Over the last few days I have seen many posts on social media about people who are struggling with life, with love, with work, with loss and such. It is that time of the year where, unfortunately, suicide rates increase, family loss hits harder, and financial hardships are greater. It has always amazed me that the "happiest" time of the year can and often will be the saddest time of the year for some. It seems, for better or worse, that this is part of being human. We spend our lives coveting the things we deem important, like family, friends, health, love, money, stability and connections. Of course, those are all important things, but they are also the very things that people covet to the point of the negative thoughts, feelings and emotions that bring personal pain. Maybe that is you. Maybe you are sitting there feeling a bit tired, feeling a bit exhausted, feeling a bit unloved, feeling a bit like a failure, or something else as simple as the blahs. Today, I thought about you. Well, you and me and them and us because, to be short, we aren't alone.
The photo you see here was taken by accident. I couldn't duplicate it if I tried. If I believe in the "universe provides" theories then I may say it was destined that I happen to take it. Why you ask? Because this image is what I see when I see people who are struggling with life. A whirlwind of ick and crap. Everything is blurry and out of focus. It makes one's head spin and disorients to the point that all a person can do is beg it to stop. Now I should be up front and say that I do not suffer from depression or suicidal thoughts or struggles that deeply. I have, however, helped many friends through those hard times. This image is exactly what I picture when a friend says the world is spinning out of control.
All that being said, look at the picture a little closer. What do you see? Do you see the swirls? Of course you do. Do you see my shoes? Wouldn't doubt that for a second. Can you make out the some of the shapes of what is on the ground? Most of you would have no problem with it. None of that is what I mean. Look at the center of the picture. See the brown leaf? It sits there clear as day. It is not affected by the swirl. It is not blurred. It is not swirled. It is, for all intents and purposes, its self. It represents the truth about life and ourselves. It is us as individuals in this thing called life. We are stationary. We are solid. We are not the chaos. The chaos happens around us and we are the center of the storms we have to deal with from time to time.
You see, I looked at that leaf and thought of peace. Peace of mind, peace of soul, and peace of spirit. The world can be hard. The world can be nearly unbearable. A person is stronger. A person is solid. A person needs only to remember that s/he lives as the actual calm of the storm and his/her reaction either powers it or weakens it. It doesn't matter what the struggle is; it is within each of us to withstand it and rise above it. This is what I thought when I saw that image. But how do we find a better way to attack our problems? The answer to that came in an unexpected place.
As I walked out of the post office on Sunday morning a tree caught my attention. If you know me you will know that isn't an uncommon thing when I'm out and about. Still, some things catch me in a way that makes me think. I looked at tree and noticed it was covered in raindrops. Every
tree out there was covered with raindrops for that matter. I stood under under the tree and snapped a few pictures in black and white, color and sepia(ish) of the leaves and the droplets. Again, this isn't uncommon for me to get lost in picture taking when the mood strikes me. This time my mind wandered a bit, and as I stood in the cold crisp winter air, I thought of both the people who were struggling and those who were climbing their own personal mountains. But what does a tree and few raindrops have to do with thinking of people in a struggle? How does it fix the swirl? Simple. You are the tree.
You see, people want to view themselves as fluid. Heck, even I tell people to be "like a leaf" in the way they approach the world. That very leaf in the middle of the first picture. "Be That!" I would say for sure, "Don't fight against the world. Instead, like tai chi, use it for you." You know, like a leaf. It is a great way to approach the ebbs and flows of the world, instead of fighting them. However, in this case I am talking about what we, as people, truly are in the big scheme of things. We are the tree. The chaos is the rain drops, the wind, nature itself and the other things we can't control, but we, in all our strength, remain the tree.
You see, the tree is rooted deep in the ground. It is anchored and stubborn. The sun can bake it. The rain can soak it. The wind can rock it. The world can move around it but it stays put where it is strong. It digs its roots deep in the soil and extends further and further as time passes. If we take care of it, then it will be strong. If we neglect it, it will crumble. We are the tree. Do not let your tree become infested, infected or inconsequential in the world. You are a tree. Be a tree. Be a strong tree.
Sometimes the tree will be covered in raindrops. It will seem heavy from what life throws at it. The raindrops don't actually affect the tree. It was built to withstand the rain. It grew through life's ups and downs to outlast the storms. Years of growth have made it so. The wind, the rain, the lightning, the storms do not scare it because it has lived through them all before and will live through them again. So how does this apply to you the person struggling right now? Glad you asked.
You made it to today. Your life, the stories, the trials, the bumps, the bruises, the heartache, the pain and the darkness all made you what you are today. Today may be overwhelming because of all the swirls of crap spinning around you, but remember that you didn't get to this point because you are weak. No, you got here because, like the tree, you are strong. We all possess the strength to stand up to the demons in the mirror and the bad guys outside the window. It doesn't matter the darkness, you will find the light as long as you remember that you are the tree.
I'll leave with this image. The darkness of the sky seems ominous, hell, even dangerous. I looked at it and what caused me to pause was the tree in the middle. It stands regardless of the darkness of the sky. It stands in defiance of the wind and the rain. In the morning it will still be there but the darkness will be gone. The rain, the wind, the pain will be gone and it, the tree, will still be standing there. One day it won't be there, but today, on this day, it is there.
Some days we are not strong enough to do it alone. Some days we don't have the faith to see our power in the midst of all that swirling. Some days we find ourselves being dragged under the currents. On those days, talk to someone who will listen and offer help that you need, not that you "want." Most of all, don't keep it in. There is a stigma with seeking help. FUCK THAT! You are worth more than public opinion. If you need the help... get the help. We don't always know how to get out of a funk and that is okay. Someone has gone through it before and can help you find your way back to your tall, strong, amazing tree-like self. Just a thought, my friends.