What I’ve Learned From Trees

Meditating on the majestic beauty of the trees outside my window, I come to recognize something about myself. I cannot help but think that even though they are symbols of quiet strength, trees are not without their own vulnerabilities. Acts of Nature, or even human folly can bring them down, and so they, like me, are not immortal.

th-3Perhaps none of us is meant to be an impenetrable force: the kind of force I aspired to in my youth.

You see, I always thought of myself as a strong woman, however; unlike the trees I contemplated in my last post, I was not flexible – bending graciously to the winds of change – but belligerent, resistant, and arrogant. I was a right fighter. Having grown up in an atmosphere of relentless uncertainty, I commanded myself to be strong, believing that with an iron will, I could gain control of life – not just my own, but the lives of those around me. I adopted an air of superiority – pretending to know better than anyone else – even though on the inside, I never measured up. Showing vulnerability was never an option. Instead, I must have appeared the fool, and undoubtedly hurt many others.

True strength, I realize now, comes in retreating in the face of adversity, and the willingness to see beyond personal righteousness. It involves an openness to understanding alternative perspectives, and the wisdom to perceive the truth underlying the turmoil.

th-4My current life circumstances have brought me limitations: physically and mentally. My awake and energetic times are severely restricted. I am challenged to create a new definition of self, and what it is to be strong.

I dreamt of my dear cousin Bev last night. Bev passed away recently after battling cancer for ten years. In all those years she faced her struggle with a quiet strength: maintaining her outer poise, surrendering to the times of severe illness, and establishing healthy boundaries. She was a model for gracious living. Truly a strong woman.

Illness has brought me an opportunity to retreat for a while. It is allowing me the possibility of real change: measurable change. In surrendering my old sense of self, I will surely emerge new.

In the meantime, I remain open and vulnerable – not comfortable – but then at fifty-six years of age, I am well rooted. Like the trees.


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Permission to write, paint, and imagine are the gifts I gave myself when chronic illness hit - a fair exchange: being for doing. Relevance is an attitude. Humour essential.

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