Pick of the Week: The Family Tree

basil plant

Relationships can be amazingly enriching and amazingly irritable experiences, yet everybody needs them in order to live a fulfilling modern life. At the moment my relationships remind me of my basil plant. I am that main stem and the branches represent different forms of relationships all spearheaded by one individual. Each branch grows out into several fingers of leaves and these leaves represent the people who are connected to me through the branch.

My basil tree has been looking quite frail of late. It seems no matter how often I water the soil it looks arid and dead. The topsoil covered by decaying leaves that have fallen from grace. The bright green colour seems washed out, and some of the leaves have started to turn brown. It is spreading; like a virus, and at the moment those leaves are clinging on for dear life.

When you take a decision to transform your life you will notice a change in your relationships. This transformation could be anything from the end of an addiction to a divorce or change of career. The first thing you will notice is the discolouration of the leaves. A dirty brown stain will slowly replace the fresh green hue. This is your relationship deteriorating. For a long while you will try to fight against the transformation. You may remember the good times with fondness and try desperately to stay connecting with your former friend or loved one. You try to keep the relationship fresh by sharing your new wonderful experiences with them, but the stain keeps spreading. You can’t understand why these people are not listening to what you have to say. Even worse, you know they are trying to divert the conversation. They never ask how you are or what you are doing. Each conversation turns into a battle with the first person to open their mouths deemed the victor.

After a short while the brown stain has enveloped the entire leaf. If you tenderly caress the leaf it will start to crumble and fall. The leaf is dead. The relationship is dead. You will find it difficult to give a dead leaf mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. As you look at the soil slowly eat away at the deadness you wonder what went wrong? It is human nature to blame yourself for the death of a relationship. Your automatic pilot, the always present voice that resides in your head will start asking the questions: what did I do wrong? Am I self-righteous? Did I try to hard to push my changes onto them? Have I become an upstart? Do I think I am a better than?

Sometimes the leaves die because the branch is cut. When this happens it can be devastating. A good example is a divorce. Your wife is the solid branch that has morphed itself onto your stem for years. When you look you don’t see a stem and a branch but one unit called a tree. You are one. You are soul mates. Then one or the other starts to transform and the staining process ensues. This time the entire branch weakens and eventually falls to the ground and it brings 5 maybe 10 leaves crashing down with it. These leaves represent the family members that you adopted as your own. Your in-laws you affectionately referred to as mum, dad, sister and brother. These poor leaves did nothing wrong. They didn’t ask for this. The loss of love. The loss of life. It wasn’t their want, their desire.

Desolation and isolation. Dry dirt, weak stems, bowing branches and translucent leaves. When you look at that picture it can be easy to believe that transformation is wrong. There goes that voice again: why did I choose this? Can I go back? Life was so much simpler back then? What am I doing? Why am I hurting everyone? You wake up in the morning and your decisions are prodding you in the frontal lobe with a rusty pin. You get into an argument with yourself. You defend your actions. You must be right? You cannot go back? Why is this happening? Why is my tree dying?

When all may seem lost, remember this. Relationships survive and flourish with input from both parties. They die when one or both members of the team decide to throw the crimson soaked towel into the ring. If your loved ones want to be green and strong they will make sure that they stay that way. In a way the brown crispiness is a choice. They are choosing to lie in the dirt instead of a life flapping in the breeze. They don’t choose life – they chose death. This is when you both realise that the relationship has run its course. It has ended for a reason and it is time to move on. In laws may want to speak to you, but choose not to out of respect of those you have hurt. I say let this run its course. Allow them to be there for their loved ones. Allow them to strengthen their own branches and protect their own trees. It is sad but if it was meant to be it would be. If you can look in the mirror and not turn away in disgust then you know you have done all you can.

This week a wonderful thing happened to me. Somebody has decided to pour some water into my basil tree. Not just any water, but the water of life. As the decaying branches and leaves are pulled into the ground by the water of life, my stem grows stronger. The roots push life upwards and a green light emerges. New branches have started to grow out of the knot of the old. These branches are young but you can already feel the strength and see the colour reflect in your eyes. Small leaves have already started to sprout along the stem. There is a long way to go but for now they are filled with new experiences, fresh things to discuss and new love to wallow in. Over time your tree will be as it once was and your transformation will be complete. Maybe some of the older leaves may reappear over time, but you will never see the branches again. Instead they are now memories and you should spend time viewing them from time to time, because they happened and when they did you took love, strength and encouragement out of them. That old tree made you who you are today. It is all part of the metamorphosis of life.

Are you in the midst of transformation? Do you feel sadness for those you leave behind? Do you feel frustration as you try to force some to come along? If so then you are not alone. Share your thoughts and experiences here.

Photo courtesy of Rhonogle (cc & flickr.com)

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  1. How very appropriate for my situation right now! I am currently feeling a mixture of frustration and sadness, since I am still experiencing the transition with some people in my life. I have come closer to others, drifted from some, and as always am battling with my husband as he edges closer to the light…

  2. Lee,
    You did a great job with this analogy. As I follow you, I get a sense for your own transformation as well and it is beautiful. I hope you don’t mind if I offer a scripture for you to ponder; your post brought it to mind, from John 15:
    “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes[a] so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
    5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.

  3. I think we’re always in the process of transformation which is why it’s so important that we have deep roots to help us weather the storms and turbulence in our lives. Cool post!

  4. Hi Lee, you caught me again. I was going to skim your blog – but as I started reading, I had to read every word. I have been writing a tree analogy for my next blog. So I enjoyed following the paths you took with your basil plant.

    I especially like your closing paragraph. Yes, it can be sad to release those dying leaves – relationships. But, it is a blessing to welcome new life, new friends, new relationships. Cherish the memories but move on. Nicely said.

  5. Hi Lee,
    Some of your posts are a bit long. Most of them are fine. I was just in a hurry.

    The important thing – as mentioned above – is that your writing is good. Which makes me want to read the whole thing, regardless.


    • Lee Davy says:

      Hi Peggi,

      I am always trying to keep my word count low but fail miserably each and every time. I have given myself a “must try harder next time”.

      Thanks for the honest feedback.


  6. Hi Lee,

    I really did enjoy your comparison of life changes to a basil tree. In fact, I enjoyed it so much that I have recommended it all of my facebook family.
    Thanks for sharing your insights and lessons learned.

  7. Lee,

    Thank you for writing this piece. It has led me to believe that possibly one of my friendships could be over. You mentioned both parties must contribute. That is so true. I felt in my spirit when reading that part that maybe I need to let it go and accept what is.

    Thank you so much!

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