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I just keep sweeping...

I have been waiting for several months now to trim back a tree in our backyard. It is overgrown and has reached the electrical lines and our roof, and it is becoming very problematic. I waited patiently for summer to be over, because this nuisance of a tree was actually serving a purpose and keeping a good amount of hot sun out of the house.

As soon as October hit, I was out there, up the ladder with my clippers while yelling "Incoming!" to Oliver who was playing below me. Safety first.

It was hard work, but tremendously gratifying. Each piece that fell was a relief. Except maybe that one branch that may have bounced off Oliver's head. He's got a hard head, so don't worry. I did fall off the ladder entirely - that was funny only after the fact, and then maybe not really funny. But I was uninjured so I climbed right back up and kept hacking away.

I cut and cut, then climbed down, evaluated my work, and climbed back up and cut some more. I repeated this cycle of cutting, evaluating and cutting again, for hours. Finally, I was satisfied, I had accomplished what I had set out to do. And the entire back yard was filled with sunshine, I was so happy!

And then I turned around. The pile of branches that I had created was just about as tall as me and took up half the backyard. Oh gosh. My husband was going to weep when he saw the mess I created. But there was no way it was getting cleaned up at that moment. It was just too much in one day.

As I looked at the pile, it made me realize that this is why progress can be so hard. We work to purge ourselves of the things we don't like, but even as we cut them out, they can still leave behind a giant mess.

For instance, divorce may relieve the parties of a dysfunctional relationship, and allow you both to move forward; but there is still a pile of branches that needs to be cleaned up. (custody, finances, the sheer emotions of divorce) Another example - if you didn't know - I have been both bulimic and anorexic. I have worked hard to recover from both illnesses. But I still have branches in the form of body image, the number on the scale and just stupid little voices that want to remind me of where I've been.

So - I am tackling the branches (the literal ones). I convinced Mike to get a mulcher. SO FUN. I fed branch after branch into this little mulcher and it ground them up and spit them out into a bag. I had big plans for all my mulch! I was going to feed all of my garden! I created three GIANT bags of mulch; and then the mulcher started smoking. In my infinite wisdom, I shut it down, unplugged it, and let it rest.

Let's just keep ping ponging between actual events and analogy. As I recovered from anorexia, I cut parts away, and it was awesome. But it left a mess. I had to let that mess sit until I was ready to deal with it. And you know what? When I was ready, I realized that maybe I could use some bits of that mess for good. I could make "mulch." But that process took a long time, a lot of blood, sweat and tears. But I was able to take some of the mess and use it for good. For me, this meant sharing with others my struggle, going into fitness and helping women especially, with body image, etc. My mulch, is really why I started teaching Tae Bo®.

Back to my burnt out mulcher. I cleaned it out, put it in the garage, and left the slightly reduced pile of branches for another day. And then it stormed. It rained like nobody's business. In Southern California. What? The branches got wet, muddy and stinky. I went out once the sun came out, I pulled them all apart to dry and swept up all the leaves that had fallen off. I have been doing this now for a month. Moving the pile, sweeping up the dry leaves, and throwing away a few branches at a time. And it is getting smaller. Day by day.

But wait - in the midst of all this clean up - Oliver is racing around on his bike, skidding through piles of leaves, and using branches as road blocks to maneuver around. He made dirt pies, leaf pies, weird, not sure what he found, pies. He even took breaks to help me sweep and put it into bags. He was absolutely thrilled to help me with my clean up. My branches, my leaves and my mess can still be put to good use. That. Is awesome.

I am poetically going back and forth between my leaves and my "leaves;" and if your brain is hurting, I apologize. But at this point, every time I go in my backyard and I see this damn pile, I get discouraged, but then inspired. I am inspired that I was able to make the change I wanted, and I am inspired that I've been cleaning up the mess it left behind. And I'm encouraged to understand that it takes days, months, even years to clean the mess.

When we make positive changes in our lives it is an amazing thing. But just because we've made the change, we've moved forward, we've rejected a negative situation, it doesn't mean we're done dealing with the aftermath. The wet, stinky leaves. Often, they need to sit, they need to dry out, while we rest. Then, maybe we'll find a use for them, like mulch to feed someone's soul. Or maybe, the mulcher is burnt out and we just need to ask for help taking it all to the dump. There is no wrong response - just wonderful relief with every leaf you deal with.

So right now - my life, my back yard, is home to some branches, some leaves, some dirt and a tremendous amount of SUNSHINE. And every week, I go out and evaluate what I need to deal with. And I make a plan. Some days, I sweep and trash, other days, I just let Oliver run that crap over, and deal with it another time.

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