I was thinking this morning about the dead and dying trees we had removed from our yard last September, especially the massive ash tree next to our house that caused my family so much anxiety, worry and stress during storms or windy days. Removing the trees was a complicated and expensive process due to their size and difficult access for the necessary machinery. When the trees were gone and new landscaping covered the scars of removal, we felt an immediate sense of relief and a feeling of peace for which we are all grateful. The entire process was cathartic in so many ways.
It dawned on me that in a sense, the removing of the dead trees is a clear metaphor for moving on past the challenges of 2020 to a better place. With the pandemic, civil unrest, economic upheaval and political tension our nation experienced and is still experiencing, so many of us are feeling stressed, anxious, burned out and fearful of what the future holds. These are natural feelings and you absolutely should not feel bad if you have them, but I hope we can agree that moving on to a better and more hopeful way of living is necessary and long overdue.
Perhaps, we all may have “dead trees” in our lives that need to be removed?
If you will indulge me, here are a few ideas and actions for embracing a more hopeful way of living that perhaps will bring us all greater hope and peace of mind. If we continue with the dead tree metaphor, I believe that both “removing” and “replacing” are necessary:
- Replace angst and fear of Covid by embracing a more hopeful post-pandemic future focused on better treatments and the arrival of new Covid vaccines. We have to find a way to both live and practice safety.
- Remove toxic influences in our lives. Social media has its uses, but the daily deluge of bad news leads to higher anxiety. Consider limiting or removing it.
- Replace isolation and loneliness with reaching out regularly to friends, family and neighbors. Take socially distanced walks with others. Eat meals on restaurant patios. Drive somewhere that is beautiful and soak it in. Don’t let your home be a prison.
- Remove the excuses we often make about our health. Focus on self-care. Exercise. Eat better. Don’t fill up the extra hours saved by less commuting with more work…let’s make an investment in ourselves.
- Replace worry about the future by doing something to make a positive difference. Practice acts of kindness. Help others who are struggling. Donate time, talent and treasure. St. Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa) said: “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”
- Remove over-reliance on our own strengths and abilities. For people of faith and even people to whom faith may not be important, always trust in God. Make time for prayer. There is no true peace or joy outside of God.
I removed three dead trees from my yard last year and felt less anxiety, stress and an immediate sense of relief. I promise I try very hard to also practice the six ideas I have just shared and by doing so I never fail to feel stronger, less stressed and more hopeful. Perhaps this short post will prompt you to consider the “dead trees” that need to be removed and replaced in your life this year. I sincerely hope so.
Trust that better days are ahead!