Growing in Difficult Places

Our largest leaps in personal growth happen in the most difficult of times in our lives.

In central Texas, there’s this “rock.” I say rock, but technically it’s a giant pink granite mountain. It’s called Enchanted Rock, and it’s the largest of its kind in the United States. It stands at 1,825 ft. above sea level, which for Texas is pretty tall. It’s a big beautiful pink granite dome rising from the rolling hills of central Texas.

At first glance, it’s impressive, but not nearly as impressive as when you start to climb. It’s an eighth of a mile hike straight up to the summit, and it’s at a dauntingly steep angle. My hands started to shake the higher I got. I kept looking back down and thinking what a shame it was no trees were there to break my fall. I’d have to aim for a human.

Then an old, old lady passed me. Then a six-year-old.

Get your shit together, Donlyn, I thought as I did my best to talk myself out of my fear of heights. Just keep your eyes on the next step. Then the next. Then the next. Where the hell is the top of this thing? I felt as if I had climbed for days. When you think you’ve reached the top, there’s still more to go. Always more to go.

I did reach the top, however, and what I found there surprised me. There were little pockets of living things growing on the top. They looked like oases coming out of a barren inhabitable stone. There they were, thriving. Beautiful.

I can’t even keep a plant alive in the cushiest pots with love, water, light, fertilizer, bedtime stories, and 72 degrees year-round in my house! How the hell were these pockets of life surviving?

Upon my descent, I found a sign talking about the little oases. It explained that the “vernal pools” of water on the rock housed more magic than I realized. It consisted of delicate ecosystems with plants, flowers, cacti, and even something called “fairy shrimp!” I don’t know what a fairy shrimp is, but it sounds adorable! And OF COURSE, it would be found in a place called Enchanted Rock.

The place was pure magic.

I don’t know if you believe in “Grounding” or not, but I do. And anytime I physically come in contact with the earth, I walk away better. It turns out there may be something to the whole tree-hugging thing. This rock had energy. It possessed calming energy. I’m not quite certain how to explain it.

After my descent from the summit, I decided to hike as much of the park as possible. Around every corner was some new surprise. I found this boulder with a magnificent tree growing straight out of the side of it. The photo won’t do it justice; it was at the very least a couple of stories high.

I’m sure there’s some great scientific reason for all this growth out of something lacking what I would think would be a basic requirement for growth––soil. But I don’t even care to find out. It’s impressive. It’s like that little weed in your driveway that figures out how to grow through the cement. You think, How the hell did you get there? Then you get the weed killer, and it goes away for a spell only to return and grow even faster. Meanwhile, my house plants are begging for mercy to be put out of their misery. (If I had any houseplants still living.)

All of this made me think about my life. I’m still working on my book. It’s morphed and grown and taken on a life of its own. It’s a collection of all these life lessons I’ve learned. But it’s caused a great deal of pain and nightmares. I struggled for a bit as to why. Good came out of all of it. It’s been a lot coming face to face once again with some demons and some of the most difficult times of my life. But here’s the kicker.

My greatest growth happened during the worst times of my life.

I started to notice a pattern as I looked back. The lessons that made me stronger, better, and happier were grown out of the rocks of pain. I wouldn’t be the person I am had I not gone through what I did. It’s landed me in such a space of gratitude. For all of it. The good, the bad, and the really, really ugly.

I created an enchanted life by refusing to die.

I read a quote at the rock base before I climbed it and thought it was cheesy at first. I was already in a little bit of an odd mood. It said this,

“My heart feels lighter, my mind feels calmer, and my senses feel tuned whenever I see that giant pink rock on the horizon. No matter how I choose to spend my time among the enchanted rocks of the park, I always leave feeling better than when I arrived.”

Matt Twyman, Enchanted Rock visitor and climber

When I came back down, I took a photo of the quotes and thought, dang Matt, you were right. I felt changed. And every day, I change a little more. Because there is always more. When you think you’ve arrived, there’s more. I will continue growing and look for those beautiful life lessons that meet my journey every day. I will be grateful for them, especially the hard ones.

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