For the last few years, I’ve struggled to kill a stubborn little weed.
I’ve never seen anything like it. I have no idea exactly what it is or where it comes from, but a tiny shoot of it keeps growing out of a little space at the top of one of my kitchen windows.
I’ve cut it. I’ve poured weed-killer into the crack between the window and the wall. I’ve killed everything outside the house that looked as though it might somehow connect to it. But no matter what I do, I keep finding a little shoot growing out of that spot, often with tiny new leaves.
I just found these latest leaves a few minutes ago. I was shocked, because I thought I’d won the battle a couple of months ago. I thought it was gone. But somehow — despite all my best efforts — it’s back again. It’s still alive.
As I stood there looking at it — again contemplating how to kill it for good — I couldn’t help but realize that Nature works really hard to ensure the survival of certain things it creates. And then it occurred to me that this was a perfect metaphor for some powerful feelings that I haven’t been able to kill.
Some forms of life are fragile. It’s hard to keep them alive. Some plants are like this. Humans in certain conditions or in certain stages of life are the same way.
But once Nature creates something that it wants to survive, we have to work really hard to kill it. And sometimes, we can’t find a way to destroy it even when we try our best.
We like to think of our feelings as something we create, maybe something we can control. We talk a lot about keeping our emotions in check. We talk about letting our reason and clear thinking override our feelings.
But we’re fooling ourselves to act as though we can control such things. Some feelings are certainly transient. I might get angry — or happy or sad or jealous — and then have that feeling quickly fade. Everybody knows what those changing feelings can be like.
But there are some feelings which are harder to kill, even when we wish we could. Those are the feelings that can be scary, because they’re the ones over which we have no control. Those are the rare feelings that make us feel as though we are living our lives in the service of feelings which we can’t stop or change.
In a 1982 song called “I’ll Come Back to You,” songwriter Pat Terry speaks of the way in which his feelings define who he is. I can strongly identify with him when he sings, “Sometimes my feelings are a curse to me, but they’re who I am and they’re the way I see.” I accept that some of my feelings are beyond my conscious control. They seem to be gifts from Nature — wanted or unwanted — which shape my personal world.
For the last few years, I’ve been trying to kill some feelings. As I looked at this weed in my kitchen, I couldn’t help but see it as a perfect picture of my efforts to kill a feeling which is inconvenient.
I’ve denied the feelings. I’ve explained to myself why the feelings aren’t a good idea. I’ve explained to myself why I can’t trust these feelings — and how they’re holding me back from finding feelings to take their place.
But I haven’t been able to kill the feelings.
Sometimes I allow myself to let those feelings wash over me and I enjoy them. In those moments, I don’t want them to die. I just want to experience that wonderful emotional intoxication over and over — because the feeling is so powerful and gives me such pleasure.
At other times, I feel strong depression and despair at not being able to get rid of the feelings, because this has me stuck — unable to move on or to find feelings that will be something other than intoxication without reality.
Eventually, I have to be able to kill this weed. It’s ridiculous that such a tiny thing is defeating my best efforts. That’s what I keep telling myself.
But Nature is more powerful than we sometimes acknowledge. Sometimes Nature has reasons for what it sends into our lives, even if we’re too blind and untrusting to understand.
For now, I’ll keep trying to kill the weeds — the one in my kitchen and the one in my heart. And I’ll keep asking myself why these are here and what I’m supposed to learn from them.