Friday, October 28, 2011

Love Your Tree

Welcome to the I Love Me! Carnival!

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.

For over a year now, trees have been overwhelming the imagery in my mind. I can't stop thinking of all the ways that the living things in nature, and trees in particular, reflect the changes and growth that happen in the human mind and body.

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.

Deciduous trees even go through seasonal changes, like a woman's body does throughout the weeks of her cycle. Autumn marks the shedding of old growth, Winter the rest and regrouping period, Spring the fertile time, and Summer the fullness of new growth.

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.

Like trees, if we get injured (literally or figuratively) a scar will remain. There will also be new growth to heal the area, and sometimes even an adaptation to prevent that same injury from happening again. We may not have wanted this change (growth) to happen, but happen it did, and all we can do is grieve (perhaps) and then slowly move forward. The beauty in these painful times is that we are given the opportunity to continue on, even when it might not look like the road we thought we were on when we started out. Though it can be hard to see from close up, there's incredibly profound beauty in the marks we bear from these moments in our lives. They can be sad, and they can also be empowering.

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.)

  • The Art of Being Thoughtful – Becky at Old New Legacy likes that she is mostly thoughtful but wants to become more thoughtful. She shares a story that demonstrates that giving gifts doesn't have to be expensive.
  • I love me (and running)! – Sheryl of Little Snowflakes writes about her new love of running and how it has helped her learn to love herself!
  • For the Love of Moe – Valerie at Momma in Progress shares her thoughts on a body forever changed, but forever loved.
  • Where I Find My Worth – Sarah at Parenting God's Children shares how finding her worth in worldly things always falls short.
  • Oh Yeah, I'm Cool – Tree at Mom Grooves shares her very favorite gift and the thing she most wants to pass on to her daughter.
  • Loving – Rosemary at Rosmarinus Officinalis talks about some of the things she loves about herself - some easily, and some by choice for the sake of healing.
  • caught in a landslide – jaqbuncad of wakey wakey, eggs and bakey! shares a list of reasons why zie loves hir body.
  • I Love Me! - A Rampage of Appreciation! – Terri at Child of the Nature Isle stops waiting for anyone else to tell her she is wonderful and goes on a rampage of appreciation for herself!
  • Raising Healthy Daughters – In a guest post at Natural Parents Network, Kate Wicker offers tips to pass on a healthy self-image to the young ladies in our care.
  • Unexpected Benefits of a Healthy Pregnancy – How does it feel to have a healthy pregnancy? Dionna at Code Name: Mama discovers that making positive choices can be empowering.
  • Filling Up Our Watering Cans – Nada at miniMOMist believes that practicing Sabbath is the same as being a gardener who lovingly tends to the flowers in her garden. She needs to fill up her watering can first.
  • Better Body by Baby – Jess from Mama 'Roo and Family Too! shares how having her first baby makes her feel even more beautiful and confident about her body than ever before.
  • These Breasts Were Made for Nursing – Becoming a mother helped Mandy from Living Peacefully with Children to embrace her womanhood and improve her self image.
  • Yeah, I'm Pretty Cool – Amanda at Let's Take the Metro writes about her own self love and how she hopes to foster the same self-respect in her children.
  • Who I've Become – The future is bright with That Mama Gretchen who shares her past and present perspective on body image and how she hopes to become a change agent with her daughter.
  • Ever-Evolving Me – Joella at Fine and Fair writes to her daughter about her innate drive to continue learning, growing, and evolving.
  • I love you for your mind – Lauren at Hobo Mama turns a dubious phrase on its head with a little self-loving slam poetry.
  • Stop Think of Love with Your Body – Amy of Peace 4 Parents shares an exercise to gradually transition from hating to loving your body - stretch marks, sags, imperfections, and all.
  • I Love Me! – Jenny @ I'm a full-time mummy shares the things that she loves about herself!
  • First, I'm Superwoman. Later, I'm SupperwomanPatti @ Jazzy Mama explains how she loves taking care of her amazing body. It birthed 4 children, after all!
  • Baby Strikes A Pose – Emma from Your Fonder Heart writes about her family's decision not to let their 7 month old model, and uses the opportunity to think more deeply about girls (young and old) and how they determine their self-worth.
  • Love Your Tree – How do you picture the ways your body and mind change? Amy at Anktangle writes about how trees help her have perspective about her own growth over time.
  • Pumpkin Butt – Zoie at TouchstoneZ writes about how birth and pumpkins are the way to accepting her body
  • I do love me – Shannon at Pineapples & Artichokes talks about the lessons about loving herself she wants to pass along to her daughter.
  • Appreciating Who I Am – Linni at An Unschooling Adventure describes the things she likes about herself and the way she appreciates who she is as a person.
  • I love me! : A journey – Christine at African Babies Don't Cry shares her journey on arriving at the point where she can say: I love me!
  • My Daughter Doesn't Care So Why Should I? – Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama calls herself on the carpet for the image of self love and beauty she portrays in front of her toddler.
  • Finding out who I am – Melissa at Vibrant Wanderings shares an exercise that helped her identify positive qualities she possesses, and how that has helped her learn to love herself.


  1. I saw that Eve Ensler clip for the first time early in this pregnancy and *loved* it (and cried, and just cried again when I re-watched it). It is a wonderful metaphor.
    When I reached motherhood, I gained a whole new appreciation for my body - definitely at it's most "imperfect" (in society's eyes) after I gave birth, but so much more miraculous and beautiful to me and my husband because of what it had been capable of. I wish I could share that wonder with every young woman locked in a cycle of self-loathing because of how she has been taught to view herself.
    Thank you for a great carnival! I'm looking forward to reading more posts.

  2. Thank you for this thoughtful, flowing journey of a post, Amy! I love the metaphor of a tree and this example (and the video) illustrate its use in loving the body very well.

    It is interesting that our perceptions are based on some -idea- of what is beautiful. I appreciate that in some cultures, reverence of the body as is determines what is beautiful and I am glad to be in friendship with others who feel the same.

    I also want to add that I appreciate this challenge and I accept. :)

    "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."

  3. What a fitting metaphor, Amy. I'm honestly almost moved to tears by this beautifully crafted post and your challenge, and feeling ready to accept and love my own "tree" that much more. Change has been on my mind quite a lot lately, and I have been finding myself caught up in the sort of nostalgia that makes it hard to be fully present in the here and now. This is such a beautiful reminder of the inevitability, and the wonder of change. I am refreshed. Thank you!

  4. I love this post — so many things to think about! I've been thinking lately of how long adulthood is compared with childhood. It's a good thing we keep growing and changing even after reaching adulthood, then, isn't it? Your tree metaphor is so apt, and gives me a lot to consider as I'm learning to love my body for the stage it's in now.

    I also love that Eve Ensler clip — what a wise woman she met.

    Thank you so much for hosting this carnival, Amy! It is a wonderful and absolutely needed celebration.

  5. Beautiful post, Amy. I really enjoyed the imagery.

    I am so bummed. I have a post for this carnival, but I totally missed the part about submitting it to you by the 21st! Booh. I just had the date of the 28th in my mind and kept thinking I needed to post it by then. Next time, I suppose.

  6. Absolutely beautiful post, and I love the metaphor. Thank you for this, and thank you for this carnival. I am enjoying reading all the posts :)

  7. Beautiful metaphor, and it became very real for me as I read the words you so seamlessly wove together.

    Thanks for hosting this carnival. How can any of us have an "ugly" day after reading our way through all of these empowering posts?

  8. That's an excellent metaphor. I never really thought about the comparison of a tree to our body. Food for thought.

    Thank you for hosting the carnival. It's been a beautiful experience.

  9. Such a beautiful post! And a lovely metaphor.

    Thank you again for hosting this carnival. I've just loved reading all of these inspirational and empowering posts.

  10. I always adore your writing and this post is no exception. The imagery is poetic, profound, and raw. The journey you outline resonates deeply. I have always held the tree of life deep in my heart. Without each piece of the tree, flawed or perfect alike, I would not be who I am. Thank you for this beautiful post and thank you for hostessing such an important Carnival.

  11. Greetings from Malaysia! Hopping in from the carnival!

    Wow! That was a beautiful metaphor! And yes, we should not stop growing!

    Have a nice day!

    ~ Jenny ( )

  12. I love trees. My name is "tree" and this post has given me the tool to really get into whatever comes with age. Seriously, I love the metaphor and how you use it here.
    I almost didn't take the time to watch the clip but I'm so glad I did. I love it!
    I love every single thing you said here. It's amazing.

  13. Thank you for this beautiful post! It is a wonderful reminder to appreciate myself more.


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