This post was written for inclusion in the I Love Me! Carnival hosted by Amy at Anktangle. This carnival is all about love of self, challenging you to lift yourself up, just for being you.
Please read to the bottom to find a list of submissions from the other carnival participants.
This metaphor of the body/mind unit being a tree has helped me greatly to accept—embrace, even!—the changes that have occurred (and will continue) in my body and mind over time.
Take a moment to picture a brand new baby tree: its tiny roots are barely beginning to grasp the soil, its leaves are delicate and small, its twig-like trunk is thin and spindly. A sapling undergoes relatively rapid and dramatic growth in its early years (just like a baby human), transforming from a mere seed to a tall and proud young tree. Some saplings need tender care and shelter for their roots to take hold, and others grow tall and strong in the most unlikely of places, seemingly out of nowhere and with no regard to their (sometimes extremely unfriendly and unwelcoming) surroundings.
As a tree ages (reaches adulthood), its growth begins to slow. It becomes mature enough to perhaps flower and bear fruit or at least to drop seeds of some kind onto the ground in an effort to reproduce. The trunk of the tree gets thicker and stronger. Its roots grow deeper and its branches stretch out wider, soaking in more and more energy from the sun.
The oldest of the trees seem not to grow or change much at all from day to day or month to month, but over a long period of time there is still considerable growth. I think these changes are sometimes overlooked in nature, though in human nature, they are often seen as negatives.
It's a common misconception (perpetuated by society) that we stop changing and growing after a certain point. I had a conversation recently which reminded me that this mindset is incredibly pervasive. If I felt that once our bodies are fully grown, we're done changing, I think it would be very difficult for me to be able to change my mind. I find that this assumption goes for both body and mind: that our bodies should look like that of an 18-year-old model until one day we suddenly become elderly, and that our minds become unyielding and "set in our ways" once we reach a certain age, unable to bend or expand (or even learn new things) at all past that point.
I believe these ideas to be a fallacy. There is nothing stagnant about our bodies and minds. Our consciousness only stops changing if we let it. Our bodies are constantly (literally) rebuilding themselves, replacing cells that have died or become injured. We also know now that even some types of brain cells can regenerate. Beyond that, it would be downright unnatural for our bodies to get stuck in one juvenile stage of development or another.
What's so bad about growth and change, anyway? One definition of growth (from Merriam-Webster) is simply, progressive development. There is a progression throughout life of our bodies developing, changing, and adapting so as best to serve us (functionally) in whatever stage of life we're experiencing at the moment.
For example, in my present stage my body is doing great service to another being. I grew a whole human person in my body, and it (perfectly!) stretched and expanded to allow him room to grow. And then it opened and stretched in new and different ways to provide him a safe and gentle passage into this world. As it returns to its non-pregnant state, I still feed this little person with my body as it shifts and settles into a new state of being. My breasts swelled up (quite large) with milk, and now they are closer to their former size, though forever changed from breastfeeding. They are changed (in part) because my breasts weren't fully mature before they were able to produce milk.
Smiles and scowls both leave lines on our faces. None of us (hopefully) will leave this world with a young, unused body. The biggest, oldest, most gnarly trees are often the most admired. I want to celebrate the evidence in my body of living my life.
A while back, I saw this clip of Eve Ensler (writer of The Vagina Monologues and creator of V Day) which illustrates another facet of this tree metaphor that I've also been considering a lot lately:
We are all unique and beautiful beings in our own individual ways. Imagine a landscape with only one species of tree—it would get pretty boring looking at that same one all the time, right? Now imagine that there's only one species of tree and we've cloned it, so all you ever get to see are exact replicas of the same tree...over and over and over. Ugh!
I prefer my landscape full of a variety of trees, each in her own stage of growth and development, each celebrating this stage she's in. And each one content in knowing that another equally beautiful and important stage of growth will follow this one.
The fact is, I feel like in a lot of ways I'm still at the very beginning of this journey called life. My mind, my consciousness, and my body are ever-changing. I am not stagnant; I don't ever plan to be.
And I love my tree.
I challenge you, fellow inhabitant of this gorgeous landscape:
Allow yourself to grow.
Embrace your changes as they come.
And most of all, remember to love your tree.
Thank you for reading this post from the I Love Me! Carnival. Please take some time to read the contributions from the other carnival participants:
(This list will be updated by the afternoon of October 28th with all the carnival links.)