Our area got clobbered by some pretty serious storms tonight--thankfully I had saved my work and turned off my computer before the power went out briefly. Watching through the front window, my dad said he saw a pine tree in the yard bent over at almost a 90 degree angle.
Wind that powerful should have splintered that tree, broken it in two, sent it crashing to the ground.
But it didn't.
What saved our pine tree wasn't necessarily its strength, but its flexibility.
I wondered whether a similar but inflexible tree would have survived that wind. Would the storm have broken the tree that couldn't adapt to the (temporary) harsh conditions?
I'm not a flexible person. If you alter my plans or habits, I freak. I don't like it. I like things in the same way, the same order, and any wind just totally uproots me (to continue the metaphor). The "winds" of life have previously either uprooted me entirely or snapped me in two and sent me crashing to the ground. When the going gets tough, the inflexible cling to their routines.
Our tree that bent and swayed in the wind didn't need to stay perfectly upright. It was able to "go with the flow," so to speak. And it stayed standing.
I can do the physical kind just fine, but the mental/emotional stuff? Not so much. And increasing my flexibility has been one of the hardest things to tackle in recovery. I don't expect that I will become a happy-go-lucky, chipper, impulsive type of person. That's not the point. To some extent, I like my inflexibility--or at least I recognize when it's useful and that it's not going anywhere.
There are, however, times when my inflexibility is not so useful. When I have "rules" that box in every aspect of my life: no sleeping until all my homework is done, no resting until I have done X amount of exercise, no eating until I have done X amount of exercise, no speaking up among strangers, no breaks while working. I could go on and on. These rules are irrational and occasionally irritating and they often keep me from being a fully happy, useful person. And when life stirs things up, these routines become utterly sacrosanct. The harder the wind blows, the more entrenched these rituals get.
We all have rituals that help us feel grounded and secure--I'm not talking about these. Those are more like the roots of a tree than an incapability to be flexible.
Trees that can bend don't break as much. They spring back. They recover. They don't shatter and they don't blow over and they end up just freaking fine.