What if whatever costume you picked on Halloween steered your life for the next year, but you didn’t know it? You couldn’t choose to be a rich and famous rock star for the next year. Or maybe you could but, like a twisted Twilight Zone episode, you wouldn’t get what you thought you were going to get. And then…if you didn’t dress up…you’d stay that way forever!
There was a big old half dead pine tree in our yard when we bought this house. It was about thirty feet tall and right across the driveway from the livingroom. It still had some green tips on its sad branches and it did provide a little shade to the house in the summer, so I decided to try to revive it. I dug a well around the base of the tree and filled it with water every day for more than a year. It did grow a few more green tips, but we took a three-week vacation and when we got back all the progress was gone. It was just not worth the cost of all that water to keep trying.
It stood there dead for a few more years. The woodpeckers loved it and I enjoyed watching them from the west window. Whole families of them were constantly chattering away, poking holes in it looking for bugs. I hung some bird houses that I had in it, but no one wants to take up residence in a dead tree with no cover. It started to look like any day it might fall on the house and cause us more problems. When we got a new travel trailer for our road trips, we found that the driveway was too narrow at that point to pull it all the way around. We’d need to widen the driveway and that old tree was in the way. It needed to go.
My husband started by cutting it down. He felled it pretty easily for an office man and proceeded to cut the old limbs off and stack them. The smaller branches were super brittle and easy to smash up and put in the trash. The thicker branches he cut into fireplace pieces along with some of the trunk. The man that is coming to grade the driveway offered to take a big piece of the trunk for a project he has in mind. He’s a woodcarver too. He put it in his truck before he left.
And now we’re left with the stump. Naïve as we were, we had asked if he could knock it over with the tractor and he emphatically said he couldn’t. He was sure it wouldn’t budge. We’d have to get it out some other way before he could finish the job.
My husband is an industrious man! He got out all the “shovels and rakes and implements of destruction” early Saturday morning and started to dig. He cut roots and shoveled all morning, took a break while our teenage sun took a crack at it, and went back to work on it on Sunday morning. He hooked up our VW bus to it and tried pushing and pulling to loosen it up. No dice. That stump is seriously stuck. It’s going to take a ton of work to get that thing out!
“How can a big dead tree, with all its multitude of dead and breaking limbs, have such a strong and hearty root?!” I told my friend as we stood looking at it this morning.
We all have big dead trees like that in our lives. A failed relationship, a dependence on a substance, bad habits and bad people are something everyone has at least a little of. When we lay them out on paper or in conversation with a close friend, we can see it’s not serving us, it’s actually hurting us, holding us back. We should cut them down and get rid of them.
We start by knocking it down. We ditch that relationship and move out, get another job, or leave town. We clean up the house and sell all our extra stuff in an effort to live more frugally. We go through drug rehab or get some professional help for our mental struggles. It feels great because we’re moving towards getting better, but then we hit a wall.
Suddenly, the project or recovery seems so damn complicated. There’s so much work to do! So, we stop. We got rid of it, that should be enough. And there we are with a dead stump right where the new driveway should be. It’s still a royal pain in the ass to pull the trailer around. We need to finish the job to be well. We have more work to do.
The power tools come out, the pick, the shovels, the sweat, and the aching back. We may have to resort to dynamite as a last resort. But it will be worth it.
Once the long labor is over, life will go more smoothly. The limbs of the big dead tree in your life may be easy to break off. The trunk of it may need a power tool to get down. But the root will still be there and it’s going to be a long painful process to get it out. It will be worth it though. Get to work!
What if we stopped trying to fix things and let them transform instead?
What if we stopped trying to hold on to and keep the things we currently have and allow ourselves the joy of new discoveries?
Do you have a passion for something? Something that you do really well? Something that you think about constantly? A thing that you live to do?
I’ve grown up hearing people ask about that. At every stage of my life I’ve heard people on tv, writing articles and books, and now podcasters and social media gurus, droning on about finding your niche, your passion, your thing that sets you apart. “That’s where you’ll fit in perfectly! If you can make a career out of it, you’ll be the happiest person!”
So, what’s mine? Reading my blog, scrolling through my social media feeds, looking around my house, you probably wouldn’t be able to guess it. I’ve always felt a bit uninspired on the “passion” front.
When I was a kid, getting some friends and playing was the goal. When I was a teen, I focused on, well, honestly, getting any boy to chase me. And then I kind of fell into theater work, sets and stages, lights. I went to work in that field and did well. Then I got married and had some kids and raised them. I have things I like to do. I can sew a bit, knit, make soap. I read a lot. I love to read. I’m not a big people person, but I do like people watching. I like to go out and do things, but generally I’d rather do it anonymously with my favorite person or two.
But today, it hit me.
I have a passion for being in this world among the people I love. It’s simple really. I am truly passionate about being, that’s it. And that’s what I write about. When I find something interesting, I write about it. When I find something that works for me, I write about it. When I’m confused, angry, or frustrated, I write about that too.
What’s your passion?
Community. I hear that word every day. I see it in print. I hear people talk about it online and on TV.
“Get involved in your community!”
“Everyone should have a community of people they rely on!”
“Know what’s going on in your community!”
“Community brings people together!”
Ugg…I’m tired of hearing it and tired of trying to make it work for me only because that’s what everyone says is important.
I want to be a part of community in some sense. I enjoy the company of friends from time to time. I like having people to invite over for a BBQ, but is that community or just friends?
What about the past? I’m looking at rural farmers and fur traders, people that lived pretty isolated and only came together in groups a couple times a year at most. Were they lacking in community?
I’ve always had a hard time finding my people. It’s me, not the people. I just don’t feel like I really fit in. The more I try to work in a group, the more frustrated I become. I end up not helping the group or myself. It all seems so futile. Then I started thinking…maybe not everyone works well in groups!
Maybe being alone more will help me focus and create. Maybe, for me, Monday’s here, Wednesday’s here, Saturday’s there, volunteer at this, help this cause, etc., is just too much for me and I lose myself in it.
I’ve never been physically alone for an extended amount of time. The longest in recent years has been a three-hour stint sitting in the car waiting for my son. I read a lot. What would happen if I were alone for a whole 24 hours? 48? I’d like to experiment with that idea in the near future.
What if your whole life is just one big research project for someone else? You don’t know who they are or what they are looking for. You just need to gather information as you go and be ready to pass it along at any moment. It’d probably be a good idea to take notes, journal, photos, etc. as you go.
Would you live differently? Would you have different expectations? I know I’d probably keep better records of my experience. Maybe I’d consider every interaction a possible “ah-ha” moment for someone out there.
Makes me look at my day in a totally different light.
I’m having a hard time putting all these whirling thoughts into words this week. Ideas keep spinning around me and I feel they are linked together somehow in a bigger picture, yet I can’t seem to organize them into a coherent thought. I think I’ll just sit with them for now and watch them dance.
Joy. Awareness. Connection. Jesus. Love. Peace. Liberty. Acceptance. Thought. Study. Rest. Nationalism. Pride. Self-Respect. Confidence. Old friends. Music. Sex. Conversation.
Still sitting with them. Feeling distracted and unfocused.