For a very long time now, I've likened my Being - my very existence in Life - as a tree. We're all trees, and the healthier we are, the stronger our roots. Strong roots equal strong, tall trunks; sturdy, outreaching branches; and full, rich leaves. A healthy tree offers a vast amount of opportunities for Life: a good place to live; some food; shelter from storms, winds, and rains; high lookout points; protection from predators; cool shade... and perhaps even a fort and a tire swing or two.
It is important for us to remember that we are here to "help others," whatever form that may be in, and in that light, it is also important for us to be as healthy as we can be mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and physically. It serves us well to be in good condition, as we can then serve others to the fullest of our capacity and hopefully provide them with an opportunity to grow themselves.
But it's not as simple as "just growing." It seems rather natural for some people to just "be fit," or "stable," or even "spiritually sound." After all, look where some of them came from. Surely it's much easier for them to sprout and grow and get tall if they've got "good parents," "lots of money," or perhaps "great friends" and "caring teachers" all throughout their childhood and education. All of this could very well be true, perhaps they've come from the best stock of seed where luck favors them and their bloodline.
But there is more to everyone's story, for all of us. Maclom Gladwell stated it on point:
"… the tallest oak in the forest is the tallest not just because it grew from the hardiest acorn; it is the tallest also because no other trees blocked its sunlight, the soil around it was deep and rich, no rabbit chewed through its bark as a sapling, and no lumberjack cut it down before it matured. We all know that successful people come from hardy seeds. But do we know enough about the sunlight that warmed them, the soil in which they put down the roots, and the rabbits and lumberjacks they were lucky enough to avoid?" (Malcom Gladwell, Outliers: The Story of Success)
As Malcom states, a good seed and it's lineage is definitely important in how successful the tree is at becoming a healthy tree. We know this is true, for centuries mankind has been breeding the best with the best to get, well, the best - it ensures a stronger tree. He also suggests that our environmental surroundings and events beyond our control are also responsible for how tall and healthy a tree can get. We know this to true as well as we can see dead trees everywhere, from beaver dams to insect infested forests.
Malcolm's example accounts for two things in this scenario of our healthy tree story:
- Our seed-stock, which is what determines part of what we are - an oak tree, a fruit tree, a pine tree, etc. - and even how physically healthy we may start out, or potentially may end up being. It may even influence where we are planted to begin with!
- How our environment and other outside factors, such as sunshine, soil, and lumberjacks - seemingly completely beyond our control - can seriously influence our lives. Quite drastically, really.
But there is a third.
In my case, a successful, happier life comes to fruition when I focus on these three things: my health, my service to others, and how I maintain my environmental duties. I may not be able to control what type of seed I am or where exactly I was planted, nor can I hide from everything that wants to eat me or cut me down, but I can maintain certain things that surround me and even protect myself - if I step outside of... me. In fact, how well I maintain my environment very much affects my usability and service to others, which is driven by how healthy I am. And please note: I didn't use the word "control," I used "maintain."
Even though we have to accept certain things in our lives, i.e., the winds are coming and the snow is going to fall, there are things that we can do to assist ourselves in our growth. This doesn't mean attempt to barricade ourselves from everything - we will surely die if we do. But if we step out of ourselves, step away from ourselves as the tree, and we properly tend to our tree needs, we will then be able to stay dry, have food throughout the winter, and even keep the pests at bay - bugs, rabbits, and all.
In as much as we are the tree in service who provides shade, shelter, and food (regardless of the form it comes in), we are also the caregiver to it - we must learn to care for it. We have to fertilize the soil, remove the sun blocking obstacles, supply winter warmth, and put up borders to keep out unwanted guests.
At first, it took me a while to understand the concept of being in service AND being the caregiver. There is a difference. If we tend to ourselves as the farmer and do what it takes to allow us to grow (aka: self-care), then as the tree we will grow strong and provide shade, shelter, and food for not only the farmer, but for others. It's what Mother Nature intended when she created us in the eyes of the Universe.
Without self-care, we would only be relying on two factors to carry us through life with no hope otherwise. We'd be solely dependent on our seed stock, and the chance of our surroundings and events we can't control. Although this may do some of us well, most of us need more work than luck and chance. With self-care, our efforts afford us these things and we can grow strong and fruitful, for one and all.
But self-care takes action to succeed. Without action on our part, chances are we'll fall before we have to. We can't only hope our surroundings will give us all we need, nor pretend that we won't be hurt or believe that our lineage alone will be strong enough or lucky enough to survive the onslaught Life passes out to each of us. We are responsible for removing the parasitic insects that bore through us, and it's our duty to raise borders to keep out the rabbits. We must tend the soil we live in and at times treat our broken limbs. We may even have to fend off the occasional lumber jack who wants to take what we have. This means taking action, doing the work. We know this to be true, for centuries mankind has created orchards and harvest groves - all with good reason.
We must do something to take care of ourselves in order to be of service to others. By doing this, we can play the role of the tree who provides protection, shelter, and shade; plus we can play the role of the farmer, who feeds, protects, and maintains the environment and boundaries of our tree.
It's a dual role: the Tree-Farmer Tree.
This does bring one more question to mind: What kind of tree are you? I'm curious to find out.