Trees in the way.

A few weeks ago I had a tree removed from my back yard.  After years of standing in our way, cluttering our space outside, the tree’s sudden disappearance made way for me and my family to enjoy the outdoors we have always loved so much.

Hogging every inch of the tiny patch we were allotted out back of my townhouse, that tree stood only within two feet of our back porch- until one day the president of our townhouse board committee asked me if I would like the tree taken down, to which I answered, resoundingly;  “YES!”

Often, the course we choose in life is influenced by the obstacles in our way, whether or not their placement is our own doing, someone else’s fault or they are there because of their natural existence.  Regardless of the reason for those barriers, it is up to us as to how we react to them; whether we find a way to work around them, or remove them entirely.

During the process of writing we draft until our manuscripts are ready for submission, cleared of  flaws and clutter.  A word that does not belong, a sentence that has no importance, or an idea that has no significance could jeopardize our manuscript’s chance for publication.  Despite our project’s potential, it risks getting discarded like an empty water bottle drained of further purpose.

In writing, we are told to “kill our darlings” (cut out the flabby parts that distract from our story),- certainly not an easy thing to do.  We writers love words. Each time we revise our drafts we cut out a piece of ourselves until we end up with a tight, well-toned manuscript, void of hodgepodge; ready for publication. 

In life, as we travel through our covid-19 virus days, ..weeks, ..and months, counting the time until we are once again free to do the things we used to do that made us happy, we have become more aware of the obstacles in our way.  Although we have seen them before, knowing they exist, those roadblocks never stood out as they do now.  Before, in our other life, the life we lived before March 2020 came crashing down upon us, those hurdles were just there, and there was little we thought we could do about them.

Until now.

Like writing first and second or eighth drafts which we edit and revise, individuals have the opportunity to change their own life stories, to clear out the obstructions cluttering their own space.  Time, for instance, is one of those obstacles in the way.  There are no extra minutes in the day to call a loved one we haven’t seen in a while. There is no time to become technically savvy enough to stay in touch more often through streaming services.  There is definitely no way we could we rise a little earlier in the morning each day to exercise, prepare a healthier meal or take a class to improve our lives.   And carving out a little more time here and there to help a neighbor, volunteer or attend mass is out of the question when there is so little time already.

Similarly, the lack of money, communication issues, and worries are among many road blocks too large to push aside.  Donating to the local charity seems impossible when we have bills to pay.  Taking the family on vacation is out of the budget when the mortgage or rent is due. 

But, wouldn’t it be wonderful if we COULD get creative, cut out some flab here and there, “kill the darlings” that distract from the quality of our life stories, or tidy up the disarray that blurs our possibilities.

So many hurdles  to overcome, so many obstacles in the way.   It’s nothing we did.  Just trees in our way.

Likewise, these past few months since the pandemic caught us all off guard, sickness, deaths, lockdowns, isolations, loss of jobs and businesses, wrongful deaths amongst countless others gone unnoticed, rioting, looting and police-bashing have become additional obstacles in our way, all of which prevent us from engaging in honest dialogue, and subsequently attaining and sharing peace and unity amongst us.  They have become blinders robbing us of our sight, barricades imprisoning us, stumbling blocks cutting us off from the freedom we took for granted, and roadblocks in the way of the happiness we forgot we have the power to maintain or create.

It is time now for us to remove the blinders, get rid of the clutter in our space in order to allow us to see our potential more clearly.  If we have the ability to write, to create a piece of art from a blank page that has the power to resonate with others, then we have the ability to remove the obstacles in our way.  We only need to see them for what they are and to build upon our strength to know when it is the right time to cut them down, or to “kill our darlings” and revise.

The tree that once stood in our way, preventing my family from enjoying our summer space, year after year, was my own fault, despite its natural existence. Had I known it would be as easy as asking a board member to remove it, we could have enjoyed the outdoor freedom we love so much, and felt deprived of for so long, a lot sooner.

No point in blaming myself, or for any of us to blame ourselves or others.  It’s the direction we take now that matters. It does not need to be anything we did or didn’t do.  It’s what we do now that counts.

After all, they’re just trees in our way. And trees CAN be cut down.

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