave Desert only receives between 5 – 10 inches of precipitation per year. Yet somehow the cacti are able to flourish and sustain themselves with such a small amount of water. A cactus has an extensive root system, very shallow, which allows it to capture as much of the limited supply of water available. The captured water is stored within the root system and allows the cactus to sustain itself for extended periods of time in what seems like an infinitely waterless place.
Driving back to Las Vegas I started thinking about how at times life itself seemed like an infinitely waterless place. Dry. Desolate. Isolated. Times when your only source of emotional sustenance comes from what you’ve been able to store up on the inside. On its own accord, being emotionally self-sustaining is a wonderful thing. To be free of any need for external sources of love and emotional support would appear to be quite liberating. But is that really how the human heart works?
Water is the lifeblood of all living things, including cacti and us humans. No water, no life. The emotional lifeblood of us humans is love. To love and to be loved. No love, no life. Love is the water that makes the human heart come alive. Love can take us beyond mere sustenance and to a place where we flourish beyond all expectation.
GREATEST RESPONSIBILITY The water we need for our physical survival always comes from external sources, something outside of ourselves. Love, though, has both internal and external supply lines, the love of self and the love of others. It is the giving and receiving of love that breathes such beautiful life into the human heart. It nourishes the souls of both the giver and the recipient.
Through gratitude, reflection and self-appreciation we can rekindle a love of all that we already are, to be inspired by what already is. At our very core we are love. Sometimes we just need to remind ourselves of our true divinity, the truest of all truths.
Perhaps the greatest responsibility we have to each other is to give away the love that lies within us. Just give it away, as the rain gives itself away to the thirsty world below. The love we give moves us beyond sustenance and to a place of greater possibility. One step closer to fulfilling our ultimate purpose.
The human heart is not a cactus. Sure, we are all stronger than we give ourselves credit for. Sure, we could sustain ourselves with small amounts of love for extended lengths of time. But is life only about sustenance? Are we only here in this life for the sole purpose of getting through it? Isn’t life about blooming, about becoming all that we were created to be?
LET IT RAIN That’s where the rain comes in. Rain, in the form of love. Rain, in the form of encouragement and support. Rain, nurturing all your relationships for no other reason than making them grow. I know how inspired and grateful I feel when I am caught in a shower of love, support and encouragement. How about you?
Rain used to just make me wet. Now each time it rains, I see a source of love giving itself away. Unconditional, as it feeds both the roses and the weeds, asking nothing in return from either. In the rain I think of all my relationships, personal and professional, and I am reminded of my obligation to be a source of nourishment, to do what I can to make these relationships as strong and vibrant as possible.
Take a moment and look at your relationships, including your relationship with yourself. Are you a source of growth, bringing the rain of love, support and encouragement needed to make all your relationships as strong and fulfilling as possible? Or are your relationships more like the Mojave, dry and arid, living only off of love stored within? Relationships, like gardens, need to be tended to, in hopes of creating an environment in which love will fully bloom.
The human heart is not a cactus.
Living Half Full means finding inspiration in the rain. Let the rain remind you of the importance of nourishing all your relationships, without conditions and without expectations.
It’s a great day to be you!