Do You Bend Like the Willow?

 In Turbulent Times —

“Adapt yourself to change as the willow tree adapts itself to the weather. When the harsh winds of circumstance sweep across the landscape of your life, bow gracefully, bend gently, adapt graciously. You are wise to study well the ways of the willow. In the face of change, in the throes of adversity, in the midst of conflict and crisis, the willow willingly bends its branches, but refuses to release its roots.” ~ William Arthur Ward 

Adapt, nature whispers, turbulence ahead, adversity has arrived.

  • bow gracefully
  • bend gently
  • adapt graciously

Be it so, in the face of change, in the throes of adversity, in the midst of conflict and crisis.

Adapt! Adapt! Adapt!

A bend in the road is not the end of the road — unless you fail to make the turn.” ~ Author unknown

I have a memory of an earlier bend in the road, one that I shall never forget.

I’d been sober only a short time and was still experiencing the full force of the chaos brought on by my drinking when I found myself standing in my childhood bedroom with two suitcases, the contents of which contained all my earthly possessions.

In the throes of adversity I had returned home to restart my life —

  • broken marriage
  • broken business
  • broken soul

— in the very bedroom I’d left 18 years earlier.

Nothing had changed. The pictures were the same, including the campaign poster of a smiling Jack Kennedy. Everything was exactly as I remembered, even the bedspread.

  • What had happened?
  • How did I get here?

I’d left for college in 1967, filled with great ambitions and every expectation that I’d conquer the world.

Never in my wildest dreams had I imagined myself back in this room, all from adversity largely of my own making.

I knew I needed answers to some basic questions:

  • How had my life come to stall?
  • Why had I not come of age?
  • Where was I headed?

I had not yet learned the ways of the willow.

It was there in that small bedroom that I began my lessons — lessons that as a younger man I’d chosen to ignore, believing they didn’t apply to me.

I entered a time of deep reflection and earnest listening.

Sobriety opened the door for me. Years of alcoholism had prevented me from reckoning honestly with myself, and now, sober, I could finally face the truth.

What I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt was that without rigorous honesty there’d be no recovery. I wanted recovery and by then was willing to go to any lengths to find it.

Adversity had so swamped my life that my hubris had been swept away.

I had returned home not as a conquering hero, but as a wounded soldier of a lost cause and it was there, in my childhood bedroom, I first heard the whisper of the willow saying:

graciously bow ~ graciously adapt ~ graciously change 

Adapt I did. Around the tables of Alcoholics Anonymous I learned from others how to bend in the face of adversity and let go of my selfish ways.

I learned the ways of the willow by seeing how others had bent, adapted and changed to find the peace of mind I so craved.

These were not easy lessons for me. All too often I’d sought shortcuts and easier, softer answers to really difficult questions.

Most of all, I’d relied on booze to quell the questions in my head.

Now I had to start playing by the rules that governed everyone and have faith in the dictates of a Higher Power that, among other things — wasn’t me.

So it was the boy who’d left so many years earlier, pretending to be a man, returned to discover what it really meant to be a man.

The willow willingly bends its branches, but refuses to release its roots.”

In the confines of that little bedroom a pruning process began, one that was to make me smaller only so that I might grow straighter.

“You can cut all the flowers but you cannot keep Spring from coming.”  ~ Pablo Neruda

In time, the Spring did come.

So my prayer is that in these times when the harsh winds of circumstance are sweeping across our landscape we too might

  • bow gracefully,
  • bend gently,
  • adapt graciously.

And trust that we, too, will feel the coming of Spring.

Just a thought…


Copyright © 2023 Patrick J. Moriarty. All Rights Reserved.

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