This human experience can at times be messy; however, we are surrounded by reminders that we are stronger than our struggles
This tree is my totem. 11 years and counting, it still catches my breath from time-to-time and reminds me that adversity is a state of mind — bent not broken, she carries on. Just the other day as the afternoon light hit her mighty presence, I was called to take yet another admiring picture of her to add to an already abundant collection. Perhaps I needed her message again because let’s face it, it’s easy to fall prey to our own self-judging ways.
I can still hear my father’s voice as we strolled through the yard together shortly after purchasing the house several years before, “get rid of that when you have a chance.” He was kind of bossy that way. Besides, what did I know about yards and growing things? I was a city girl who barely managed to keep potted terrace plants alive. What? I’m never getting rid of that, I declared. He just rolled his eyes as he did and laughed at my idea of landscaping.
The neighborhood lore is that ‘she’, my beloved tree, a formidable black walnut, had her roots torn from the ground by a squall that swept up our street in a path of destruction during Hurricane Floyd. There on her side, she clung to the last vestige of earth, her roots holding steadfast — and has done so for years, now firmly grounded.
The minute I saw her, I recognized her reflection in me — a storm had passed through my life. And yet, I had held on to a source of nourishment and carried on, albeit barely. But barely counts. Yes, we were kindred spirits. And with a secret nod, I promised her she would never end up in a woodpile, a chipper or as planks on a dining room table. On the contrary, I would do whatever it took to support her — a promise I have kept thus far.
If you look closely at the image you will marvel at the ferocity of nature. Though lying nearly parallel to the ground, her branches persisted, standing tall and proud, reaching straight for the sky. And in doing so, they grew to become robust trees of their own.
If you can hold steadfastly to self-defeating thoughts, why not flip it and think self-serving thoughts instead?Click to tweet
She has endured the climbing of little boys upon her spine and the occasional pruning of tree experts — the ground surrounding her roots reinforced with a blanket of soil and logs stacked neatly beneath her for added support. I think if I ever sold the house, there would need to be a clause that she remain protected. Yes, my silly tree is my yard totem, my reminder that when we hit life’s inevitable potholes, no matter the size — be it a broken promise to self, loss, misfortune, disappointment, despondency regarding the current political environment, etc. — we must release our attachment to the outcome and hold onto the conviction that we will prevail. Bent not broken, it may not be how we had envisioned our life playing out — nonetheless, we remain.
I’m thinking a lot about my own journey lately — connecting the dots along the way and threading the story together. More importantly, I’m learning a new way to tell it — a more empowered, loving way. Look, when there’s a fire, it needs our attention and we run around frenetically like first responders. But in the aftermath, we need to step back from our perpetual state of busyness and uncover what’s really going on beneath the scenario. Why was there a fire in the first place? What cues had I missed (or ignored)? What patterns about myself can I uncover?
- What’s bending you right now?
- Is there a pattern playing out, are you sensing that ‘not this again’ feeling?
Just because you think it, doesn’t make it so (or does it?). Illusions are powerful. If you can hold steadfastly to self-defeating ones, why not flip it and think self-serving thoughts about yourself instead? See your strengths, not your weaknesses. See your possibilities, not your failures and don’t compare yourself to others. That’s an unending battle of which you will find yourself on the losing end.
- Call out those negative beliefs (and make them answer for themselves!).
- Identify any possible behaviors you have set on repeat (and pull the needle from that record!)
I’m a bit of a stubborn one and this is where my ‘muscling through things’ habit hasn’t served me. Sometimes we aren’t meant to ‘muscle through’ anything — and instead, need to exhale deeply, or perhaps remove ourselves from the situation entirely.
Who can’t relate to the disappointment of not getting what they wanted when they wanted it? Being doled out what feels like a gut punch, may just be the impetus to kick your ass and get you from one place in your life to another — a much needed transition. The problem is that we can get stuck and start telling ourselves some loser story. Think lemonade, people. Remember how resilient you really are —stand tall like the branches of my tree. Don’t wait for a life hurricane to sweep through your town to implement change, but know that if one does, bent not broken, you can prevail. And know that you can grow into a better version of yourself than you were yesterday. Welcome to your best self.
I’m not trying to tie this up in a pretty bow. Life can deal us some s%*tty blows. I’ve been there. I also know that in persisting, I have grown into someone who is almost unrecognizable to the one who fared the storm all those years ago. You, like me, are far more capable than you know.
Do you have a totem in your life that stands as a reminder to you of what your big, bad, perfectly imperfect self is capable of? Let me know in the comments below.