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The Cactus

Updated: Aug 8, 2023

I go to the Self Realization Center on occasion.

The grounds are tranquil and gorgeous. A beautiful lake with swans and ducks that softly paddle along the water and these cool black birds that dive, swim beneath the surface and pop back up again halfway across the lake.

Different trees surround the property and meditation gardens with lush greenery. Flowers in bloom and statures of both Buddha and Cross. Respecting different views, beliefs, philosophies and prophets.

Different theories existing together.

Allowing everyone to believe in whatever they do.

There is also this cactus there with a unique story…

The story goes, it was planted by caregivers with the softest of hands and best of intentions. As it sprouted the earth and grew, it was talked to, respected. Surrounded by the sounds of nature, birds and with love and respect.

Its backdrop was gentle music, peaceful song, soft voices. Its climate cool. Yards from the beach, the water, the coastal breeze.

This cactus was never mishandled. Its body respected. Meditators came to sit near as its companions. People came to write and reflect in journals or prayer. The cactus witnessed tones in whispers and chants. In breath and faith. All people that knew the love this cactus was raised with. Everyone respecting its existence.

The cactus continued to grow, but never sprouted a single prick. Its green skin stayed smooth. Soft. Vulnerable.

Over the years, more people came. It was open to the public, in hopes others would share the common view of respecting all. Hoping their philosophies would spread as quickly as the opposing ideology of judgement. But, not everyone got the memo.

The more people that came, the more respect for the surroundings dwindled.

People began to try to touch the swans. Throwing home-brought food into the lake, plucking the beautiful flowers from the plants. Tones in voices changed. The echoes became yells instead of chants. Cries instead of prayers. Talking instead of whispers.

People poked and rubbed the cactus’ smooth body. Pressing against its skin. Wondering what must be wrong with a cactus without spikes.

A respect was lost for the harmony that existed all on its own.

The cactus stopped growing. It also developed its first prick.

The more people who came, the more spikes it sprouted.

The caregivers noticed. They tried to put a rope around the cactus and its surrounding flowering plants. People still poked, plucked and touched without asking. Without respecting.

The spikes spread, now covering the entire cactus.

Until it was gently uprooted and moved.

Replanted away from the plants, a far distance from the honks and quacks of the birds and lake. Into a shaded area, protected behind a wall of trees. No longer ever feeling the sun against its now tough skin. No longer having the companionship of song, soft voices or prayer.

Now, protected by thick trunks and shadows of leaves and branches.

Yet, the pricks remain.

Even as it is protected. Even as it is alone.

I find myself thinking about that cactus often.

How it grew those spikes to protect itself against others it had no control over. How those same pricks also kept the caregivers away. They kept the love out. The nature, the melody of song and the harmony of existing with others.

Protected but alone.

Afraid to soften and shed the pricks and become smooth again, knowing a roughness now exists in the world. While, at the same time, keeping life away. The sun, the beams, the light.

I’ve grown my own prickles along my way. For rightful reason. To defend and protect myself. They have had their place and they served their purpose.

But I may not need them anymore. Now, that I am safe and protected. Now, that I can take care of myself.

I hope for the wisdom and knowledge to be grateful for their presence, but also know when to release them. They are not something I want to always wear.

I don't want to sting anyone undeserving. A helping hand. Or someone I love.

I want to be able to become soft and vulnerable to those who care. To those who love.

I’m calling my birth mother for the very first time this week…

We have only messaged each other briefly. Never spoken.

My spikes don’t come from her.

Not one. Not ever.

My spikes were created by other people along the way.

I view my mother as was one of those caregivers in my life, just like the cactus had in its beginning. Her decision, her strength, to give me up was her giving me her utmost respect. She planted me in another families arms with the softest of hands and best of intentions. She loved me enough to give me what she thought I needed. I have carried her within me. On different journeys, but existing together.

I have also carried a love, a respect, and an appreciation for the hardest decision of her life.

A decision that doesn’t deserve or warrant any pricks. It deserves my care in return. With the smoothest and most vulnerable of skin. With the softest underbelly and the best of intentions.

A moment in time of a vulnerable union, a reunion, a lifetime in coming.

We’ll see what happens… and I promise to keep you posted.

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