Dandelions and Oak Trees


I was stuck in traffic yesterday due to a horrendous wreck on the interstate. It took me 55 minutes to go a quarter mile. Sitting there staring at a sea of brake lights and an empty cup of coffee I realized that I had gotten old. And that in my old age I have changed. Or at least my perspective has.
Not very long ago that situation would have made me irate. I hate traffic. I hate commuting. I hate people. It would have been an irksome trifecta. I would have been cussing and fidgeting. I would have been worried about being late to work.

Yesterday, I found myself sitting calmly wishing I had more coffee and feeling very lucky that I wasn’t the person involved in the wreck and that the rest of my family was still at home. I found myself taking a moment to pray for the people in the wrecked cars and their families.

The thought of being late to work briefly crossed my mind followed by “F* it. They can fire me.”
Enjoying a moment of not having to be anywhere or do anything, I glanced around and plugged up my phone to listen to some music. I don’t usually get to do that without someone screaming “I don’t like this Mommy!” from the back seat or a mildly condescending “You like that ?” coming from the seat next to me. (If I have to hear the frozen soundtrack again… Who am I kidding? I’m gonna hear it today and not say a thing about it.)
A song from my college days came on. I hadn’t listened to it in years. And it sounded good. Really good. I have a much better sound system in my car now than I did back in “the day”. (You know when I had a waist, bladder control and sanity.)

My car isn’t new. It isn’t very fancy. But it is heads and tails above the ones I had before. It doesn’t leak to the point of needing an umbrella when it rains. No exhaust is leaking in through rusted holes in the floorboard. The brakes work and so does the emergency brake. The door isn’t falling off. The tires aren’t bald. There is actually a spare attached to the thing. Nothing is duct taped to the engine. And the radio is incredible. Its the little things. They just keep getting better.

There are moments when I miss days of not having to worry about anybody but me. Being able to shove literally everything I needed in the back of whatever vehicle I had at the time and using it as a shelter if I couldn’t afford rent or find a couch to crash on. Scraping change out of the floorboards to buy a $.99 sandwich from Sonic as the only meal of the day. Doing it all without a cell phone or GPS or tablet. Completely unconnected except the map in the glove box and a payphone if I needed to call someone. It never bothered me at the time. There was a freedom to it. So much less to worry about. Nobody else to worry about. Just a very rootless, portable me. There are days when I long for that simple freedom again. Long with all my soul.

But that isn’t the way life took me.

Now I have worries. I have kids and dogs. I have more than me to keep alive and fed. I don’t want my kids to sleep in the car or on a random couch. I don’t think the dogs would mind either way. I have a house and cars and big girl toys and all the trappings and bills of the Joneses and the hassle that comes with keeping those balls in the air. I worry about health insurance and life insurance and choosing the right Godparents for the kids. I worry about getting to dance class and soccer on time. I worry about setting a good example. (I am so not a good example.)

I feel like an oak tree watching the dandelion pin wheels flying through the air to something exciting and unknown and wondering for a moment what it would be like to be able to do that just for a moment.

But I don’t worry about what the music sounds like in my car anymore. I don’t worry about turning it up too loud because I’m old and deaf anyway and can afford to replace the speaker. I don’t worry about where I’m going to sleep. (Hanging precariously off the edge of a king sized bed while two toddlers and a dog jostle for control of the rest of the space.) Or where my next meal is coming from. (Probably McDonalds.) Or if I will be able to handle what comes next. (Yes. Somehow.) Or if I will ever find love? (Yes. At least for a little while.) Or if I will I ever have good friends? (A few.) Or if I’m good enough (Nope.). Or if I fit in (Never gonna happen.) If people like me. (I don’t remember when I stopped caring. But I did.) If I am going to do anything important in my life. (I think I’ve already done it.)

For all the new things I worry about now there are a lot of things that I don’t worry about anymore. The things I worry about now aren’t as nebulous. I have some influence on them. And there is a freedom to that as well.
It might be nice to be a dandelion pinwheel. But being an oak tree… That takes being willing to let go of a few branches to save the tree. That takes work and perseverance. That takes digging in and standing strong through storms.

The dandelion is probably terrified of the wind. It doesn’t take much to blow them away. It takes a freaking tornado to blow an oak tree away. And when it is gone, somebody notices.

An oak tree isn’t very portable. It certainly has gnarly bumps and bent branches.

But it is sure is nice not to worry about the wind.

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