The forest for the trees

Monday night as I sat at a meeting with friends of mine and talked and laughed and shared experiences and growth, I remembered an email someone who loves me sent to me about four months ago.

“How are you doing today?  I dreamed about you last night and you were laughing and had put on a bit of weight (more like you looked before), and it brought tears to my eyes to see you happy and having fun.  I know this is a difficult time for you with everything going on – the financial problems, the deal with your Dad and his kids, the job – just goes to show you that GOD and only GOD is dependable and constant and where your trust and hope should be based.  You’ve got to get more into the ONE DAY AT A TIME concept and stop fretting about next week; it will take care of itself when it gets there – who knows what all can happen or change in a week or for that matter in the next 24 hours. I love you and am praying for you.”

I remembered this email during my meeting Monday night, particularly the part about her dreaming about seeing me truly happy, smiling, laughing, and enjoying life. I remember when she told me about seeing me this way, just four months ago, I felt like I was almost there, but not quite. I felt like I’d nearly been able to let go of the stress that entangled me, but not completely. When I remembered this email Monday night, I thought, “Oh wow, this is how I feel every single day now. This is who I am now.”

But a few months ago, I still couldn’t see the forest.

I was distracted by a few pesky, ugly trees.

“We missed the reality and the beauty of the forest because we were diverted by the ugliness of some of its trees. We never gave the spiritual side of life a fair hearing.” -Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, page 50

Over the past three years, I’ve taken steps that have helped me to turn my attention slowly away from the ugliness of those trees and toward the beauty of the rest of the forest. The thing is that life is actually beautiful. I just didn’t know it. I was so torn down, worn down, and weighed down by a few traumatic, drastic, sad, and depressing situations in my life and surrounding my life that I didn’t have time or take time to see the rest of the beauty and glory of what surrounded me.

My perspective was flawed. I focused on the problem. The problem became bigger. The trees became uglier and larger. When I focused on the problem (the Big Book tells me this!), the problem increased. When I focused on the solution, the solution increased. It was just that simple for me.

When I began to switch my focus away from the ugliness of the hurt in my past, away from the pain of the present situations I was in, away from the stress in certain circumstances, away from the things I could not change, those things became less and less. I put my focus instead on things I could change or on things which were pleasant, lovely, precious, right, and whole. I spent time in nature. I wrote gratitude lists every day and still do (currently nearing list 900). I reconnected with loved ones and long-lost friends. I got to know myself better and learned that solitude is a priceless thing.

I came to believe that the forest is a beautiful place. And I’m so glad to be part of it.

4 thoughts on “The forest for the trees

  1. Andrew says:

    You are so right! The forest is so full of life and diversity! Only seeing the trees limits the overall splendor. It’s so wonderful you are so happy and enjoying life! I miss your smile!


    1. bethany says:

      Thanks Andrew! I agree–and I’m focused right now on the solutions and the beauty rather than the problems and the ugliness. There’s plenty of that, but why bother with it? I did that for years. I miss you, too! Take care of yourself.


  2. Henry says:

    Thanks for sharing! being grateful for what you have is a key thing in life. It keeps me fueled and juiced for life. It’s funny, because when i’m having a bad day EVERYBODY can see it in my face because i’m usually ..i guess.. peppy and happy. Its also funny becuase the preception people have of me is compeltely different than what i have of myself. God has led me down a few paths that have helped me discover a lot about me. Good stuff.

    Always thinking and praying for you. Thanks for sharing and always remember to follow your bliss

    don’t sweat the petty things,


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