Tempests, Reeds, Willows and Oaks

A time ago, I blogged at a different spot. I wrote this blog intitially a few years ago. I was looking over my list of topics and remembered writing this. As I read it though, there were changes in how I felt and looked at life. So I decided to take it as a rough draft and tweak it. I hope that this will help anyone in these places in their life.

Have you ever felt that your life is spinning out of control? Like there is a tempest in your life challenging you to stand your ground? For a few years now, I have felt this ebb and flow, push and pull of the tempest. Standing my ground when I could. Collapsing when I couldn’t stand anymore. On the surface I looked composed and collected. Underneath I was lost and fighting my own personal war. Some people think I’m a strong individual. What they don’t see is the quiet moments that I question every choice we have ever made and the choices in front of us that we have yet to make.

I remember reading Aesop a lot growing up. One of my favorite lessons was the one about the reeds and the oaks. “An oak and a reed were arguing about their strength. When a strong wind came up, the reed avoided being uprooted by bending and leaning with the gusts of wind. But the oak stood firm and was torn up by the roots.”

I used to think that was silly. A wind if strong enough can snap that reed as easily as an oak. While that is true, a reed will bend and it will have better chances of surviving that tempest as it challenges it. It took me over 30 years to understand the full scope of this fable. Once I did, that AHA moment was very emotional. While we aren’t oaks and we aren’t reeds, we do tend to have a mindset of can’t give in, can’t let things get to us, can’t let it show. Of being solid like an oak.

I’m not immune to that staunch nature of wearing that mask of oaklike in stature. I’ve learned though, I can’t be like that. I have to let things affect me and deal with how it affects me. It affects me regardless, and when I supress the emotions on the surface, underneath I’m churning and dying. The longer I suppress that feeling the more likely I am to break when it does finally show. There will be cracks in a fake facade that everything is OK, when it really isn’t.

Bruce Lee said, “Notice that the stiffest tree is most easily cracked, while the bamboo and willow survive by bending with the wind.” I guess I like that idea of being a willow. I can flow with the wind, bending so to speak. Trying to avoid being uprooted. Knowing that there are tempests out there that can shake even the firm foundations and roots I have.

We can be tossed in a tempest others create, or we can create them ourselves. Sometimes it’s as simple for us to erode from the inside out simply by putting others needs in front of our own. Trying to maintain that idea that, it doesn’t phase us. It’s OK, when it’s really not. Especially when we have families that rely on us. We often forget it’s ok for our children to see us deal with the stress of “real” life. How else do we expect them to learn to cope with life as the tempest hits them if we don’t show them by example?

When you add a child with special considerations, it’s a high wire balancing act. The key is to balance. If you don’t, and you turn everything inside it could lead to negativity and resentment. Now, I’m not saying turn into someone who is always self-centered or selfish. That sure as heck isn’t going to be better. No, what I’m saying is BALANCE is key.

We need to learn to roll with the things that come our way. When to give and when to stand. To control what we can and not worry about what we cannot control. We need to embrace and accept adversity, it’s what makes us stronger. Trust me, I know it doesn’t seem that way, but it does. If you can survive one more day you are stronger than you think you are. More importantly, we need to know, we aren’t alone and can’t survive alone.

So as I rewrite most of this post, I realize that I’m grateful to be supported by those who know this tempest. Knowing that when the tempest blows their way, we can weather it and bend and sway like the reed and the willow together. It helps to know that no matter what I’m going through, I’m not alone and there are others who will be there to keep my roots grounded. I may lose a few branches in the tempest, but I’m still standing.

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