Practicing Positivity

Practicing Positivity


Marcus Bridgewater is the author of How to Grow, a self-help book written from the lens of the garden.

“How do you take care of so many plants?”

This is always the first question people ask me when they walk through my door. My front porch is home to a few dozen plants. It leads to the jungle of my living room, where hundreds of plants hang from my ceiling or grow happily on counters, windowsills, and plant stands. Every room in my house has an assortment of vines and leaves, and my garden is an outdoor green sanctuary.

I recognize I have a lot of plants. Stepping back, I can see how the idea of managing my collection can appear overwhelming to those who haven’t had as much practice as I have caring for plants—and that’s how I answer the question I am so often asked. I can take care of hundreds of plants because of practice. I didn’t start with a house full of philodendrons and pothos; I started with a handful of plants with names I didn’t know. I killed most of them, and I decided I didn’t want that fate to befall the rest. I bought discount and dying plants and practiced nursing them back to life until my confidence improved. I slowly amassed more and more plants over the course of five years. The beauty I have today is the result of dedicated effort and continued practice.

Throughout my gardening journey, I’ve not only practiced plant care but positivity, which I define as a thought process that is focused on finding solutions. I can’t let losing a dear plant stop me from caring for others. If I did, everything would decline. This reflects how I’ve approached challenges in my life and how I ultimately found a sense of peace.

In 2014, I was broke from working too much for a job that paid too little in a place where everything cost far more than I could afford. I had accepted a position as a carpenter at an opera house in an expensive city, thinking I’d build up my savings while getting a reprieve from months of financial challenges—only to be promoted to technical director without the increase in pay I was promised. Outside of the theater, I was ever-conscious that my uncommon complexion and the beat-up truck I was given to drive made me an anomaly in the area, one who was not always welcomed.

Many in my circumstance would be desperate and angry: Dealing with college loans, an injured mother in need of support, and another job that was not what I was told it would be.

But I had my journal with me at all times, a curiosity to explore, and a bit of optimism that somewhere, someday I’d find a way to use my experiences to enrich myself and my community alike. If I felt that I was losing control of my temperament, or that my motivation was waning, I’d write about what was weighing on me until I transferred the burden from myself to the pages. This helped me maintain clarity, learn from my experiences, and find solutions to problems I faced.

I didn’t realize this at the time, but I was applying positivity to how I approached my circumstance. Rather than let troubles drag me down, I did my best to keep my head up so I could keep looking forward to possibilities in the future. With each lesson learned and solution found, I strengthened my confidence and resilience.

This approach wasn’t prescribed or left to me with step-by-step instructions. Instead, it was born out of necessity. There would be no progress in my life if I couldn’t learn to push through obstacles, and I got better at doing this with each opportunity to practice.

This became clear to me when I stopped practicing positivity in my life. Following the carpentry-turned-technical-director job, I moved to Texas to work at a private preparatory school. Finding myself again working long hours and with many responsibilities I didn’t sign up for while being underpaid and disrespected took a toll on my routines. I felt unmotivated to journal. Every hiccup at work added to the burden I carried. Slowly, I became more annoyed and frustrated with my situation.

I was prepared to leave the position and move on to the next opportunity when I found a new hobby: Gardening. My plants responded to the care I gave them, reminding me that kindness and patience are rewarded in life. As I practiced caring for my plants, I improved as a gardener. My sense of peace returned. I used positivity to approach the problems my plants experienced, and it became easier to apply positivity to my own life, too.

I noticed I improved as a teacher at the school. My practice confronting problems with positivity helped me turn my experiences, lessons, and solutions into new ways of supporting my students through their own challenges. They found their own sense of peace and thanked me for my guidance. I would eventually share what I’d learned from my experiences through my wellness company, on social media, and in my book.

Applying positivity to our lives means that regardless of how awful our problems are, we seek out, find, and focus on solutions. Practicing positivity promotes consciousness, and with heightened consciousness, all the hardships we experience become lessons we can use and share with others. I’m still reaping rewards from the choices I made in the face of adversity, and it’s easier for me to make similar choices today because I’ve had practice.

Nobody grows a garden or builds a jungle house overnight, and I don’t know anybody who has easily overcome great challenges without the experience of managing lesser ones. It can be daunting to embark on the journey of plant care or deal with a problem, but we can’t back down if we want to grow. We can use positivity to keep our focus on solutions and foster a sense of peace within ourselves. Once we have peace, our growth is limitless.

Practicing Positivity

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