What Bare Trees Can Teach Us About Vulnerability

tree

Until recently, bare trees in the midst of winter had always conjured up feelings of vulnerability. Without leaves to serve as a protective barrier, it’s entirely too easy to see and be seen. Such seeing is both welcome and appreciated during joyous times. Painful times, on the other hand, are rarely welcome with such openness, leaving you grasping for strategies that give you a sense of safety (control).

It’s easy to tense up, shrink back and wish for layers of blankets to engulf and protect you in the midst of loss or change. It seems easier to avoid the topic and pretend everything is okay in the moment. Rather than risk the possibility of causing or feeling discomfort, it’s easier to hide behind the façade of, “Everything’s fine.”

The problem with this strategy is that everything is not always fine, and sharing your burdens helps to lighten your load. The layers may keep the hurt out, but they also block the light from coming in. Just as the leaves serve as excellent compost to feed further growth of the tree, baring your truth with those you feel the most safe serves to free your spirit of the burdens encapsulated in each.

Can You Imagine… 

A tree, filled with leaves in the midst of a heavy snowstorm, with gusts of wind whipping and pulling at each branch? How long would it take before the tree snapped? Not long, and the tree knows this, which is why it stands bare in the midst of winter, swaying with ease as the wind, cold and icy conditions do their job to enrich the environment around it.

In your moments of great struggle, the last thing you want to do is release your comforting strategies (habits that serve to distract you—food, caffeine, nicotine, heroism and isolation, just to name a few) in favor of new, vibrant beliefs that serve to bring you peace. Hold tightly to your leaves (false sense of control), and the tree that is your soul cannot help but break.

When difficulties are held tightly within the confines of your mind, they fester and grow, serving to increase your pain. When you let down your guard and allow yourself to share your truth with others, you gain the strength needed to grow from the experience.

It’s easy to allow yourself to hold tightly to your ideas and beliefs about what should or shouldn’t be, especially when difficulties hit (winter) and you don’t want to confront reality. Yet, by allowing your winters to help you see and release beliefs that no longer serve you, you strengthen your core, nourish your soil (soul) and wind up less vulnerable.

No One Is Free of Leaves or Winters

Those who stand bare in the midst of their winters, shedding their fears as they strengthen their faith, cannot help but draw you in by the light of their courage. This is truth, and it’s what you’re seeking to find and bask in throughout this journey called life.

Much the same as trees, you do not need to release your leaves all at once. When you experience emotional discomfort, listen closely for the story you’re telling yourself in the moment, write it down and then question it. When you notice a thought that goes against your highest good, recognize it as a story and not the truth. The truth is kinder than your story, and when you release your story you free yourself.

This process takes time, intentionality and a ridiculous amount of energy and courage. Fortunately, the results are worthy of your efforts and increasingly easier to build upon. Writing and thinking about the idea of releasing thoughts that do not serve you is harder in practice than in theory.

Allowing Peace To Emerge

Sitting across the table from a man I deeply respect after a holiday meal, I found myself paralyzed by anger and desperate to shut him down as he fought hard to help me see how I was getting in my own way.

In that moment, I was that tree filled with leaves in the middle of winter. The winds whipped as I strove to release the strategies that bound me to the misery they created. As thoughts of inadequacy spoke loudly, releasing explosions of adrenaline throughout my body, I found myself grasping for safety.

“Find the words to shut them up. Stop them from talking. Use anger if you must,” echoed through my mind, as I prepared to fight for my limitations.

Thankfully, above the terrified voice of inadequacy and the voice of my friend whose words I could not help but react to, I heard God’s voice. “Breathe. You’re okay. I’ve got you. Remember he is a man filled with love for you, not a saber tooth tiger attacking the remarkability of your inherent worth as a human being. He is your friend, and he loves you. He’s trying to help you, and it’s okay that it doesn’t feel helpful in this moment.”

The limitations that are my snow-laden leaves in the midst of winter served well to provide a sense of safety in the midst of what could easily be considered a war zone—my childhood. “You’re a grown adult, Misti. Get it together,” I hear myself saying even as I write this.

Intellectually, I know I am fully loved and valuable, yet a gust of wind that brings my worthiness into question can easily bring the tree that is my soul to within inches of breaking. To admit such fragility feels inherently wrong as I hear myself ready to fight the people whose love has only ever nurtured the soil in which my soul is seeking to grow.

To an outsider who does not understand the courage required for such vulnerability, it may seem like releasing the heavy leaves should be obvious and easy. It’s not. It is simple, but it is not easy. Thankfully, the process of such release is worth the results they create—a deeper connection with a power greater than the scared little person inside of you.

While another persons approach may trigger an internal reaction of fear and worthlessness, it can also help you clearly hear where you cling to your limitations. By surrendering to the lifelong process of weeding out self-sabotaging stories, you free yourself to go from the grief of a child to the grace of a (wo)man.

Your return to grace is a process you can take one day at a time—sometimes one moment at a time. The journey, while unnerving at times, is worth the destination—peace inside of you.

Here’s to your greatness,

Misti Burmeister

P.S. Looking for a high-energy speaker who consistently delivers valuable and actionable content? Contact me directly at 240.401.4397, or email at Misti @ Misti Burmeister.com.

 

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