Ho Ho Ho! It's that time of year again. Today, was the first day of the season that I had to wear a base layer of merino wool while walking my son and our dog to school. And, because I was relatively prepared, it didn't feel as cold as it did last night even though it was 10 degrees (Celcius) colder. The first step of many in getting used to winter and coming around to appreciating it.
Getting back inside, I looked at the Christmas tree my children and I decorated. Every year, I love to sit beside the tree and write or simply lay there looking at it, smelling the quietness of the forest, comforted by the glow of lights and the feeling that comes when I look at ornaments chosen for my children each year since they were born or ones I received long ago from my mom or grandparents.
Yet, this year, my tree has more to impart. You see, I found, the "perfect tree". I had no idea how perfect it was until I had it sitting in the stand, cut the bindings off and let the branches settle for several hours as it expanded to fill the space I imagined and more. I got a really great deal on this tree too, even better.
If you want your tree to take up water, general wisdom would have you cut an inch or so off the base when you get it home, before you put it in the stand. Alas, this tree's trunk was pretty darned big and none of my saws were going to cut it so I had my son trudge over to our neighbor's to procure a saw. I tried to get through using that saw while he laid on top of it, held it down and braced it for me. It was like trying to cut a steak with a dull butter knife. So, back I went to our neighour's explaining my plight and asking if he had a bow saw, the kind that looks like something you'd use to shoot an arrow if it had a blade instead of a string across the bottom. He scratched his head and thought maybe he had something like it in his shed, but he would have to get all dressed up to get it. He told me he'd bring it over to me when he found it. He's a sweetheart and I felt like a big nuisance, but I accepted his offer - my perfect tree was worth the trouble!
Bow saw in hand, again I recruited my son to keep the tree steady and managed to slowly, yet surely cut that 1 inch chunk off the bottom. Victory! My son took the saw back to our neighbour. Then, I remembered I was missing the flat round red grid-like piece that needed to be screwed into the base of the tree to keep it steady in the holder.
Down I went down to the storage room, annoyed that somehow all the pieces hadn't stayed together in storage, wondering exactly how many boxes I'd have to move to find it. I emerged about 10 minutes later, got the drill out of the garage and proceeded to attach that red circle to the base of the tree. A little niggly feeling told me that the line I'd cut wasn't flat, but by then the saw had been returned to my neighbour and I thought, "Ok, I've been through enough. The saw is back at the neighbors and if necessary, I can simply adjust the tree stand to make the tree sit straight in it."
I decided that after all the hassle I had finding the tree, enlisting help at the store to squeeze it into my car, getting needles and tree sap everywhere, asking my daughter to help me get it out of the car and carry it inside, needles still falling everywhere, having my son sweep them up, making more of a mess with sawdust and more needles, sweeping them up, asking the neighbor for a saw that wasn't right, having him go out in the cold to his shed to get me the right one, cutting that 1" off the tree, hunting for the red base, attaching it, getting my daughter to help me stand it up, fastening it in the stand - I HAD HAD ENOUGH! That tree was going up, up, up!
Et Voila! I could see the tip of it was slanted before I took the twine off of the branches. I hoped that maybe it was just the tip and that somehow I could straighten it out by giving it a nudge. The twine came off. The tree opened. It was definitely leaning to one side. It was a big beautiful tree and it was leaning to one side. It was perfect. It deserved to make one last stand in all it's glory before being put out at the curb in January and I FAILED MY CHRISTMAS TREE.
Last night, the kids and I decorated the tree, sipping peppermint hot chocolate, munching on homemade ginger snaps, listening to Christmas music and reminiscing about each ornament as we put them up. After my son went to bed, my daughter and I laid on the couch, me looking up at the tree, she looking up how to make origami trees online, making three of them.
This morning I woke up really early, coming downstairs to write by the light of the tree. Looking at it from sitting on the couch, it looks really big and full, substantial if not a little standoffish as it was leaning away from me, but I can't tell from this angle that it's clearly slanted. Still the feeling, I FAILED MY TREE.
Surrounding this feeling, it's not lost on me that I just did some work with my INNER JUDGE yesterday, not understanding the reason certain things happened, criticizing myself for making the decisions I did, making myself wrong, feeling like a BIG LOSER, an EPIC FAILURE, wrong for even trying when things didn't work out, basically crushing a very lovely part of myself in the process.
Then, this morning, after sending my best friend a picture of the leaning tree, discovering she's at the airport waiting to jet off to to Singapore for 5 weeks, a trip booked over a month ago, not realizing I didn't know she was going anywhere. Surprise. Shock. Feeling like maybe she doesn't consider me the close friend I consider her to be. Realizing, I don't know what's she's up to. Wondering why she didnt tell me. It wasn't as if we haven't been in touch, even though we live a couple time zones apart. She just didn't remember if she told me. She not understanding why I couldn't just be happy for her and why I had the reaction I did. Why? Why did I feel this pain in my stomach? Why did I feel dejected? Sad? Out of touch? Completely unaware? Out of the loop? Going through text messages, seeing I had been in touch, had been asking her what was going on with her, her replying "Same ole, same ole." Why does this hurt like it does? This feels a lot like FAILING MY TREE. What the heck?!
What's the common theme? The INNER JUDGE loves to be in control and to do things properly. It's not ok with having things less than perfect. It feels deeply INADEQUATE when it's faced with NOT KNOWING. The INNER JUDGE would have me crawl into a hole, feeling like I have no real friends and can't even put up a beautiful tree right.
So, this is where the work gets real. We can become aware of aspects of ourself that are self-abusive. Then, when things start to hurt, maybe instead of blaming ourselves and retreating, we can stand with curiousity and compassion, asking what's really going on and what the part that's hurting needs to feel better.
My PERFECT LEANING TREE will be a reminder this Christmas to not only have compassion and goodwill towards others, but to try and direct some of the Christmas spirit towards myself. HO, HO, HO indeed.
I'd love to know what people think about this issue. Got any "leaning trees" of your own?
I believe we can rise to our personal and societal challenges by embracing the spirit of adventure and the enduring wisdom of nature.