"Traditions touch us, they connect us, and they expand us."- Rita Barreto Craig
I was having a phone conversation with a good friend the other day. She and her boys had just come from a tree farm, where they cut down their own Christmas tree and brought it home to decorate. I had heard stories of other people doing this, and had wanted to do it for a long time now, but never did for whatever reason. Not enough time was my likely excuse. It was just easier to go to the nearest pop up tree stand and pick a tree that was pre-cut, even though it was likely less fresh and overpriced. But this year I was ready and excited to receive the idea. After all, with a new partner and a new baby, it would be fun to do something different. We were able to coordinate so all the older kids could come as well, and I was really excited to be implementing what, if all went well, could be the start of a family tradition.
I warned the kids we would be getting up early the next morning, so to plan accordingly. It was a weekend, which, in my house, means they are both staying up and sleeping in too late. However, it was an hour drive to the tree farm and if we didn't get there as soon as they opened, I was sure it would get more crowded than my COVID cares could handle. We managed to be out the door on time the next morning and excited to get the tree. However, it wasn't long before the baby decided she'd rather not be in the carseat, and the older kids who were attempting to go back to sleep were getting annoyed by the whining. Once we arrived, we had no idea where to go, the baby was crying because she didn't like the wind, or the cold, or the sun in her eyes. The bigs wanted a reminder of why we had to come all this way for a tree instead of getting one from the place we always got our tree from. I wondered why I bothered to try something new.
We finally found someone who directed us to the tractor that would take us to the area where we would choose and cut down our tree. Once we arrived, the tree farmer handed us a couple saws, told us which trees we could choose from, and cut us loose. We wandered around a bit, the children arguing over which tree was best, before finally settling on a 9 foot Murray Cypress. We went to work, each one of us taking turns furiously sawing into the tree, hoping to be the one to make some significant progress, only to quickly tire and pass the saw to the next person to let them wear themselves out. We thought up different strategies but, in the end, the only thing that truly worked to topple the tree was focused, consistent progress. We rested when we needed to, then continued on the path to reaching our ultimate goal. And there is no question that the satisfaction that tree brought when it came crashing down made all the struggle leading up to that moment well worth it.
The tractor drove us back to the main area where we had parked, and we were able to see the farm in al its glory. Trees were everywhere, in different phases of maturity. As this season's trees completed their cycle, more would be ready for next year, while others were newly planted. Each was magnificent in its own right, regardless of its stage of growth. I couldn't help compare the day, with all its ups and downs, highs and lows, to the self-care journey. We are often excited to start to develop a new habit, to start a new routine of healthy eating or daily meditation. We quickly discover that the romanticized version of what it will take to create a consistent tradition of self-care is a far cry from the actual struggle, slight progress, desire to quit, and recommittal cycle that is a more accurate picture of the process. It is also true, however, that once we begin to taste the fruits of our labors, it makes the struggle all worth it and we gain momentum to keep going.
We all have our reasons for being ready to commit to a self-care practice. While we undoubtedly understand that in order to be available for the important people and things in our lives we must make ourselves as healthy as possible, we also tend to have a huge motivation to pass down healthy habits and traditions to the people who are watching us- our own kids. These little saplings are looking to us to show them how to practice self-care, how to commit to traditions that bring lasting joy, and how to endure the inevitable struggles that accompany the greatest accomplishments. This is the legacy that will be left through the traditions we choose to adopt. Will you leave a fertile ground for your seeds to take proper root for healthy growth?