In the summer the tree grows heart-shaped leaves. I kid you not - heart-shaped. In the fall it forms seed pods. They rustle in the wind all through the winter, dropping off one by one, making the coolest rattling noise I've ever heard. If I'd been a pioneer on the Midwestern prairie I would've used those pods to keep my babies happy.
So you get it. I freakin love these trees. Some ladies love rosebushes. I love Redbuds...ahhhhh Cercis canadensis....my form of roses.
Naturally, when I saw these thorns all over my Redbud, I wigged the frick out. I didn't want thorns all over my tree...what was this crap? Did some crazy vine start growing on it? Was it sick? Did I do something to the soil on accident? Was I overzealous or neglectful with my spring cleaning? Maybe I got the roots? How could my beautiful, most favorite tree become coated in thorns? I was on the brink of pure plant hysteria, people.
I decided to woman up and investigate. I reached out, tugged on a precious heart-shaped leaf, and pulled a branch down toward me, gently, trying to get a better look at the thorns. They grew funny - not in a row or pattern, but more like clusters? No green under them....that's weird. So not some crazy creeping thorny vine. I slowly stuck out my index finger and floated it toward the thorns, wanting to test out the prick factor. Maybe they were those soft thorns ... there's such thing as soft thorns, right? Absolutely. So yes. Let's see if these are the soft variety.
Huh. I checked out my finger. Nothing. No mark, didn't hurt at all. In fact, everything was hunky-dory until I turned my attention back to the tree. I looked for the thorn...and it wasn't in the same place anymore. It'd moved. The thorn moved. Ah, there it is. I poked it again. It moved away from my finger. The thorn was walking.
For the record, I do not drop acid.
I stood there, gaping at the tree for a minute, seeing the thorns now not only on branches but also leaves. I'd lived here for 3 entire years, how could I have not noticed the trippy moving thorns all over my favorite tree? And I realized....all those thorns? The clusters of them? The random appearance? All characteristics of not a tree illness, not an invasive plant, not some caretaking mistake on my part.....but an innocent little bug, cleverly disguised as a thorn to fool predators and Jens across the world.
It was my perception that was off....a perception developed over time, using my senses and past experiences. The thorns I've met in the past have all been huge a-holes, snaggin my clothes, scratching my skin, and generally just being evil. I saw these cute lil bugs and immediately assumed the worst. I immediately thought I'd done something to cause them. I immediately registered loss. How sad, don't you think, that I couldn't even find it in my heart to investigate before I allowed myself to be consumed with these negative thoughts?
A number of people I love have experienced life-changing events as of late. Some of these events centered around relationships, others around jobs, some around health, and still others around family and friendships. Each struggle is different, but I noticed a common thread: in each situation, the person I love felt devastated and bad about themselves. They blamed themselves in one form or another...wondered what they could've done better, what they could've said differently, how they could've made themselves more desired, more healthy, more loved. They wondered how they would recover as days ticked by, blind anger wore off, and reality set in.
We've all been there.
The first thing I do when something goes wrong is get super pissed and reactive (omg THORNS on my TREE?? not my tree!!). The second thing I do is blame myself.
Now in some circumstances, I really do mess up and self-chastising is warranted. Sometimes I'm a real B and I say and do things that aren't right. But more often than not, after sitting down and
Ain't nuthin' any one of us can do 'bout life.
Sometimes things don't turn out the way we expect them to. In all my adventures and heartaches, I've found the most painful experiences are actually blessings in disguise. They test my strength. They force me to define my spirit. They humble me.
And sometimes, while I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop and for life as I know it to just end, I realize there is no grand finale of viciousness. The brutality is all in my head, imagined up by fear and the past and stale resentment. Look at the spoon, Neo. There is no spoon. Look at the thorns, Jen. There are no thorns. Bret Michaels was wrong.
Redbud trees = Jen's roses
Redbud's thorns = not real thorns
EVERY rose ≠ thorns
Life has a funny way of surprising you. Who knew I'd one day never be able to trust an old rocker dude with a bandanna permanently glued to his head?
These surprises contribute to the flavor of life...that delicious combination of diversity and balance, good with bad, blessings with heartache. I love that each of our stories twist and turn like the well-worn pages of an old paperback. I could do without the pain, of course. And the fear. But you know, on this, the eve of my nation's independence, I find myself acknowledging a powerful trait we all-too-often take for granted....freedom. We are free...free to be ourselves. Free to change our thoughts and perspective. Free to choose ourselves, our happiness, our joy. Free from the restraints of whatever sorrows we're experiencing. We're free....today, tomorrow, any day we want. We may not have the power to change life's surprises...but we do have the power to draw life from them. Gulp the liquid of life down, swallow your bitter pills, and take another sip. Be thirsty for more.
To the readers and loves in my life who are struggling with bitter pills.....life's too short. Swallow it. Wallow in the taste for a bit if you want. It's ok if you don't like it. Make a weird face. Then take another sip. Your life flows freely. Pursue whatever current you want. Choose whatever flow suits you. Soak it up.
And as always, thank you so much for reading.