Major life change can turn life on its head. But hang in there. There’s hope.
I have a fiddle leaf fig plant in my house. It’s a favorite thing for me because in the 3 years I’ve had it, it has quadrupled in size compared to the one my sister got at the same time. Competitive much?
This morning as I waited for my frozen waffles to bake, I walked over to my back window to absorb some rolling countryside goodness. I was burdened with the heaviness that is currently weighing down my oldest daughter because of a major life change—our family moving during her senior year of high school. Cruel and unusual, huh (did not win Mom-of-the-Year this year). As the toaster bell rung, I sighed in bittersweet faith and turned back to the kitchen. My once-majestic houseplant caught my eye and began narrating a story of our life through the eyes of a fiddle leaf fig. Stay with me.
Four weeks ago we moved from a large, affluent, metropolitan area to a spot of land in the country two hours and 200,000 people away. Internet service is sparse but morning and evening skies are glorious. The ins and outs of that decision aren’t necessary, but like any move, the uprooting from life-as-we-know-it (especially with two teenaged girls) has been a journey into the dark night of the soul.
Enter the fig tree. When I brought it home for the first time it was only about 3 feet tall with 5-6 small leaves. Just a mere babe in fiddle fig life. I had the perfect spot for it: an octagonal breakfast room with windows on all sides. We could almost watch the fig tree growing. Within months it grew to over 9 feet tall. It was a very happy plant and over the next couple of years flourished and grew large leaves at the top as it reached for the stars.
Gradually, the mighty fig tree began to weary under its own growth. Its sprint to the top had produced almost cello-sized leaves that brushed the ceiling, but the spindly base wasn’t strong enough to support its majesty. I asked around on how best to prune it and at the recommendation of a master gardener took it outside and lopped it off to almost the same size it was to begin with. The base needed to widen and cutting it back would force that, much like the manicuring of miniature Bonsai trees. He said to leave it in a protected place outside for a while, which I did, but my plant was not happy. It didn’t recover well. In fact, it visibly weakened. For months it pouted on the corner of my porch. If it only knew what was to come.
After a 6-month time-out, the fig tree watched as moving boxes began to flow in and out of the house at a steady trot. On the porch it gathered neighbors of household rejects, bags of trash, bins of memories disguised as unwanted toys, and maybe-next-year boxes of outdated home decor. Then the tornado of moving day swept through. We watched the truck pull away with our life inside, gathered our must-haves and packed the car. Plants weren’t allowed on the truck, so the small ones I nestled into nooks around suitcases and coolers. The final cranny available could fit the vacuum cleaner or the fig tree. My poor fig. We resolved to leave a few things for a return trip in a week or so, so I placed the plant out by the shed with the other left-behinds. I reminded myself it was just for a few days, but Texas in August could be devastating to my favorite fiddle leaf fig. We loaded the car and left, and my attention quickly went to rolling down the windows so as not to drown from the rising flood of tears from the mourners heading East to catch a moving truck.
Under the scorching heat, the fig tree suffered. It struggled, but it survived. A few lost leaves, but stable. When it finally arrived at the new house it sat in a new, darker, unfamiliar place. While there was sufficient light to grow, it wasn’t surrounded as it was before. It actually began to look worse, and worse, and worse. It was like it used up all its energy during the heat and now that it was safe it collapsed. It curled up in a ball and refused to open up. For weeks it sat, its edges turning brown, droopy, as if life had left it. I wasn’t sure it was going to make it.
But today! Today it reached up and said, “Here I am! I’m back!” From despair and darkness it has mustered up the strength to reach beyond itself and decide it CAN survive in this new place. And it sprouted a very energetic shoot headed straight up. I’m so proud of it.
My apologies for the silly personification of a houseplant. But it’s our story. We were thriving—or so we thought—but maybe getting a little top heavy. Maybe our foundation wasn’t strong enough for where we were going and what we were doing. We needed to be pruned back, and for months we felt that process beginning. During the weeks surrounding the move we went through excruciating pain using up every ounce of energy within us to just survive. And as we were placed in a new home, a new spot resembling the old but different, we sat with arms crossed and questions raised and doubted we could ever grow again. Wondering if we would ever be filled with the light and goodness we were surrounded with.
Slowly but surely life is returning. There are sprouts of hope. Our leaves can unfurl and our lifeblood surge to the peripherals of our being. The large leaves of our previous years are only memories, but we are willing to stretch ourselves and grow again. God is faithful.
Just as there are steps of grief, there are steps of growth. When we are finally able to reach a hand up and say “I’m back!”—that’s a really good step. There may be a long way to go. Our leaves may be small, our environment new, and our will weak. But the sun will shine again and as we grow this time, our foundation will be stronger.
Thank you my favorite fiddle leaf fig, for walking this journey alongside us. Thank you for demonstrating the strength to survive and the courage to take a stab at thriving again. In your world, I’m sure the trees of the field out our back window are clapping their hands. Well done.
Experiencing a major life change? Maybe you’re:
- Moving to a new area
- Leaving for college
- Navigating a difficult relationship
- Grieving from significant loss
- Uncertain of the future
- Beginning a new job
It’s tough, but you are going to be OK! Every day will get better, and comfort and encouragement can—and will—come from places you least expect it (trust me on that one). Change is scary and fear can be paralyzing. However, the times when your branches are bare are when your roots grow deepest. Then one day you’ll wake up surprised at how strong you have become. It’s a good process that makes us better. Hang in there!
Question: In addition to difficult life events, the musical theatre world itself can be a tough jungle to trudge through. We’re a community and are here to walk both roads together. What are some ways you ‘keep your chin up’ when the going gets tough? You can leave a comment by clicking here.