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“Love and Pain,” Edvard Munch
Dear First name / friend,
Last year, I only had one New Year's resolution and it was pretty straightforward: plant 365 trees. 
I definitely did that (and then some….I planted a lot of trees, and berry bushes, and various shrubs, and grasses…) But this year I have a slightly more complicated set of goals. I guess if I had to describe the overarching intention in one sentence, it would be something like: “Seek out difficult and uncomfortable situations to explore the difference between what is my true nature, and what is just habit, fear, addiction, and avoidance.”
Sounds like fun, no?
For quite a while now I've lived by the “potted plant” credo. Essentially, the idea that our personality is genetically fixed and we can't really change it, so the only thing we can control is our environment. We wouldn't leave a banana plant outside over the winter, we bring it in and put it in a nice sunny south-facing window. The basic idea of potted plant-ism is we should do the same with our own lives. Difficult and upsetting situations are to be avoided when possible; there's no benefit to noble suffering. Quit your lousy job, leave your sexless relationship, “fade to black” on friendships that have encountered serious conflict.
No question, quitting the job or leaving the relationship is sometimes the best option. But depending on our assumptions about the world and the goals we have for our own growth, it definitely isn't always the best option. And the hard to swallow truth is that, at least for me, that permission to peace out when I hit rough water has been an all-too-easy excuse. Potted plant-ism has been quite a convenient approach to conflict and discomfort for someone as fearful and avoidant as I am. It has been, in its way, a type of “good news about my bad habits.” 
Even if the right thing to do in a tough situation is ultimately to exit, potted plant-ism has a way of bypassing the hard conversations that have the most potential to generate real clarity and understanding about what is happening and why. We forfeit the opportunity to learn something essential about ourselves. One lives life on the run, always second-guessing their decisions. Until we can meet others in complete transparency and humility to whatever feelings and outcomes arise, we are going to be permanently haunted by the counterfactual that “maybe I could have manipulated that situation better.” That's an exhausting way to exist.
I believe the only way to truly discern what is a “real” personality trait and what is just a deeply patterned workaround to avoid feeling something unpleasant is to embrace a discovery process that looks pretty much like the opposite of a “potted plant” ideology. And that's why it's my New Year's resolution to do just that.

"And so long as you haven't experienced 
this: to die and so to grow,
you are only a troubled guest
on the dark earth.” —Goethe

“The Face of the Deep” this week is just a shorter one with me talking a bit more about these themes and why I think doing this is a worthwhile experiment. I'm very interested in connecting with other people who are thinking and practicing along these lines, so if you have suggestions for future discussions, as always please send them my way!
You can watch the newest episode here, or find it on iTunes here.
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