• Christina Ketcham

Lessons in Tree Climbing

About a week ago, I felt my spirit make a request – climb a tree.

When that feeling came, I thought, “Maybe that will be a nice social distancing venture to make with someone.” My plans fell through but I’ve been thinking about it ever since, waiting for the right tree to just appear.

Today, despite some knee pain, I followed my feet through a park I don’t often go to and found it waiting for me: thick boughs, reachable holds, and casting brilliant shadows.

I looked around me, thinking there must be someone on guard to tell me I can’t climb a tree here, but saw only a woman quietly walking a way off. So, I began my urban rebellion of delighting in countryside child’s play (click here to read about why that’s important).

The tree itself was welcoming, I could feel it giving me a base and playing with me at the same time. It was an immensely gratifying feeling; familiar and so unifying.

While there are many benefits to climbing trees or even connecting with plant life, what I think this experience brought me was a way to reconnect with a great lesson my mom taught me that I feel will be useful to share now to help us all deal with the changes we are going through.

She grew up in El Salvador and her stories of childhood are always filled with escapades involving stealing mangos off of somebody’s tree.

When I was little, she would watch patiently as I joined the other kids on our family ranch to climb a guava tree.

I can remember the feel of that tree even now. It was my favorite. Its limbs were much spindlier than those of the tree I climbed today, but it was strong and flexible. Most importantly, I got the reward of a fresh guava if I could get to the right branch (nature has reward systems, too).

When I’d get stuck trying to come down, Mom would remind me that when you climb, you also have to know how you are going to get down.

Then she’d watch me work to find a new path.

This simple lesson has been one of the most important in my life.

It has led me to explore foreign cities solo, take on challenges that seemed unrealistic to some, and build a life out of learning to be my most true self.

You may read that and think, “Okay, so basically, make sure you have a Plan B,” but that’s not it.

It’s about really being present with yourself and trusting your ability to come back to what is important to you.

It’s about knowing your boundaries, strengths and weaknesses and honoring them during your decision-making process.

What are you willing to do to get down?

What are you willing to risk?

What part of yourself do you want to challenge?

What are your priorities?

I’ve found that a self assessment of this sort is essential to getting through almost any change or challenge in a positive way.

However, it’s not always easy to do.

Seeing yourself without judgement and with real acceptance is a skill. It can be scary and triggering to put into practice, but it’s necessary and worth it in the process of making positive change.

It will take time and mistakes to learn which branches are safe, which are beyond you, and which will lead you to where you want to go.

My challenge to you today is for you to bring this awareness into a choice you are trying to make right now, no matter how small, and notice how you respond within yourself.

Make sure you know how you are going to get down from that tree, and then go get that metaphorical guava!

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