As a child of the 1980s, I spent a lot of time on my bike. I lived in a medium-sized town and didn’t think twice about getting on my bicycle and setting off for some exploring, my parents none the wiser as to my whereabouts. I never went too far and came home before the street lights came on, and everything turned out fine.
While riding along one of the main roads in town, I would from time to time see random mailboxes interspersed between businesses, nestled into the trees that lined the sidewalk. A long, narrow driveway would follow, and I would strain my eyes to look through the trees and see what was back there. A house, no doubt.
I imagined there were mansions owned by eccentric, wealthy people, and wanted to ride down the driveway to see. But I didn’t trust that I could pedal fast enough to outrun whatever lay at the end. So I just peered as far as I could, and then got back on my bicycle seat, pushed off, and kept pedaling.
When I visit now, I go running on that road. And yes, when I run past those driveways I still crane my neck to see what’s back there. Now I assume they are probably old houses that have been added on to over the decades so they ramble and stretch across a little patch of land that feels like it is miles away from civilization even though it is just a football field’s distance from a highway. Sometimes I think that when I get home I will look it up on Google Earth and see, but then I forget.
I thought about those trees last week when I was out running with my friends and commented that soon the trees in the neighborhoods would lose their dead leaves and we would be able to see more wildlife walking around in the greenspaces. At least I hoped we would. When I said it, I remembered straddling my bike as a kid, catching my breath as sweat ran down my forehead, wondering what was behind those trees.
And then I smiled to myself because I had thought of something I wanted to ask you.
I decided that I wanted to ask you if you ever notice times in your life when you can see something more clearly after something else has fallen away. Like how when dead leaves fall from trees and we can more easily see what had been concealed, perhaps we need things to die in our lives so we can see and focus on something else.
I wonder if the things that keep us from connecting with ourselves on an authentic level are like leaves on the trees of our lives. Imagine the doubts, negative thoughts, excuses, uncertainties, and wounds from past failures — all of the layers we put on ourselves for protection from vulnerability — being like leaves that hide the bare branches and trunk that we would be without them.
Imagine what would happen if they fell off.
What could you see if you let the leaves of doubt fall? What could you see if you let the leaves of negative self-talk fall? What could you see if you let the leaves of excuses fall?
You would see the most permanent part of you - your core; your trunk. Like leaves on a tree, the doubts, negative thoughts, excuses, uncertainties, and past wounds of our lives are temporary, here for a season and then ready to fall away so we can start anew.
As we approach the end of the year, I invite you to notice if there are leaves that you need to shed. Perhaps you have old habits that don’t serve a purpose anymore. Maybe you have a familiar litany of reasons why you can’t take the next step. Let those leaves fall. When you don’t want to, remind yourself: it's just for a season.
Because we all know that they’ll be back. In the spring, green shoots will emerge and become new leaves that will be shed in their own time. And between now and then will be a time for you to just be your trunk. The dead weight will have been shed and you can just be...you.
I hope that this year you let the leaves fall, and with the curiosity of a child, peer through the branches to see who you are back there. I’ll bet that someone in your life has been wondering for a long time.