Know Your Limits

“Plant in full sun,” the tag on the plant said. It added that I could trellis it, but keep the trellis in the sun. The plant was a Manzanita, purchased it at a local big-box hardware store two years ago.

arctostaphylos_d_howard_mcminnBecause it was its first year, I didn’t plant it in full sun. I planted the Manzanita in a big pot with a small trellis and put it where it got the morning sun and was shaded from the harsher sun of the afternoon.

During May and early June, the Manzanita bloomed constantly. By the end of June, the edges of the leaves were beginning to turn brown. Too much sun. I pulled the pot under the patio overhang.

Through July, the plant slowly died, from the branch tips in. It was simply too hot. Not just too much sun, but too much heat. For all the years I lived in Connecticut, there was no such thing as too much sun, but in the Southwest, too much sun and too much heat is what we call June, July and August.  As far as plants go, there can be too much of a good thing.

It turns out that Manzanitas grow at 3,000 feet to 5,000 feet, which was not mentioned on the label.  (Phoenix is about 1,000 feet) The big-box store probably should not have sold the plant; I think few people buy them here and then drive them North to plant. But big box stores don’t focus on regional products, I’m surprised at how many plants I see that won’t survive our summer or our winter.

Any living thing can suffer from too much of a good thing–too much sun for plants, or too much water. For people, we can suffer from too much free time, too much work, too much anger, too much stimulation.

It’s not just a matter of balance, it’s a matter of knowing what, exactly, it takes to let you thrive. Even if others around you are thriving, they may be the high-altitude types and you aren’t. Demanding the flexibility to thrive under every condition is more than most people can deliver. But it’s up to you to figure that out, the people who surround you will assume if they find you in their lives, you will be able to thrive.

You will need to establish your own limits, and then let others know. “Grow where you are planted” might be a great proverb, but it may be wiser to plant yourself where you can thrive.

-Quinn McDonald is a writer and creativity coach who helps people become brave enough to know what it takes to thrive.

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6 thoughts on “Know Your Limits

  1. Lao-Tzu had it right:
    It is wisdom to know others;
    It is enlightenment to know one’s self.

    And Oscar Wilde with “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” There is no real happiness to be gained by trying to squeeze yourself into a mould that someone else designed.

  2. Apt as always….. 14 months since I dug up the roots and replanted myself and kids……yes,we are thriving,they are now living the life to the potential I wanted them to. …and me…..at last I will have the headspace and time to thrive too….get out the paintbrush!! For first time in many years it’s nice to be grounded and rooted and not feeling in my heart I was in the wrong place….it’s a blessing for sure….youngest starts big school in september,so we will be here for a long time now, spreading the roots slowly by volunteering and networking. But with majority of bureaucracy behind me now ,I am looking forward to channelling energy positively. I felt like a dying plant in the desert with weed killer on it!!
    Love you quinn..x

  3. “………. plant yourself where you can thrive.”

    This is a much better saying than to grow where you are planted. I am going to hang it on my studio wall right underneath my map of the Arizona Trail.

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