I have been captivated by trees for as long as I can remember. Whether it’s a lone tree standing tall in a barren Texas landscape or a massive relic hidden in the labyrinths of Washington’s old growth forests, it is their resiliency that I find most admirable. Trees are survivors; they grow and change and carry the full weight of their pasts with them. As their branches grow broader, their roots get stronger. Some of those branches stop short while others stretch on to birth new limbs, reaching in unpredictable directions. Rather than leaving these smaller branches behind, the ones that didn’t amount to much, the trees carry them proudly from one generation into the next. They are part of what makes the tree beautiful, even if they cease to be central to its purpose. I suppose the connections between human lives and those of trees are easy to enumerate when one allows their thoughts to drift toward the sappy. See what I did there?
I spend a decent amount of time reflecting and am grateful for the luxury to do so. Recently, I have been noticing that I sometimes struggle to carry all my branches with me in a comfortable and meaningful way. This may be due to the incongruence with which comfort and meaning are simultaneously available to me. Striking a balance between a life driven by goals and one defined by bliss is an objective I am fortunate to be in pursuit of. It is, most certainly, a first world problem. For the past five years I have been on the journey to where I am now and I find people constantly asking, what’s next? Which for me begs the anxiety producing response, is this not enough? Is it never going to be enough? Our capitalist society drives us always in the direction of more — more education, more opportunities, more money, more, more, more. I think I’m learning that I’m not motivated by more.
After years of uncertainty and relative struggle, I am finding untold joy in everyday tasks and simple pleasures. The very act of cleaning my apartment has become a zen-like experience during which I hear these words: Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. This mantra reveals itself to me as I am making beautiful the little corner of this world I have carved out for myself and it brings me peace. I may be far from enlightenment but I am learning to allow myself the grace to enjoy my life as I have created it rather than be compulsively hunting the next struggle. Challenges will come and future Lea will know how to handle them; present Lea does not need to go looking for them. No, she just needs to trust her branches enough to hold them high while allowing her roots to grow strong. Her leaves will find the sun.