Present Tense

The best tree-climber in the neighborhood……

I had a bit of an epiphany this morning via Facebook.  Seriously.

Here’s the Cliff Notes version of what led to this moment of clarity.  I have a “Question a Day Five Year Journal” that I write a couple of sentences in everyday and yesterday’s question was “where do you feel most at home”?  Like most of the daily queries, you can take them at face value or dig a little deeper for an answer.  Since you only get a tiny space to enter your thoughts, I rarely write or ponder much more than a cursory answer and so I wrote, “Outside”.  Simple, but unsatisfying.

So, I signed onto my Facebook account and saw that one of my favorite friends had posted a status update that simply said, “want to go home”.  I wrote a quick comment about my journal entry and said that I wasn’t sure where “home” is.  I got up this morning to see this comment from a childhood friend:  “Jane, when we where kids, you were home.  You were the best tree-climber in the neighborhood”.  BAM!

That’s it.  He’s right.  I WAS the best tree-climber in the neighborhood.  We had a tree next to my house that was the centerpiece of our condensed world.  We nailed steps on it, chipped out footholds, hung around underneath it during hot summer days, ate sandwiches perched on the branches.  So, being the best tree-climber was quite an accomplishment, particularly in a neighborhood of mostly boys.  I was the best because I was fearless.

I watched all of my fellow tree-climbers fall, quit, give up and I kept right on climbing.  The epiphany hit when I realized that what’s been bugging me for a couple of years now, has finally been identified: I’m no longer fearless.  In fact, I’d say that I’ve allowed my fears to overtake the real me.  The “real” Jane climbed to the very top of that tree on a windy day, wrapped herself around the trunk and joyfully and fearlessly gave in to the wind.

I often think back to my childhood, trying to get a feel for what I was before life got ahold of me.  What was the essence of me, when I was able to just “be”.  What moved me, excited me, soothed me, motivated me.  What moves me today, as a 51 year-old woman?  The tree-climber in me has been M.I.A; I’ve lost my fearlessness.

I don’t fear day to day dangers, like crime, pain, mistakes, accidents.  I fear the big stuff:  death, poverty, losing all I’ve worked for, dying alone.  What happened to the tree climber?

Here’s the bottom line about being fearful; it makes you powerless.  When you allow fear to take over, you cede your power; to politicians, to a job you hate, to family members, to children, to boredom, to repetition and authority.  It’s easier to hunker down and not feel or face your fear.  Chalk it up to being a grown-up in this big, bad world.

So, what to do?  That, my friends is an excellent question that I can’t answer.  So, step number 1:  I’m heading out to find a tree and wait for the wind.

April 10, 2011 - Posted by | Musings | , , , ,


  1. Great post,Jane! I’ve been thinking about this myself lately as I’ve noticed that I’m hesitant to try new things. Is it fear–maybe? Is it laziness–maybe? Don’t know when things changed for me, but I’m not liking it so I’ve challenged myself to try something new by the end of the month. I have no idea what it’ll be but I’m looking forward to the adventure–your tree in the wind!

    Comment by Cori Jackamore | April 10, 2011 | Reply

  2. I think I will get a Kayak!

    Nice post Jane. Almost feels like we have gone back to the comfort zone conversation but different. Ahhh, when life was simple and we didn’t have those worries, but we now know that our parents did.

    Comment by Tim | April 10, 2011 | Reply

    • My parents are both 90 and I was sure I’d shaved 15 years off their lives when I was a teenager. Guess not:)

      Comment by janelondon | April 10, 2011 | Reply

  3. Wow. You pretty much were able to put into words what has been lingering in my soul. Eight years ago, I changed careers because I didn’t want to die and have people think I didn’t contribute anything positive to this world. But, just this week, I actually realized I’ve lost aa lot of my ‘wind’ (I’m 47). Physically and mentally. And I DON’T LIKE IT. I will get IT back.

    Thanks for letting me know I’m not going through this alone.

    Comment by Gail | April 10, 2011 | Reply

    • Perhaps you’re reassessing your motivations for your career. Who can judge what a positive contribution to the world is? Maybe it’s as simple as doing what makes you happy, instead of the world

      Comment by janelondon | April 10, 2011 | Reply

      • Don’t get me wrong, I love my new career. It does make me happy. It’s what gets me out of bed. (And I think I make a difference) –
        But physically, things are changing ;)… (we’ve spoke about this before) and mentally, I have never been the person that isn’t ready for a challenge. But’s it’s sort of turned into that lately. ((sigh)). Posts like yours are what kick me in the butt and make me realize I still have more to give (myself and the world).

        Comment by Gail | April 10, 2011

  4. Oh yes…this is brilliant schtuff young Jane. And timely too. You just keep getting better! You are still pretty brave to me too. Just so you know!

    Comment by Margie | April 10, 2011 | Reply

  5. Hello, Jane – from one major tree-climber to another. I used to climb the heights, too. I’m the oldest of 7 kids (all within 9 years – God bless my poor Mom!) By the time I was about 12, I could not WAIT to get AWAY from the crowd. Trouble is, (which isn’t trouble from my perspective NOW) that we lived on a farm about 17 miles to the “big city.” (Dodge City, Kansas) I used to get so frustrated …. and the only thing that fixed it was being able to climb that tree right outside the porch – as high as those branches would let me go. No one else in the family ever did (as far as I know). It was my SALVATION. I could SEE for miles and miles – all the way to Dodge City, Kansas (the “big city”). I’d spend HOURS up there… until someone yelled out “supper time.”

    I would stare and wish and dream about finding the way “out.”

    Guess what. After leaving my “Waltons’-like lifestyle (as I recognize it now) and my life from my farmhome, going from bigger city, to bigger city, and finally to the Denver metropolis, I’ve really come full circle.

    I’ll be 60 in July. My life and dreams have so much tumbled and changed – somehow my dreams have morphed back into getting back into the country! I love the peace and quiet. Hubby and I have bought a few acres south of Pueblo, Colorado. We have worked hard, sweat lotsa blood and tears building our retirement home, and are truly and totally looking forward to the “good (and quiet) life.” I don’t find myself wanting to climb a tree to stare off into the distance wondering what I was missing out on – I’ve finally discovered that I know what I have right at hand is the best there was all along! Yes, I’ve come to realize – “there’s no place like home.”

    Comment by Edie M Kellogg | April 10, 2011 | Reply

  6. Great Post Jane, I just climbed one of my trees in life myself. I over came the Fear and it feels sooo Good. so on to the next Tree!! So life does have a way of throwing Fears and obstacles but we do need to not let these things over take us. Hard sometimes to do though.

    Comment by Marge Beem | April 11, 2011 | Reply

  7. Loved this post! I lived in trees as a kid. The best place to be. I even kept stashes of candy and water up at the top where no one else would go. I just noticed this year that worries and fears have been creeping up in insidious ways. I too need to climb and reclaim my fearlessness. I used to take pride in never refusing a dare. Now some wisdom will hopefully keep the balance. Thanks for your insights!

    Comment by Nancy Jo | April 11, 2011 | Reply

  8. Dear Jane:

    I’ve been feeling like this also. After much reading, I’ve discovered that it is due to the hormonal changes we go through in our 50s. I used to be fearless, I could take on Godzilla at the drop of a hat. Now, I’m the opposite. I just don’t recognize myself. It’s as though I’m being forced to get to know the perfect stranger that resides within. I recognize the face when I look in the mirror, but what lies within has changed so much, it’s scary. I’m looking for ways to adapt, but can’t get a handle on how to do that at this point in time. We’ll see.

    Comment by Danielle | May 26, 2011 | Reply

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