Last week I was pruning the hollies on one side of the yard. We planted them in the fall of 2013 as evergreen, privacy trees between our property and one that is owned by a utility company. There’s always been a “much less-than-attractive” building on the acre next to ours, but a few years ago a BIG generator showed up as well. I sure do honor and appreciate the fact that we have all the luxuries we live with, but that generator is a real eyesore. In spite of being lovingly planted and fertilized, the hollies have had a rough start. By the first spring (2014) they lost almost all of their leaves. A landscaper said “they’re dead and need to be ripped out” but we persevered and by the end of the summer they looked magnificent. This year the same thing happened. When spring finally arrived, the trees again looked lifeless. Fortunately, they’re coming back to life but there are a LOT of branches that need to be removed. The pruning is a slow, tedious process but one that’s necessary so that the dead branches don’t sap the life from those branches struggling to grow. These hollies are fighting for their lives.
I know a woman who’s fighting for her life even though she’s not physically dying. She feels like she’s not “enough”: not good enough, not worthy enough, not necessary enough, not valuable enough. No one has verbalized, “you are not enough”, but she’s heard it “loud and clear” through all the other spoken (and unspoken) words that have attacked her spirit. She’s tried to share how she feels, but in spite of perfunctory head-nodding, she’s unheard. She’s trying to change who she is at the core to be okay with “not being enough”. She’s pruning away parts of herself because she believes she has to do that in order to survive. Most people would be shocked to know that she’s secretly falling apart. Let’s call this woman “Holly”.
I want to love Holly through this, but my care and words are obliterated by the crushing feeling of NOT ENOUGH. The overwhelming screaming in her head drowns out what I’m saying. She feels as if there’s “no point in talking” because what she says/thinks “doesn’t matter anyway”. I don’t believe that she really wants to live out her remaining years afraid to talk for fear of not being “heard”, but perhaps not being heard is more painful than being silent. She’s frightened in the dark more than ever. She’s afraid of being dismissed, unnecessary, without value. Holly believes that what matters most to her, doesn’t matter to those she loves. Sadly, the most profound heartache we feel is often inflicted by those we cherish most. That makes sense. Those are the people to whom we often give our “power”; we hand it over to others instead of trusting our own spirit or, more importantly, God. As Holly’s growing older, she’s “shrinking” and not in a physical way.
Holly isn’t afraid of dying, she’s afraid of living-
of being minimized and
of becoming silent because
her feelings don’t matter,
her words aren’t heard and
her efforts aren’t appreciated.
She sees herself through others’ eyes.
She’s alone in a world full of people.
Holly reminisces about who she “used to be”: strong, independent, respected, loved. Like most women “of a certain age” she’s self-created, she “grew herself”, pushed through glass ceilings, aspired to make a difference, worked hard to be loving and kind. Interestingly, her faith grows stronger as the way she sees herself grows weaker. This gives me hope; it lets me know that she hasn’t totally given up.
When I’m pruning the hollies- taking off a lot more than I’m leaving- every once in a while I get pricked by one the sharp leaves. It reminds me that there IS life left in that tree; that not ALL the leaves have died off. I think it’s the same for Holly. As she’s “pruning” away what she thinks she needs to get rid of in order to survive, every once in a while, she probably feels a little “prick” that reminds her of who she really is; a reality check if you will, a voice saying, “I’m here, don’t give up on me, don’t throw me away”.
Pruning the hollies is a very slow process. I suppose that’s how it is in life too. It takes time to really prune a tree, renovate a home, build a career, nurture a family, restore a relationship. When I’m done pruning each tree there’s a pile of branches and we take them away. I’ve thought about burning them in the fire pit- burning away what’s sapping the strength from my beautiful trees. Holly is trying to “burn away” what she’s pruning too, but what happens if what she’s lopping off is something she really needs?
I bet there are a lot more “Hollys” around than we know; people who put on brave faces in public but are dying inside. I remember a movie I saw years ago called “What Women Want”. In it Mel Gibson plays Nick, a guy who can read women’s minds. In one scene his young assistant feels like she has no value in the world and plans to commit suicide. Because he became “telepathically” aware of this he’s able to thwart her plan, but until then, no one really “noticed” her or was aware of how she felt. I’m sure there are a lot of folks walking around feeling hopeless. Maybe there’s a little “Holly” in all of us.
As I sit here writing this, I am struck by the sheer enormity of the “power” we have to impact others’ lives. I’m also aware of how often we worry more about what others think of us than we do about what WE think about ourselves.
What if we step back and “see”
what we have and what we risk losing?
What if we recognize and acknowledge
who and what’s most important to us?
What if we really look at those we care about
and really listen to what they’re saying- spoken and unspoken?
What if we choose to be change agents?
What if we send out a prayer for all the “Hollys” of our world?
Then, maybe one person at a time,
we create empathy,
which creates understanding,
which creates love,
which creates peace.
©2015 Peace Full Home/Intentional Living
p.s. from “The Checklist from Z to A”:
#17. Risk being transparent; how can you be “real”; whether that’s being brave enough to share how you feel or shouting from a mountain top what you believe?