My children and I recently checked out this book from the San Antonio Library, called Little Tree. It has beautiful illustrations of a tree that is happily growing in a forest but somehow chooses not to let go of its dead leaves when it encounters its first real winter. The little tree sees all the other trees around it barren and cold, but when spring arrives, they all begin anew with green leaves and they grow even bigger. Still clinging to its brown remnants of the past, the little tree can’t grow new leaves and remains frozen at its smaller stature. Years go by, and it watches everything around it become tall towers changed by the seasons, full of life and color, while it is still the same little tree with sparse dead leaves. Only when the little tree realizes that it must let go of what it has been worthlessly clinging to does it experience what it was destined for: growth.
Not to get to sappy level 100, but honestly, that book hit me right in the mama guts. What sort of beautiful and life-changing experience might I be holding my own self back from? What things in my life am I clinging to out of fear or stubbornness that I need to let go of? Am I the little tree, watching the other trees around me flourish?
My plan is to take an honest look at myself this month and determine what dead leaves I can let go of. Here are some thoughts that may get you started doing the same:
- Anger or Resentment. Am I holding onto a time when I felt wronged or hurt by someone? It is only a hindrance to me when I continue to stir the pot of my own feelings (at which I admit I am skilled) without addressing it with the other person. If it isn’t worth having an honest discussion about, then I need to let it go.
- Sadness or Grief. My family has experienced a lot of heartache and grief over lives lost and relationships damaged. Each person may experience that grief in his/her own way and on his/her own time. But can I take some positive steps forward, never forgetting or leaving those loved ones behind, in a way that will start to heal my heart? Can I honor their memory without allowing myself to be swallowed up with sadness?
- The Weight You Carry. This may be physical or emotional. Are there times when I feel burdened with life and unable to experience the new things I am interested in? Do I feel like the weight is wearing me out and stealing my joy? How can I begin to take small steps (maybe literal steps!) to bring myself a daily dose of happy endorphins and time devoted to mentally clearing out the clutter? I may even devote some time this month to clearing out actual clutter in my home that is stressing me out and brings us no real enjoyment or use!
- The Status Quo. Am I so used to the way things are that I am missing out on exciting possible alternatives? Am I unwilling to change or seek out opinions other than those just like my own? This mama appreciates consistency as much as the next gal, but in what ways can I look to challenge and improve myself from the inside out?
- A Person or Relationship. Is this person only consuming my energy and my effort while not returning any? Do I find that interacting with him/her has positive or negative effects on my life? If our relationship is like a bank account with “positive experience” deposits and “negative experience” withdrawals, what is the balance looking like? It may be time to walk away from someone whose time in my life story should have ended in a previous chapter.
This exercise is not meant to give you another reason to be self-critical. Think of it rather as an opportunity to mindfully practice what I like to call openhandedness. If our fist is closed to the world and what life has to offer, clinging to what we already have, we cannot accept any new gifts or experiences. I don’t want to watch the seasons of my life change while I remain a little tree clinging to my brown leaves. I want to practice the art of letting go…so I can grow.