Some time ago I was admiring the trees in my neighborhood while taking my morning stroll.
The lush greens were on a vibrant display on that beautiful Spring day.
That’s when I saw something…. off.
Amid the bushy leaves of one tree was a big patch of lifeless, dead leaves. I was surprised because, with the exception of the patch of brown leaves among the lush greens, the tree seemed relatively healthy.
Upon closer inspection, I noticed that this small branch was injured. It was still attached to the rest of the tree – but just barely. It had been kinked – but not entirely broken. Just detached enough that it was cut off from its source of nourishment.
The branch was still clinging to the trunk – but branches aren’t supposed to cling. There’s a subtext within the word “cling” that conveys a certain struggle. There’s a fight to the attachment – a desperate desire to keep connected, even though there are forces trying to pull apart.
There are times in our life when clinging is (or at least seems) necessary.
Struggle isn’t a bad thing. It can make us stronger. It can teach us. It can get us through a bad spell. But we aren’t meant to struggle forever. Our default is connection, wholeness, and life.
This got me thinking:
Do you find yourself ever walking through life with a clinging, dead branch?
You may not even be aware of it.
As a Movement Therapist, I’m very aware of the subconscious tension patterns that give people their own “broken, clinging branch.” I see the parts of people that have been “cut off” from an otherwise vibrant body. I don’t do it consciously, but I’m often drawn to the brown patches in a sea of otherwise healthy green.
I see it in the tightness of the shoulders or neck, or in the inability to release the ribs and breathe fully. I see it in a slightly off gait pattern. I see it in the constantly furrowed brow. I see it in my own body. I see it on others. All of us, at one time or another, are like that tree: Mostly alive, but with our own patches of brown.
But what happens when you neglect that dead patch? How does it affect the whole?
Your physical body provides just one manifestation of this phenomenon. Our emotions, mental health, interests, and desires can also suffer from a clinging, broken branch.
Since becoming a mom more than 6 years ago I felt like my “mom branch” grew so fast that it shoved some of my other branches out of the way. My “sleep branch” nearly died. My “fun branch” was desperately looking for a lifeline. My “community branch” was begging for attention.
The struggle was — and still is — real.
And that’s okay for a time. Motherhood is hard and rewarding. All parents know that those first tender years pass fast. Some of my “non-mom” branches have been patiently waiting for their time to get some more sunlight. Some of them are a bit bruised and broken. They are clinging on for dear life.
I’ve been in the process of unkinking my own tangles – both physically and figuratively.
Whether your a parent or not, you probably know what it feels like to neglect parts of yourself.
Maybe you’re intensely focused on your business and your health branch is starting to fade. Maybe you’re worried so much about your health that your community branch is turning brown. Maybe you forgot you even had a fun branch! Life requires us to address our most pressing needs and sometimes that means we lose small but essential parts of ourselves.
Reconnecting and integrating all your meaningful parts can be done. It needs to be done. It requires presence, patience, and mindfulness. It requires a willingness to step back and see the whole of you – and to acknowledge those parts that are feeling left out.
Some things will always require more time or attention. You don’t have to be all things at once. But you do need to step back and see the bigger picture of who you want to be.
Do you want one single branch to define your life?
Do you want to walk around with a sea of brown dragging you down?
Or do you want to find a way to reconnect, nourish wholeness, and find that crazy ideal we call “balance”?
Balance requires awareness of your core of values.
Core values are like a healthy trunk – all your branches should spring from them. For me, core values like community, honesty, compassion, humor, fun, meditation, and education help me keep better track of the many facets of my life. They also provide a simple map for me to take inventory when I feel off.
Where do you draw your life nourishment?
What connects you?
What kind of life do you want to lead?
What kind of person do you want to be?
What matters most to you?
Write those things down and see if there are any clinging parts of you who need to soak up the nourishment of those values.
Sometimes it’s painful to see those dead brown patches and realize there is work to do. But sometimes it’s an exquisite experience of unveiling something so familiar and comfortable – and simultaneously something passionately new and beautiful.
The process of reconnecting is one of our incredible superpowers. So take a look at yourself. Are there parts of you clinging to stay connected? Give your attention to those areas of your life and nourish yourself back to wholeness.