Falling Upwards

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lemon tree, oh so pretty… August 23, 2009

… and the lemon flower is sweet”

After 3 or 4 years of hemming and hawing and thinking about it, this summer, I bought a lemon tree to put in a container on my patio. I thought long and hard because I wasn’t sure that a tree could grow in a container and because my patio doesn’t get much sun. I decided I’d thought about it long enough and I’d never know ’til I went ahead and did it. You can read a life lesson from that alone.

But, here’s the story of my lemon tree —
At first, I paid a lot of attention to the tree. The container is on wheels, so I’d move it from sunny spot to sunny spot to make sure it got its 8 hrs of sun a day – or close to it. I watered it daily and even sang my little song to it. The tree budded and flowered like crazy, then many little baby lemons began to grow, even as it continued to flower.

I was ecstatic, envisioning dozens of lemons for my autumn meals. Sadly, many of the little lemons never made it — dying and falling off the tree as fast as they grew in. Was I watering it too much? not enough? Was it getting enough sun or not enough? I didn’t know, and the more attention and care I gave it, the worse it got.

Then, July came around and I found out about the BF’s affair. Well.. I could barely take care of myself and my kid, much less a lemon tree. It was sadly neglected. It stopped flowering, all but three lemons died and dropped off, and the leaves began to turn yellow and drop off, too.

I felt a little guilty, but mostly, I decided that this was not the lemon tree owner I wanted to be, damnit! I was not gonna let this tree die because of either too much attention or too little. So, I bought some plant food (gotta love that MiracleGro!) and watered it to its roots one day and which I now do about weekly, with light waterings in between. I left it alone, no more moving around, and just let it… be.

Gosh darned if the little tree didn’t start sprouting a new set of leaves. I didn’t even notice at first. And, one hardy flower — just one, but as sweet smelling as a dozen would’ve been. The three fruit are still there and growing. There is new life to my little lemon tree — new, vibrant, hardy life.

That lovely, little lemon tree is a nice metaphor for my relationship with my Guy. You see, we have what the books call a “pursue-distance” relationship. The more I tried to get close to him and pay him attention, the more crowded in he felt, so the more he distanced himself away from me. In fact, he distanced to the point that he had an affair and added a “triangled relationship” into ours. And, given that our relationship was also one of “conflict,” having the affair only served to really blow our existing issues out of proportion.

In order to recover from this affair, he and I have been doing a lot of reading. Those terms, above, come from the book Extraordinary Relationships by Roberta M. Gilbert. It was recommended to us by the therapist, even before our first session, and is based on the Bowen theory of family systems.

The BF has read it four times; I’m almost through my second time. With the therapy, I think it’s helped us a lot. And, I do mean… a lot! He and I are now taking steps to detach ourselves from each other (the therapist said that we are hyper-fused) and become more self-actualized — more emotionally responsible (for ourselves) and independent. This is not an easy process and will be years long. Who knows if he and I will still be together. Heck… we haven’t decided if we’re together now. But, we’ve learned that we’ll not make that decision while we (either he or I) are emotional. Those decisions will be based on principles, both his and mine, separately.

I’m learning that I need to take care of myself and not hyper-focus on that lemon tree. Too much attention, and it can’t handle it. But, I do need to feed it enough water and food to grow. And… it definitely needs the space (to be left alone, I mean) to mature. I guess I should say, to be allowed to mature.

The lovely fruit we get from all this is that, no matter what the outcome of our relationship, we will each, as individuals, be happy. And, unlike the song, I think that is one sweet treat!

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