Ever notice how a willow tree will gracefully bend with the wind? The willow has a limber trunk and long lacy fronds that allow it to bend but not break even in a hurricane. An oak tree, on the other hand, will stand tall and strong and immovable–until it faces heavy straight-line winds, a tornado or a hurricane. Then it breaks–its massiveness a mere toy in the face of all that violence.
There are willow people and oak people. The willows of this world may bend nearly double, but do not break. They suffer hardships and deprivation, loss and devastation–and yet they stand back up when it’s over. The oaks, on the other hand, will strive mightily to stand firm, and will not give an inch to the force that tries to topple them. But eventually that very strength becomes their undoing, and they fall, broken forever.
I once worked with a woman who was a true oak–there was absolutely no compromise for her. A thing either was or was not; there was no middle ground, no shade of gray–her world was utterly black or white. In her mind, she had absolute control over everything in her life, and that suited her just fine. I, like others, found ways to work with her, but it certainly called on my creativity to do so.
I found I understood her more than I wanted to–I, too, have been an oak; unbending, hidebound, too serious and too obsessed with being right. Where that got me ultimately was exactly nowhere. I’m sure that I irritated and frustrated others around me, and more than that, I suffered needlessly. All I had to do was to learn how to bend. It made all the difference.
These days, when I am tempted to return to my old oakiness, I remember the toll it took on me and those around me. It is much healthier to give now and then instead of stubbornly standing there with the wind and storm in your face.
Living as a willow is a vast improvement over living as an oak.