A big tree needs deep roots to grow tall and withstand the buffeting of the winds. We too need to put down deep personal roots to stand firm when faced with the challenges of life.
Our world is becoming more global and people frequently move around. Busy lifestyles leave less time for the bonding that provides emotional security. Against this backdrop, how can we grow roots?
How to put down deep roots
1. Have a place to call home
While few of us will spend all our lives in the same physical house, we can make a home wherever we are. Home is not a place, but a sanctuary for your soul. It is somewhere you can retreat to when the world gets too overwhelming.
In Cherie Blair’s autobiography Speaking For Myself, she describes her visit to the refugee camps in Kosovo. All the tents looked identical from the outside but were all different inside as each woman had attempted to make it comfortable for her family in her own way. Even in those trying circumstances, the women knew that they had to give their children a semblance of a home.
For you, home may be the house of a relative or close friend rather than your own. It is where you go when your soul needs rest and recharge. It may be a familiar bench in a park, or an old childhood playground. Basically, it is “your” place.
2. Stay connected to someone who loves you
For many of us, our mothers provide a stable foundation in our chaotic life. Somehow she makes things better just by being there. When soldiers are injured in war, the one person they call out for is their mother. Whether your pillar of support is your mother or someone else, nurture that relationship. And it will nurture you in time of need.
Bear in mind that you may be this person for someone else. What a privilege if that is the case, and what a responsibility. Be available when you can, for you don’t know what that may mean to someone else.
3. Family traditions
Traditions remind us who we are and where we come from. They can be simple or elaborate. What makes them traditions is that everyone knows what to expect and roles are clear during gatherings. The tradition could involve how you dress, what you do, what you say, even what you eat.
If you don’t have traditions in your life, start making them now. Find family or friends willing to celebrate special events the same way every year. No matter how chaotic life becomes, you should know that these friends and traditions will anchor you.
4. Life mementos
You can collect mementos of significant events or people in your life. Photographs are a common choice. When I visit a home with lots of photos of family members displayed, I feel that I’m walking through a museum of family history. I can imagine how rooted such families are.
When I was younger, I used to collect candles on my travels. I’d buy a beautiful candle to remind me of where I’d been in my life. The original plan was that when I was old and dying, I would light each candle one at a time and in that way re-live my whole life. That plan was abandoned due to space constraints but I still like the idea.
You could collect trophies, plaques of recognition, letters and postcards, clothes worn on special occasions, babies’ first shoes, anything really. These serve as landmarks of your life, helping you to place yourself whenever you feel lost in later life.
5. Defining values
Nelson Mandela was in prison for years and lost almost everything in his life. But he always held on to his values of equality and forgiveness. And he never lost sight of his mission to see his country freed from the grip of apartheid.
Knowing what you stand for allows you to put down deep roots and hold still when all around you is falling apart. You could develop a personal creed that clarifies your values.
Put down deep roots, and reach for the sky
When I look at mammoth trees or skyscrapers, I remind myself that the they are able to go so high is because they went so deep. Roots take time to grow, and foundations take time to build. So the earlier we put down those roots the better.