I Am Shirley

Rule #146: Hang on to the roots you’ve grown.

Do you name your trees? Tell me I’m not alone in this. We all should have a tree that we name and converse with occasionally. They make the very best of friends, trust me. I named this gorgeous number Shirley MacLaine the Sycamore Tree. I love alliteration, so the fact that she’s a Sycamore meant she had to start with an S. (Yes, yes. I know. “Sh” and “S” are not the same sound. Back off, Janice.) Shirley MacLaine is the sassy, classy, smart-assy kinda gal that I would always welcome in my yard. So, here she sits! Shirley MacLaine the Sycamore Tree. And I am Shirley.

Shirley MacClaine the Sycamore Tree on the day she was planted: 9/12/2020.

Today marks 6 years since we lost my brother in a motorcycle accident. He was at his prime: senior in college, living with his amazing friends, and planning to travel to Japan to teach English after graduating. I was 8 months pregnant with Corey when we got the news. It shook me to my core, and honestly still does to this day. After losing my dad 3 years before, I thought I’d never experience a pain so cutting. I was wrong.

Like Shirley MacClaine the Sycamore Tree, I am growing. I’m a work-in-progress. I’m establishing my roots still, but I need supports while I grow and heal. Some supports can be like the stick in the picture above, or tie downs like the picture below.

Then, sometimes, you need an even stronger support. You need someone (or something) that will rush into a terrible storm to stand by your side and prop you up so you don’t bend so far that you’re broken. Jon Boy is absolutely one of those supports for me. He along with the most amazing family and group of friends there are have held me up and gotten me through my very darkest times. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I don’t deserve them. Having people who rush into the storm with me will forever be one of God’s greatest gifts.

Just like a growing tree like ole Shirley, sometimes you’ve got to get rid of the old things that used to support you, yet now are holding you back. You have to exchange them for ones that support you in your current phase of growth. Old supports break down; that’s not a bad thing. It’s part of the growth process. But, it’s important that if a support (be it a person, habit, expectation of yourself, etc.) is no longer helping you grow, then you cut it out of your life. As my favorite Peloton instructor, Jess Sims, says, “Be very careful who you give your positive energy to.”

The roots you’ve grown (and earned) over time are the things that ultimately give you a solid foundation. It’s your job to make sure you keep growing those roots in healthy soil, using the God-given rain and sunshine to nourish you. Keep in mind that the supports in your life are secondary. It’s also not their job to get you to grow. That’s yours. So, take care of your little ole tree that you’ve been given.

One of the most important ways I care for my little tree is to put my mental health first. About a year ago, I was diagnosed with PTSD following the deaths of my dad (2012) and brother (2015). There were other incidents that contributed to the diagnosis, but those are the two top factors. When my therapist said,”PTSD,” it was kind of a gut punch, but I worked with her to develop good tools. I even got off my anxiety meds during lockdown in 2020. Then, a while back, out of no where, I had a horrible panic attack. I was in the parking lot at Corey’s soccer game trying to keep Brooke content until Jon and Corey arrived after the earlier baseball game. To say this major smack of anxiety caught me off guard would be a ridiculous understatement. I’d been good for so long and then, BAM. Sorry, old sport. You’re back to square one.

To say that having anxiety is a case of nerves is akin to saying a heart attack is nothing more than a rough hiccup. Anxiety is completely debilitating. It takes over your entire body, and quite literally, sends you into a fight or flight response. It’s chemicals telling your brain to basically freak out and run. And, most of the time, it’s really difficult to explain or pinpoint what’s causing those emotions when to everyone else, everything is fine. Your breath quickens. Your hands get sweaty. You get tunnel vision. Most folks have some kind of tummy issue, too (I tend to go for the puke option). I’m explaining it in this way because it’s the honest truth. It’s the reality so many folks live with and never can quite feel comfortable telling someone else about.

With that said, I have been very lucky to have people around me who understand not only my anxiety but anxiety in general. It’s a difficult thing to “get” if you haven’t experienced it yourself. I’m hoping that if you’re reading this and don’t have those lovely supports for your gorgeous tree that you seek that help. My supports have been my husband, friends, and family but also therapy and medication. It’s what has helped me to get through the days when I feel like giving up and allowing my grief to consume my entire being.

So, I’m going to hold onto my roots, relish the supports that help guide and lift me up daily, and drink in the God-given rain and sunshine that I so often take for granted. I may not be the most perfectly gorgeous tree. I will definitely have some funky leaves and a misshapen trunk. I may even have a bird who makes a little nest on my prettiest branch and poops all over me. Them’s the breaks sometimes. At least I know I’m in good company with Shirley MacLaine the Sycamore Tree.

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