Lean In or Bend and Flow?

Could Life’s Perfect Formula Be Mirrored By Trees? 

The wind picked up during my morning walk and I noticed a sudden shift in the air. As I looked around I could see the palm trees swaying and bowing as the wind slapped at their branches. The mighty oaks seemed to lean in deliberately taunting the wind as it challenged their aged sturdy canopy. Living in Florida we often see heavy winds, hurricanes and an occasional tornado. After the storms pass the debris can be seen for miles. Isn’t this just an analogy for our life? We hit a rough patch, a Tsunami of sorts, we get hurt, broken and the debris of our lives spreads out for months and sometimes decades.  

Is it better to be like a palm tree or an oak?  Turns out a palm tree is more like a flowering plant, a monocot. The center is made up of cells, a watery flexible sheath like substance which allows for nearly a 90 degree bend. At the base is a root ball system that teeters and tauter’s with pliable roots that rebuild after a storm.  The oak on the other hand is a dicot, a heavily rooted hardwood, which grows massive roots and elaborate canopy systems providing shade and light to pass through similar to an umbrella. I love Oaks, they are confident and respected, but I am not sure I want to be like one when the storms of life hit.

Growing up I would have sworn that the sturdier and tougher you were the better chances you had to weather the storms. As they say, the older you get the more you know. There are powerful forces and seasons in life that require flexibility rather than rigidity. In some cases you must bend or you will break under the pressure. The palm tree’s greatest strength lies in their ability to be pliable when storms come and to regrow and rebuild when they pass. The oak can dig deep, cling on and grow to a massive girth, yet if pushed too hard the tree will uproot and fall.

The winds of change are ever present and my first inclination is always to lean in, pull from my roots and hold steadfast. But life has a way of teaching us lessons and sometimes we learn by toppling over leaving a wake of mass destruction with an empty hole left for weeds to fill. I will never forget one poignant message a friend of mine shared after her husband had passed away. Her biggest regret was that she spent her time scurrying around researching, trying to solve the problem and getting multiple opinions for the cancer that was eating away at her husband. In the end, she had wished she had just been still, sat with him and honored the time they had left together.

When the storms of life hit you, I think the perfect formula may be to rely on your roots, turn to God for comfort and gracefully sway, bow and dance so you can be the thing left standing when the sun shines again.

Jodi Cross is a marketing consultant, speaker and writer and can be reached at jcross@crossnm.com.