When I was younger, I used to think that hardship and emotion showed a sign of weakness. That smaller, shorter, thinner-skinned Bryan was just always going to always be “Crying Bryan”. It stung to get bullied and it was tough to see others feel hurt. What I realize now is that those difficulties were toughening up my outer layer like the bark on a tree, each event and year adding a ring of experience and strength. I realize that those layers are how I got through losing my dad and Clayton in the same year. Knowing I could handle the now and mourn it later meant I could stand strong through that terminally tough time. It sounds strange but I hold space and gratitude for the early grief. I continue to grow.
Its not always the biggest trees with the biggest branches that stand strong after a heartbreak hurricane. Even the thin weak looking weeping willow holds it’s own. Rough roots take anchor in the wet ground the willow finds itself stable in. Its treetop tears stream down its bowing branches ever repeating the cycle of self-care watering. Sharp winds try to tear it down but the flexible boughs ignore the environmental attempted insults. The most amazing thing is willow branches that break off can regenerate into a new tree spreading the same wooded wisdom.
I could try and pretend to be a tall strong sequoia but I stand as who I am – The Widowed Willow. Deceiving in size, the widowed willow still provides protection and offers others comfort with sorrowful sap symbolically abundant with emotional aspirin. I used to worry so much about the future, “whys” and “what ifs”. I used to be the “worry willow” but my dad used to say “big things come in small packages”. He’d always assure me that there was no need to worry about what hasn’t happened. He’d respond that worrying about something that might not happen was a waste of time and to “take it one day at a time.” So often I ignored Wayne’s wisdom but now I see that tough love was dad pouring nutrient rich dirt.
So I embrace the earth I find myself in. I might not be the tallest. I might not have the strongest branches or the deepest roots but I am the widowed willow and I’m still standing here showing others they can grow through grief…