Enduring Hard Times

Pulled Between Two Branches

In rural Alaska where I grew up, many people cure animal hides, particularly caribou and moose. Placed in the sun and the wind, the hides hang for weeks over summer. There to endure and to be made into something stronger and more malleable. Made useful for many things after being lashed for weeks by uncontrollable forces.

If you’re feeling stretched thin as a hide pulled between two branches, understand that you too are undergoing the transformation from perishable skin to soft hide: only to become truly useful when cured by the elements. You too are becoming more everlasting in beauty and being. Undergoing change of form: born one thing and becoming another. These are times when there is nothing to do but hang between the branches.

This is not an easy place, I know. The moments when we feel stretched taut are times of great change and re-birth. Only a few in our lifetime, if we are lucky. Because there is great healing here as we surrender, squinting against the sun, tethered between two branches. Arms spread wide to receive the forces. Skin drawn tight. Wind whipping you this way and that; stripping you of fear and resistance. I know this because deep inside, beneath each whir of the wind, you are humming softly. Listen. Can you hear it?

Let Go

When a hide is released from its branches it is soft and flexible. As a little girl, I was fascinated by this. I even asked my father once how this was possible. I was curious because bones break easily after long exposure to wind and sun, and icicles melt into puddles. How is it that we become stronger and more essential after exposure to the elements, to hardship?

From Small to Strong

Re-birth is not an easy process. We are forced to leave the comfort and warmth of what we know. We are pushed and squeezed through a tiny opening out into a whole new reality. We must find our own source and align with our own heartbeat. We are soft-skinned and vulnerable. We must move forward grasping for any supportive hands that reach for us. We grow from small to strong. And we learn to stand on our own. There are times in our lives when we must endure in order to be born into wholeness. Times in our lives when we must wait out spells of the unknown. Wait in quiet submission. This is the key learning. We must withstand the slow process of discovery, and unfolding. During these times, we must patiently wait for our path to be revealed.

And as we wait, we must learn to smile at the storm and surrender to the stretching thin because in this way eventually something of great value will be given to us. This is when depth grows and wisdom emerges. Where you are challenged to grow through hard weather. Where you are challenged to grow into a wide ancient tree or stay a seedling. Instant gratification or reward does not live here. The option to leave this place does not live here either. This is where nothing is revealed quickly. Where the greatest challenge and opportunity lives.

The amount of weather you are able to endure is directly proportionate to what you will gain.

Storms rise fiercely and crash against shorelines, but then they subside. This is the only certainty we have at times like this. All storms eventually go. Allow yourself to ride the storm. You will find relief in the idea that you are not in charge. Nor are you to blame. Know something beautiful is taking place. Something bigger than you is carving your bowl. You have already made the greatest journey of being born. Born into this precious life that is all yours. Lift your face to the wind, the sun, and the hail. Know that it is all for you. You cannot rush the time-consuming process of great change. And, as civil rights activist and poet Maya Angelou said so eloquently, “still like dust I rise.” The truth is that you are growing more malleable, wilder, and more beautiful every day.

Are you feeling stretched thin?

Are you exhausted from pushing against unseen forces and tired of trying to force the end of your suffering? Are you tired of trying to run against the wind into open and more peaceful meadows?

If you’re here in this place now, stop for a moment. Let go. Open your arms wide and smile. Open your sheltered heart. Let yourself dangle between two branches. Surrender here. Close your eyes and breathe. In this way, you will feel the weight lift from your tired bones; the pressure release from your chest. You cannot rush this process, but I am here to help. Please reach out.