What is taking up space? (The parable of the fig tree)
Recently during the Easter weekend, I came across a reading about the parable of the fig tree and it got me thinking about the truths that were in the story and how they relate to me and maybe to you. (Mark 11:12-14)
The story relates the incident of a fig tree that had leaves but no fruit, and since it was not producing, it had no value. Was it a beautiful tree? I suppose so, but it had a larger purpose, and that was to bear fruit. How disappointing to see and assume the tree produced the fruit it should and then upon closer inspection it did not–not one fig. The parable tells how it was cursed, and it withered away and died.
Granted, there are many meanings to the parable, but in our time today, I want to focus on the “fig trees” in our lives–the things we like to hold onto because they look good, and yet they provide nothing in return. And while at one time we thought they held promise, the truth is that today they just take up valuable time and space in your heart and mind and perhaps your wallet.
Every year on tax day, April 15, I do a review of my business and take an inventory of what is working, i.e. providing income and what is not. And although it is hard to put the ax to my pet “fig tree” projects and waste-of-time hobbies, the reality is that the older I get, the sooner I need to take note of what is costing me and what is providing for me.
Suffice it to say, I have had to cut down a few of my favorite “fig trees,” and I am sure I have many more to cut as I continue to review the books.
It is not easy to root out things in life that I enjoy, but in the long run, they simply cost me more than money–they cost time, time and energy that needs to be spent doing things that provide lasting value.
That being said, I do keep a few things that don’t break the bank of time and money and bring me joy, but to continue to throw good money and time after bad, non-producing endeavors, those are the ones that need to be cut down and hauled off to the dump.
Any financial advisor looking from a bird’s eye view would most likely tell me to cut the dead weight of old inventory, release my favorite late-paying clients and limit those who just want to “talk.” And while I am happy to help someone find their way in business, there are days when I come back to the office and realize I have blown hours being a listening ear and a non-paid advisor.
It is no one’s fault but my own, and the fact is that it’s on me to make the tough decision and get comfortable with the word ‘no,’ but that is hard to do and to say otherwise would not be truthful. I enjoy the company of new and longtime friends, and I see no value in being a hermit who climbs the mountaintop alone. Without a doubt, it is more fun with my posse of wild and crazy friends. Those are decisions I make and willingly pay the price knowing the outcome.
How about you? What is taking up time and space that you need to weed out of your life to make room for something to grow and bear fruit that would provide shade or sustenance for your future?
I want to focus on three things that I see over and over in the lives of my audience and clients.
For a while, I was hooked on storage wars (one of my favorite waste-of-time TV shows), and what got me, show after show, was the overwhelming sight of storage lockers that were full to the top of stuff, including garbage bags of garbage. Really.
I would be sitting on the couch howling with laughter and amazement at the junk they pulled out from the bins until one day I hiked up to my attic to get something and looked around and thought, wait a second… I’m ripping on a TV show, but in the midst of my moving to a new home, I brought everything with me with the intention to sort it all out when I was settled…three years ago. Needless to say, I got started cleaning out my own stuff. I can’t rip on others if my own place is unorganized. With 16 boxes of stuff gone and things I didn’t need or want anymore hauled off to Goodwill, I feel better.
Was it easy to do? Not really. It’s hard to look through your life’s collection and realize the value just isn’t there anymore. Or in my case, my career is on a slightly different path, so to make room for things that matter now, some things needed to go.
I am a firm believer that if your space is not settled for your clarity of mind and energy, you are harming yourself. We all have the one junk drawer, but that’s not what I’m talking about today. Bear with me as I ask some basic questions about the “fig trees” that you might want to consider clearing out of your life.
Can you get both cars in the garage? Can you park at least one in your two-car garage? Can you find what you want when you look for it in the closet, the drawer, the back room or attic? Is the garden shed ready for spring, or are you still hanging on to the winter’s long-deceased plants and potting soil? I don’t have to remind you that what is filling your space is using up your time and energy. I was listening to a realtor friend on the radio, and he suggested this test: if you were to put your house on the market today, what would you have to clean out to get ready? If that thought makes you dizzy, you would do well to consider a weekend of hauling things to your favorite charity.
I love the quote from Marie Kondo, “You could say that tidying orders the mind while cleaning purifies it.”
I’ve never been a hoarder–it’s not in my nature–but what I have found is that it is easy to hang on to friends who aren’t going in the same direction as I am. Frankly, it is hard to find your tribe nowadays, so old friends are, well, old friends, and usually good enough friends, until they are not.
And you’ll know when that happens. Things change, and it just feels different, no matter how hard you try to relive the good old days. And while I am not encouraging a wholesale slicing and dicing of your friend list, just think about those who lift you up, that you learn from and enjoy their company and those friends who make you feel depleted after a time of being together. People change, and since that is a fact of life, you need to see it for what it is and not just what you remember.
We’ve all heard the message that we are an amalgamation of the five people we spend the most time with–basically, the law of averages. Whether it is financial, physical, health, weight or relationships, our tribe influences us. So how is that working out for you? And if it is not, let me encourage you to do the hard thing. Grab the ax, and start cutting away those “fig tree” people who are causing you harm, especially those who by their jealousy hurt your feelings. Even though outwardly you act like it doesn’t matter, you know that deep inside it does. It’s about time you honor your feelings. Friend, you matter, and I guarantee you will be happier without them in your life. Remember, it’s better to be alone than with those who make you feel alone. We all have a few friends who are just plain mean and unpleasant when things don’t suit them. Remember, their issues in life don’t need to be hoisted upon your shoulders, so don’t carry their burdens or bad attitude; prune them out of your life, so you are not poisoned by their venom.
Friendships are hard; family dynamics are hard. Life is hard enough without you having to deal with those who don’t deal fairly or kindly with you. If you are a hopeful person, maybe you start by pruning the relationship, and if over time it does not get better, be strong enough to grasp the ax and cut away.
It is always hard to focus on ourselves when it comes to cutting away the dead wood, yet if we’re going to be successful, it is necessary to see ourselves eyes wide open to the truth. Recently, on a radio show that I am a part of, I had a guest from a local recovery agency talk about helping people deal with addictions. Simply put, I was moved by the numbers of good people who have fallen into some type of addiction, so much so that they are walking the fine line between friendship and isolation, marriage and divorce, life and death.
None of us knows where the line is, but we all know that we’ll never live up to our potential if we are masking our problems with alcohol. The same is true for painkillers or drugs–it doesn’t take long to cross that line between need and want, and once crossed, it will take all you have within you (and then some more) to cut away from the net of addiction that has you entangled. The invisible net will engulf and smother you into your addiction to online porn, gambling, compulsive shopping, prescription pills, hours of internet, food addictions or starvation, sex, nicotine, marijuana, work, TV, video games, tooth whitening, tanning, exercise, plastic surgery, anger…and the list goes on to anything and everything that takes over your life.
Addiction is the thing that you cannot prune to fix. It needs a cutting off and rooting out if you are to have any hope of recovery or survival.
(Let me add this note. There is help available when you wake up to the fact that you need someone to talk with who can help you find a place of hope for addiction. Never believe the lie that you are alone. Many people who love you are willing to help but have you have to take the first step and see your life for where you are today.)
So here’s the bottom line. Only you know what is taking up space in your life; we all have “fig trees” that need to be dealt with.
You can ignore it and let it use up the valuable land, water and space that it will ultimately need to grow until it grows out of hand, and you cannot cut it down by yourself. Or you can do the hard work now, while you are able.
Take an ax to the tree, and cut out the roots, then replant something good that will provide shade or nourishment for your future.
Take an inventory of your life. Be bold and strong to cut through the undergrowth so that you can plant a forest of success for your future.
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