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“What’s next?” said the tree to the woodpecker. Be a tree. Even though there are holes on the outside, only you control what’s on the inside. Laugh at the woodpeckers.  -Anonymous

Someone wrote that in a book I had. I don’t remember who it was and I no longer have the book and I don’t know if those are his words or someone else’s. I don’t suppose it matters much.

Those words have stuck with me for almost 30 years. I’m not sure why I remembered them, because at the time I thought it was weird. Okay, to be honest, I thought it was stupid. I certainly didn’t think those words contained an ounce of truth.

I used to be a tree (or perhaps a shrub, for you height snobs), but somewhere along the way I decided that it was easier to be a woodpecker and try to hammer my will onto everyone around me. If only people would do things right. For some reason I thought it was helpful to pester and nag and exert control over absolutely nothing in my own life, but everything in everyone else’s life. Nitpicking others was a fantastic way to avoid accountability for my own powerlessness.

Being judgmental was empowering for a while. It eventually stopped working – and it was exhausting. So I returned to the tree I had been, but could never manage to laugh at the woodpeckers. It was too close to home, so to speak. So I ignored them and pretended the incessant pecking didn’t bother me. Other people’s opinions of my behavior have never swayed me from doing anything I believed was right or just – but it always bothered me. I wanted people to like me. I wanted people to agree with me. Especially the people I loved.

Piece by piece and thought by thought I have been sweeping up the last of the mental debris and putting my inner world in order. I still want people to like me. I still want people to agree with me. Especially people I love. It’s okay if you don’t, though. It doesn’t bother me anymore because I like me. I agree with me. That’s enough for me. Actually, it isn’t enough. It is all there is.

My only intent today is to feel good. I don’t care about anything else. It’s not about money or a great job or a new car or a hot girlfriend, although all of those things are most welcome in my life. It’s just about feeling a little bit better and a little bit better until all I feel is good all the time. And no one can take that from me – I can only give it up voluntarily.

Laugh at the woodpeckers. That’s what’s next.

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