A Shoulder To Lean On

A few months ago, I wrote this article, inspired by a tree (see the linked article for an image of the tree) my father saw on a family friend’s extensive, gorgeous property. His house is edged up on a lake, surrounded by acres and acres and acres of trees, wooden cabins, wildlife, natural creeks, and old beaten paths. Nature at its best. But one tree stands out. A short hike from our friend’s house stands a tree, that our friend introduced my father to months ago. He photographed it to send to me, as inspiration for my writing. The trees long trunk is lying on the ground, as dead trees often do, but it’s trunk then takes a wild turn upwards, growing towards the sky. I took one lesson then, about anti-Semitism, and the ability to get back up when everyone else believes you’re at death’s door.
Today, home for the week of Passover, I went with my brothers and father to see the tree for myself. As I laid my eyes on it, as we stood around it and took in its grandeur, I learned another lesson from this tree.
You see, this tree is huge and old, and strong. It beat the odds, it is impressive and beautiful, and even still has buds on its highest branches. But as it soars to the sky, it leans against another tree right next to it, inching past it in height, but clearly reliant on the other trees strength for survival.
I’m studying psychology and counseling at the moment, with a goal to one-day practice as a therapist, g-d willing. Each day, I learn more about the intricacies of the human brain, the fragility of it, and the impossible tenacity of the human spirit. We, as humans, can endure incredible pain, and still come through. It’s true.
As we climb through a crisis, beaten and bruised, we come through stronger, somehow. We fold back into our lives with more wisdom, more depth, more beauty. It’s easy to credit ourselves, and it’s easy to believe we can do it, all on our own.
Because we can.
But do we have to?
When I study psychology, about the various disorders, about the ups and downs of the human experience, I ache with the desire to have all the knowledge already. I just want to know how to help, how to have the answers, how to be there for people and be able to guide them through their life.
Today, as I looked at the tree, I realized that I am training to be that tree. That supporting tree, the tree that is simply there to help another tree stand. I realized that I, myself, have quite a few trees just like that, supporting me.
And I realized that it doesn’t make the tree less impressive, needing to lean on its friend, it only makes the scene that much more moving, that much more impressive, to see one tree standing strong, helping another tree soar.
How often, as humans, do we just want to be able to take care of ourselves? How often do we resist leaning on others for support, at the risk that we will look weak, or tired, or incapable?
As a future therapist, I hope that I can be the strongest supporting tree possible. That every client that walks through my doors can lean on me, and soar.
And I can learn to look at my support around me, and recognize them for what they are. We all need each other, and we all can be the support that someone else needs to climb a little higher.
That tree would die without its friend. As impressive as it is, it needs support to thrive.
Humans aren’t all that different.
So if you have a working shoulder, stretch it out for someone to lean on.
And if you’re a little tired, and your shoulders are drooping, I’ve got a shoulder that I’m willing to share, and I think you’d be surprised to discover how many shoulders are surrounding you, waiting and ready to share the load.
So far, this tree, this incredible, beautiful, stoic tree has taught me a lot. In the words of our friend, who stood there with us: “You can learn a whole lot from trees.”
It’s true. Oh, is it true.

7/52

(P.S: Due to the busy week prior to Passover, and the start of Passover, I did miss a week of writing! The good news is, I got to spend the time with my family, who are all home for the holiday, and they’re some of the strongest shoulders I’ve got.)

Photo by Neil Thomas on Unsplash

2 comments

  1. What a lovely metaphor for therapy. The Jewish holiday of the Trees–Tu B-shvat–celebrates this concept.- “A person is like the tree of a field…” (Deut. 20:19) I also like the saying from Ethics of the Fathers that the tree roots represent our good deeds which is stronger than acquired wisdom represented by the branches and leaves. When the strong wind blows, the firmly rooted tree remains standing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Evelyn! For some reason, this comment only reached me now, and I’m not sure why :(. Thank you so much for your thoughts, and adding the perspective from Pirkei Avot. It certainly adds a dimension to my view of this tree. What we can learn from this tree (and nature in general!) is truly endless!

      Like

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