Suckers and Feeders
I'm writing this post on March 20th, what would have been my dad's 67th birthday. Sadly, he passed away in June last year. Grief is an interesting thing, undefinable when you're experiencing it, and totally abstract when you're not. I've been thinking about him a lot lately, so I thought I'd share with you a little story about my greenthumb pa.
Dad was excellent at growing tomatoes. His tomato plants were taller than he was, and the fruit is the size of my fist, and oh so sweet and delicious. During my most recent visit to Canada to see him, I was determined to inherit this most precious heirloom. The first thing he taught me was how to identify and remove the suckers – the branches that don't have any blossoms and are taking up valuable energy from the plant.
To identify a sucker, look from the main stalk and see where the new stems are growing. If there is a stem growing between the main stalk and the stem that has blossoms on it, that's your sucker. Remove the sucker with garden shears for a clean cut and discard. He cautioned me not to be too scrupulous. Having a few suckers is ok, and may even increase the yield of fruit. However, if what you are after is hearty big tomatoes the size of your fist, get a bit ruthless!
After my gardening session with Dad, I began to ponder the similarities between suckers on tomato plants, and human suckers – energy thieves and those with toxic attitudes and behaviours. As I've gotten older, I've started to notice how little time I have to give to people who, for all intents and purposes, leave me feeling drained. You know who they are – the friend who does nothing but complain about their life or their job or their partner, the family member that refuses to let go of past grievances, the acquaintance that thinks they are an expert at whatever it is you are discussing. I started removing them from my life. Not in any dramatic way, but just let those relationships run their course you could say.
Ok, so I have been all of those people, at some point. We all have. I'm not passing judgement in any way. We are all on our own journey. Growing up, I didn't cope well with sibling rivalry. I retreated, and became shy and introverted. I found it hard to make friends, and envied those people who could just pick up a conversation with anybody. This trait followed me into adulthood, and I still quite often find myself without words or confidence to move forward in relationships.
Sometimes I sense that my eagerness to make friends and solidify a sense of community in my life, puts people off. Perhaps they perceive me as an energy thief? Perhaps the people in my life that I perceive as energy thieves are merely trying to be friends with me but they don't know any other way to do it? So instead of taking the cut and throw approach, perhaps I should nurture those stray branches with love and compassion. Help them to grow and blossom, and maybe one day the relationship will fruit and provide me with splendid abundance. For after all, as my Dad taught me, you can take those tomato suckers and plant them in the ground to grow new tomato plants.