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A Note from Jo on Nurture

by Magnolia
Published on February 16, 2022

Illustration by Lida Ziruffo

Read Jo’s perspective on making space to nurture the things that fill us up.

On Nurture

We live in a world that knows what it means to choose nurture. Where the dreams and ideas and hard work of a few can become the building on the corner, the garden next door, the food on our own table. When you think about it, behind every living thing is someone giving it life.

Before we can recognize it, nurture becomes second nature. All day long we tend to our lives with bellies that need filling, jobs that demand our energy, relationships that require our attention. My kids are already attuned to what this looks like. From schoolwork and sports teams to planting something new in the garden, we learn to nurture the things we love if we want to see them grow.

But when we’re young, time is on our side, and our energy is infinite. We don’t have to worry about running dry, let alone running out. I spent years trying to keep pace with my kids. Amazed by how they could move from one thing to the next, every distraction only giving way to more play. It’s as though I grew up assuming my well would always run deep, deep enough to cover the years I spent on autopilot, when I would go and go until every box was crossed off, every email answered, every task complete.

And I don’t just mean chores and todos. There’s no limit to the number of interesting things we can add to our lives. And, because I’m married to the most curious person I know, in some ways, these values have shaped our lives. There’s certainly a part of me that gets excited about the prospect of nurturing something new and watching it prosper. And over the years, while some of those curiosities have turned into passions, enough times “something new” inevitably became just one more thing to do.

I’ve had to learn to recognize the difference between the things that serve only to fill my time and the things that serve to fill me up, enough that I have something to pour into the areas of my life that I truly care to do right by: my family, my friendships, and the work that grounds us. As it turns out, these things are easy to misread unless you know what you’re looking for. Because nurture isn’t one-size-fits-all. Whatever it may be that slows you down, stills your breath, and steadies your heart, that pushes against the hurried rhythms of the world, is yours and yours alone. But you won’t find that rich, restorative breath if you’re not willing to fight for it. Its strength lies in its depth, and sometimes I wonder if that’s by design—forcing us to look beneath all of life’s dizzying distractions to the parts of our soul that sit a little deeper.

For me, it always goes back to a well that runs deep. For a good part of my life, I was content to know a little about a lot, but recently, I’ve wanted to flip that script. Because I’ve realized that the things that only capture half my heart—that only ever stay at surface level because I’m just going through the motions—only serve me well on the easy days. But on the days when stress or anxiety starts to creep in, when the world has worked me up in knots—on those days, they can’t bear the strength of a refuge.

I found myself in this place late last year. Unbalanced by how much I was pouring out without being poured into in the ways I really needed. I was learning that a well that’s only ever knee-deep can’t outlast a drought and that I had to figure out what it was that would pull me out of the grind and give me renewed perspective. What would remind me that life isn’t just sharp object after sharp object but full of smooth edges too?

So I got curious. But not about what new thing I could add to my life or another cheap distraction that would only become redundant. I considered what I’m already drawn to, what I already know wakes me up and brings me life—nature, the garden, being in my kitchen, and the peace that meets me there—and I leaned in. For weeks, I pored over books, threw my hands into the soil, and filled every surface of the house with jars for canning just about anything. My family joked that I’d gone a little extreme, but for the first time in a long time I felt full, truly full. And at the end of those days, I was bursting with so much more to give.

And really, that’s all that I was after. Making space to nurture what fills me up so I can give my best to the things in my life that I want to see thrive more than anything. To let a little good take root so that I can be someone who gives something life.

This story was adapted for digital from the spring issue of Magnolia Journal.

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