Wednesday, September 17, 2014

9/18/14—Making What You Have Work

There's this tree in my neighbor's back yard, behind their shed. It's an evergreen...a cedar, I think. It's sort of a Charlie Brown tree in a way. It's not symmetrical. The branches reach every which way. It's top heavy. Awkward. Lopsided.

You might consider this tree "unfortunate" were it not for the fact that it has somehow managed to grow quite healthy with a shed on one side blocking the afternoon sun, a fence a fence and vegetation on the other side blocking the morning sun and a bunch of bigger trees above it blocking the daytime sun. But I've seen this tree grow pretty big over 15 years with all these obstacles remaining constant.

One thing that helps is that it's an evergreen. When everyone loses their leaves, the evergreen gets to bask in the sun. I have a pear blossom in my yard that buds and blooms before the maple above it gets its leaves. Otherwise it wouldn't get the sun it needs to do all that. Once it has leaves, it's happy to live under the maple, but if the maple grew leaves sooner, the pear blossom never would have made it.

Both the evergreen and pear blossom are able to get what they need to survive, partly because of the kind of tree they are. The evergreen is evergreen, so it gets a good five months out of the year without any competition for sunlight. The pear blossom is an early bloomer, so it gets a valuable month's head start on establishing its leaves and gets all the power it needs to bloom while the maple is still making whirlybirds.

But beyond the tree type...what's in its DNA...the evergreen thrives as an individual by poking its branches out wherever it can to catch sun and rain. Which is why it's so oddly shaped. It is, in fact, NOT oddly shaped, but instead, perfectly shaped to take advantage of its environment. Same with the pear blossom. It's grows thin and tall with more leaves higher up because it competes with two much larger trees and has to find that bit of clear airspace available to wash as much surface area with sun and rain to keep it going.

So there's a tall, fat tree using its tall fatness to make the most of its mission on earth—growth and light. And there's a tall skinny flowering tree that's tall and skinny for the same reasons. They focus what they have on the light, instead of wallowing in the dark focusing on what they don't have. 

Most of my life I've resented the body I'm in. Like the evergreen, I'm an apple...leaner legs with all my weight around the middle. It's no mistake I have this body, though. Like the evergreen, the universe planted me where it did for a purpose and I grew as I did—not just size-wise, but every which way—for a purpose, too. Some of the evergreen's awkwardness isn't awkwardness at all, but what that tree needs in order to face the it copes to both protect and expose itself to the right elements. I suppose I'm the same way.

Same with my pear blossom. In fact, one day the maple will have to come down and that pear blossom will change in all sorts of ways because of it, just as the evergreen would change if the shed or one of the trees around it came down. But then again, we don't know what other issues something like that may trigger. Right now, everything is thriving just as it is. 

And as long as we allow our special kind of DNA and our weird and awkward ways of coping to keep focusing on our unique missions of growth and light, it's likely we'll continue. What the trees don't have to struggle with, but we do though, is accepting that they will never be an oak or maple—tall with an impressive canopy to drink in the elements. Oaks and maples have their own issues to contend with. The lifespan of a maple, for example, is centuries less than the lifespan of a cedar. But that's just it...the trees don't struggle at all. They just work with what they have and make what they have work.

This is a repost that was originally published on 2/24/14.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

9/15/14—Contemplating the Hard Questions

Symbolically, spring is the time of great renewal. But in my life, that time is autumn. I emerge from my cocoon, head into winter, which is a favorite season for me. Then when spring rolls around, it's a time of preparation to weather the long, miserable summer. 

So I dug up this classic post about feeling lackluster about your life or in a rut. That's often how I feel at the end of summer. And with autumn's energy sweeping in this past weekend, I thought I'd revisit some questions that can help us see a way out of the rut.

A sad fact of life is that we can everything we want and still not be happy. Sometimes it's because we're depressed. Or maybe you're someone who likes the process of creating something, but feels restless once the world is done. It could be for a lot of reasons. But more often than not, I'll bet, it's because the things you want and have aren't the things that make you happy. Or things that once made you happy no longer do so. 

I think we all feel that way now and again. I used to take a lot of interest in my tarot deck collection and card reading, for example, but those things just aren't calling to me anymore. And because we tend to grow and change over time, it's a good idea to take stock of ourselves now and again and ask questions like: 
  • How have my values changed in the past five years or so and what in my life has not changed to greet those new values?
  • What do I believe about who I am and what I deserve? How has that changed and do I act in alignment with those changes?
  • What practices or actions no longer feel genuine or comfortable in my life?
  • What drains my energy and what fuels it?
  • Do I ever find myself doing something I used to not question, and now I wonder why I'm doing it?
  • Are there behaviors or actions or attitudes I'm ashamed of...or feel it's time to let go of?
  • What is missing in my life?*
These are just a few of the kinds of questions that are good to take time to ruminate on as we move toward our own personal "renewal". I know for a fact that we all know someone who hasn't changed their hair style in 30 years. I know this because I'm that person...haha. And sometimes we tend to do with our lives what some of us do with our hair...we tend to pick a course of action and stay on it until the bitter end. 

We rarely take the time to proactively examine who we are, who we want to be and what to clear out of our life to get it. Instead, we allow cobwebs and clutter to accumulate within our spirit and then end up like the guy who has everything but contentment. So if you're feeling that way, maybe take a look at who you are today and start living for that person instead. It can take time to figure out what kind of things "the new you" enjoys, but it can be an adventure all along the way. 

*This last question is almost always a trick question. The thing that is almost always missing is connection with "source", however you define that to be—a higher power, nature, whatever. Gratitude and meditation/prayer are the best ways to reconnect with our higher power, our significance, or mission and/or our role here on earth. While we often feel alone and powerless, the opposite is true at all times, whether we choose to embody that reality or not. May as well embody it. 

This post was adapted from one written October 18, 2012.