In Grade 9, I decided that it was unacceptable to hate anyone or anything. (I was an unusual 13-year-old.)
Flash forward a few decades to this past weekend. I changed my mind. Here’s what happened.
Let’s put some pieces together.
In our little oasis of a backyard, there was a gorgeous tree that provided ample shade and privacy. It was the neighbours’ tree that hung over into our yard and I loved it.
We live in a quadruplex and one of the owners - the guy next to us - is a very angry and unhappy man. For the most part, we don’t have much to do with him. We were blessed that he was gone for many months until a couple of weeks ago. I knew he was back because I could hear him swearing loudly in his backyard, which is my most common experience of him.
He kind of manages the condo stuff, including hiring the snow shovelling people and the like.
Paul mentioned to him last week that it might be good to get some tree people in to cut off some of the neighbours’ tree branches that were getting close to the power lines and that were scraping on our house during the last wind storm.
Paul also mentioned that we loved the tree and definitely wanted to keep as much of it as possible because it gave us amazing shade in our south-facing yard.
Our angry neighbour can’t stand the tree neighbours.
The Hate-Inducing Incident (I bet you can guess what’s coming)
Last Friday, Paul and I were out for the day, doing various wonderful things. I had tea with a friend, then brought the car home so we could drive Oakley to a friend’s house. We had planned to go to a movie (a surprise date - hooray!) but the expedition took longer than anticipated. Although we would be cutting it close, we decided to attempt to see the movie anyway.
Turns out we made it just in the nick of time and walked in right as the previews ended. The movie was Oppenheimer, so we settled in for the 3-hour experience.
Afterward, we popped back home to make some dinner. As we walked toward our door, Paul swore loudly (very unusual so I was confused until I looked beyond the walkway). Every single tree branch that had been over our side of the property line was butchered.
“Nooooooooo!” I yelled dramatically. Then I started to cry.
Bewildered, we walked toward the backyard. It was unrecognizable. The beloved tree was just gone and in its place was glaring harsh sunlight and severed limbs. My place in my heart reserved for that tree broke.
When we walked inside to see things from a different perspective, it just got worse. Our little oasis now seemed like a barren wasteland. Instead of gorgeous leaves, birds, squirrels and shade, the bare ugly wires of the telephone pole were exposed, the neighbours’ windows across the alley glared back at me and the carnage of the arborists’ work lay strewn around the space.
"Why would he do that?" I asked Paul. "Why would he cut it all down when you specifically asked him not to?"
"Because he's an angry, angry man," Paul replied remorsefully.
“It looks like a war zone,” I said bitterly. My daughter, Zoe, suggested that was probably a bit overdramatic (she wasn’t wrong), but that’s how I felt. An unfamiliar feeling rose up in me. “I HATE our backyard!” I exclaimed and ran upstairs.
Unfortunately, our bedroom window faces the same direction so from there, it only looked worse. I sobbed angrily for a good hour. Then I closed all the curtains so I couldn’t see the ugliness and continued to cry off and on for the rest of the day. I didn't even want to live in our house anymore.
At a certain point, Oakley checked in with me and asked me if I was okay. (By this time, my eyes were very puffy.) “I HATE our backyard!” I repeated ruefully. He said, “Mom, look at me. You don’t let us use that word and you shouldn’t either. It’s going to be okay.”
Meanwhile, Paul was going through his own turmoil. He felt terrible, declaring it to be his fault entirely since he was the one who spoke about the tree to our angry neighbour in the first place. Although I felt furious and devastated, none of it felt directed toward Paul. I was grateful for that.
He said, “I know there are some spiritual gifts here somewhere. I’m just trying so hard to see what they are.” Ditto.
As the day went on and the tears continued to flow, I thought about what Oakley had said - that hate wasn’t allowed in our home. I also thought about what my mentor, Dr Sue Morter says: All emotions are created equal. I thought about what my network chiropractor told me - that I needed to feel all my feelings.
Something clicked and I realized that in that moment, I hated our neighbour. Immediately, I felt wrong about allowing myself to feel that way. Then I remembered the most important practice: to pour love in.
I said to myself, “Part of me that hates the neighbour and the way the backyard looks, I love you. I accept that you’re here. Thank you for getting my attention. I won’t make you wrong anymore. I love you.”
Whenever the hate rose again, I poured love into it. Gradually, I began to understand that loving the hate was the lesson for me. That was the spiritual gift. I had denied that part of myself for so long and now there it was, in my face, just inviting me to love it and soften the inner experience.
I tearfully did some yoga (even though I didn’t feel like it). I tearfully did some other movement rituals (even though I didn’t feel like it).
I tearfully talked with Paul. We could identify that, clearly, this outcome was supposed to happen because it did. If we’d been at home, we could have easily averted the tree butchering but we weren’t home because we made it to the movie in the nick of time. Our victory of perfect timing didn’t seem so sweet anymore but in some unknown way, it was still perfect timing. It just required more trust in the Universe.
Surprisingly, the next day I felt much better. Almost completely better, in fact. I could look outside without crying. I could think about our neighbour without hatred. That’s the power of pouring love in, especially into the situations and people that don’t necessarily seem to merit love in that moment.
Perspective was gained. Obviously, we can put in another tree or even a few trees. We see way more sky now, which Paul tentatively pointed out to me. There’s also more sun in the backyard. We even talked about how some tree + electrical wire + wind storm crisis might have been averted. We just have to trust that somehow, the loss of the tree was in the highest good for everyone involved and we also need to surrender to the fact that we might never know the exact reason it happened.
For now, there’s just letting go, acceptance and most importantly, not making any feelings wrong and banishing them from my experience. All feelings, especially the most uncomfortable ones, are simply opportunities for greater self-acceptance and love.
And so, farewell, dear tree (or half-tree). Thank you for your powerful lessons. One thing’s for certain: there’s more light shining in, in every way possible. That has to be a good thing.
With unreasonable love and expanding courage,
>Creator of Courageous Self-Care
>Puffy eyes almost back to normal
>Learning a lot about columnar trees
A short while ago, we got a Vastu Shastra consultation done on our home. In case you've never heard of Vastu Shastra, it's the ancient science of how energy flows through space. Feng Shui actually comes from Vastu Shastra.
The process was very simple. I drew floor plans of our home and emailed them off to Michael Mastro. A few days later, he emailed me very detailed instructions on what to do to improve the energy flow of our home.
A few days after that, we received the yantra stickers in the mail and when we put them up as instructed (which was so fun - stickering the house - what could be better?), I felt an immediate difference in the energy of our home. Instantaneous.
Every day since then, I've been saying the mantras that Michael sent over and again, it feels so good. I really love doing it and am so happy we got the consultation.
Overall, Vastu Shastra helps to reduce stress, improve health, career, finances, relationships and energy. I'm already thrilled that I can feel such a difference and I'm looking forward to seeing what else emerges.
If you're curious about the process or would like to improve the energy flow in your home, here's the website. I've done several different consultations with Michael and Robin and have always been very happy with their guidance and expertise.
Lots of songs are about love. Probably most of them, really. This particular song feels appropriate for today’s message. It’s called “Love is a Polaroid” by Imagine Dragons.
I just looked up the definition of polaroid, out of curiosity, and of course, it says something about a high degree of light passing through. It’s also about obtaining a rapidly finished product after exposure. What great metaphors!
It’s also a great song to sing along to. You know I’m doing it right now as I get the links ready for you.