At the end of a relationship, have you ever had a difficult time letting go? Have you tried everything and still feel like you will never be free of the bond between you and the other person? If so, I want you to meditate on the following image.
Whether your relationship slowly died from disease, or was swiftly cut short, once the relationship ends, you have work to do. Let’s call it “stump removal.” Let us use the literal to highlight the figurative.
This week I had a four-year-old tree cut down. The stump was hardly three inches in diameter but I wanted to get it out of there, so it couldn’t grow back or the roots continue to cause damage.
At first the digging was easy. Tiny bundles of roots were easy to break up. They were close to the surface and gave me encouragement to think I could succeed in getting the stump out. But as I dug deeper, thicker roots began to appear. Some of them I could break through with my shovel, but others were too thick.
As the thicker roots arrived in view, I needed to widen the hole in order to get to where they were and clearly see what it was I was that I needed to do. Soon, I needed to fetch other tools. I grabbed a saw, some pruning clippers, and a strong piece of wood to use as a lever.
I broke out in a deep sweat. I had to use a garden trowel, and get on my hands and knees to dig. I couldn’t help but think of how many roots of various sizes there were and how deep they had dug in a few short years. I was tempted to fill the hole back in and let the stump remain, but I knew I would feel best if I completed the job.
I dug as much out as I could the first day. I returned the next day and the next. Literally I had to work through the root system from all angles. I sawed. I pried so hard that I wrecked my shovel. I used leverage to loosen the stump, and I was nearing my goal, but I could still see that a few large roots were anchoring the stump in place. I thought about tying a rope to the stump and my truck in order to rip the stump loose, but I chose to continue my work by hand. I felt that me using a short cut might make a different problem appear. There was something satisfying about doing the necessary work.
Nearly every time I thought I had the stump loose, I discovered a thicker and deeper root. At last, the end was in sight. I used my pruning clippers to tear apart the last of the difficult roots. Once I broke through that, there were two small roots left to clip, and the stump came out. I felt joy at my success, and when I stepped back I was amazed how the stump was tiny and the hole was large.
The only thing left to do was fill the hole back in. Before I knew it, the hole was gone, and the ground looked smooth. If a visitor passed by, they might not notice the spot at all. But I would remember where the tree had been and why it had to go. Stepping back farther, I saw the whole of my yard and I marveled at how open and free it now was.
While I completed my task, I thought about people I have loved and lost, and I began to understand how deep roots can get in only a few years. Rather that beating myself up for the times I struggled to let go, I began to understand that letting go is a process of freeing oneself. Compassion is the way to love yourself as you go through the process of uprooting and breaking connections. It’s hard work, and may require using all the tools at your disposal. It may take a while, but with work and the passage of time, you will complete the job.