Celebrating the Process

by Alexa Jenkins

I bought a plant from the grocery store the week after moving to Portland.

I carried her home among armloads of produce and popcorn, and placed her in the Instagram-worthy macrame plant hanger I had crafted earlier that day. An iPhone photo ensured that the world would see it, and I went on with my week.

But over the next few days, wrinkled brown leaves began to fall from the plant onto the living room carpet. The leaves that remained were wilting, so I followed Google’s suggestion and moved her into direct sunlight that very nearly burnt her to a crisp. I moved her around for the next few days, and finally found a sweet spot in the kitchen. Not too much light, not too little. And it’s the perfect spot to ensure that I remember to water her daily.

And I do. I water her daily. And every day, new leaves emerge where I’ve pruned dead stems. Every day, I tell my little plant she’s doing a great job, and I clean up her soil and make sure she’s able to thrive.

I do that for my plant, so why is so hard to do it for myself?

Much like bringing home this plant, I expected moving to Portland to be beautiful and simple. Without realizing it, I assumed my life here would come together instantly, ready to be documented and immediately photogenic. I didn’t know how much time it takes to make a home, to find places to thrive and contribute. I had forgotten that in order to grow, you must first be pruned; I had forgotten the process.

Because most of the time I, like my little plant, require lots of care. I am growing, becoming more of what I’m made to be each day. There is trial and error involved, self-given permission to fail. And more often than not, that process is less than pretty. It can be scary, and it’s very often lonely. Rather than a breakthrough, it is a slow and steady chipping away. But the process is also so much more than pretty. It is bold and grace-filled and often too much to capture in the caption of a single photo.

Yesterday I had a conversation with a friend about how too often, I want to get from Point A to Point B as quickly and efficiently as possible. I explained that the in-between stage always feels pointless to me, and she agreed. We sat for a moment in our disappointment, frustrated that our best efforts didn’t seem to be taking us where we wanted to be. In that moment we honored the process and its challenges, but then we took time to celebrate it. We celebrated the tiny victories occurring each day, just like I’ve celebrated every new leaf on my plant.

When I stop to think about it, I see that the tiny victories are abundant. I am learning how I thrive. I am learning I need to get enough sleep, to eat breakfast every day, to read my Bible by an open window. I am learning how to get around town, which bus to take, the fastest route to Trader Joe’s. I’m remembering to devote time to things I love, to reading and writing and baking. I’ve named my plant Ellie, and I am continuing to name myself. Learner. Writer. Friend. I’m choosing to speak identity over myself when it would be easier to settle into the ambiguity of the process.

Settling would be easier, but it would be much less satisfying. Because the more I show up in my process, the more excited I become about the process itself. I would be so disappointed if overnight my little plant grew as much as it could and then stopped. I would miss the centimeters of daily growth and the joy of new life coming in little by little. The process is so beautiful, and I would hate to miss that in myself as well. There is a deeper, richer meaning to my growth because it is not happening overnight.

I am thankful for that plant and everything she is teaching me about process. Freedom comes in the knowledge that simply showing up is all that is required of me. Showing up, doing the small, right things. The process is a place that develops discipline and contentment, and it allows for celebration and victory among the monotony of each day. I’m recognizing that the best things don’t happen overnight, and I would trade all the Instagram likes in the world for the peace that comes from doing the work.

So here’s to celebrating the process, to honoring the tiny choices that mean as much as the bold acts. Like tiny green leaves and the daily work of discipline, may we honor the steps we are taking.

read more words by Alexa Jenkins at www.alexajenkins.com