CHOOSING TO THRIVE
Please welcome our newest guest blogger Galen Pearl
Yield and overcome
Bend and be straight
–Tao Te Ching
I spent a lovely weekend at my mountain cabin recently. The cabin sits in dense forest just above a rushing creek. On the far side of the creek is a ridge, which keeps that side of the creek in shade for much of the day.
When I’m at the cabin, I spend a lot of time at the creek. I like to have my morning tea sitting on its bank. On a hot day, I stay close to the creek. The water comes from melting snow further up the mountain. The icy temperature creates natural air conditioning above the dancing race of sparkling froth.
Over a year ago, sudden warm weather after a heavy snow flooded the creek. Boulders and trees swept downstream like thundering herds of buffalo. Afterwards, I saw that a birch tree on the far side of the creek had toppled over. It lay balanced on several rocks just above the water, its base hidden in the underbrush by the creek’s edge. Over the winter, it looked just like the other logs and driftwood scattered along the banks.
But with spring came a surprise. Bright green leaves budded and unfurled along its branches. It was not only living, it was thriving. On my recent visit, I contemplated its strange existence. The roots, I concluded, must still be anchored on the bank. As I examined it from my side of the creek, I realized that the tree was now strategically placed to get the maximum sunlight during the day. Away from the ridge and from the towering evergreens, the birch tree’s branches were in the most open area right in the middle of the creek.
The tree seemed unabashed by its precarious and awkward position. It was not ashamed at being horizontal. It was in perfect harmony with the creek and the sun, happy to be alive, busy with photosynthesis, unconcerned with what the other trees thought.
The phrase “bloom where you’re planted” comes to mind. When I lived overseas, I found that the expatriates who were most happy were those who were flexible, who let go of what was familiar and embraced their new environment with curiosity and a sense of adventure, along with a good sense of humor. There were times when I initially felt anxious, and I’m sure I looked foolish. But when I “got over myself,” I fell in love with my exotic surroundings. Every day was exciting. I learned new languages, tried new foods, respected new customs, made new friends.
Even when we are living in our “usual” surroundings, things happen that throw us into uncharted waters. I remember the first day I heard the word “autism” in relation to my son. I remember the day my daughter told me she was pregnant. I remember falling off the roof (of my beloved cabin!). I remember other times when my life changed in the blink of an eye. Many of these changes initially seemed like tragedies, and yet turned out to be my most cherished blessings, blessings I failed to recognize until I let go of my resistance and my fear.
We can’t always control our circumstances, but we can control our attitude towards them. Like the tree, we can bloom where we’re planted, and thrive.
Galen Pearl is the author of 10 Steps to Finding Your Happy Place (and Staying There), a blog devoted to helping us develop habits to grow a joyful spirit. In addition to writing, she leads workshops and discussion groups focused on increasing the joy in our lives.