Living in the Woods

Well, we’re not out of the woods yet.

We’ve heard this phrase a lot, usually referring to someone who has been ill and is still in an uncertain recovery.

Or, when someone is trying to close a business deal and some unforeseen obstacles come up that could blow the whole thing apart.woods3

Or, it could even be when someone is actually on a hike and is still under the canopy of thick forest.

Whatever the situation, the connotation is clear that one can only relax and breathe easier once the trees are left behind. Things are okay again when there is only sunshine in a clear meadow ahead.

Last night I muttered the same expression.

Crud, I guess I’m still not out of the woods.

I was a little discouraged that my old nemesis, Mr. Screamer, had returned. It felt to me like he had been bulking up during his absence. Yep, I’m going to go with that; I’d hate to think that I have become weaker in the interim.

There wasn’t panic like there used to be, which is GREAT. But it wasn’t long until I found myself shaking within as I tried to quell this rising madness that throws everything out of focus. That wall in front of me was beginning to look pretty good to use as a punching bag for my head.

I didn’t of course.

I just exhaled slowly over and over and paced and did my little mental-illness finger exercises to help me refocus.

But as soon as I had voiced my thought of not being out of the woods, another thought came pretty quickly.


Will I ever be?


I guess it all depends on what I choose to define as my personal forest.

Ann and I were talking about a great friend who has just been declared cancer free – after a heroic, multi-year battle.

Contrasting how she feels now with how she has been feeling for so long, it really did seem like the shadows of the forest had been left behind and there were only bright skies and blankets of wild flowers before her.

That is, until she tried to run through those wild flowers.

She found herself knocked back, sitting in the shade of one of the large oaks on the border of the meadow.

We talked about how we could understand very well what she was experiencing.

flightBeing bipolar, it seems to make me an all-or-nothing kind of guy. I can either fly with the eagles, or I am sending my wings in to have intense damage repaired.

You know, soaring high above the treetops, breathing in clean air, and seeing for miles around; or, huddled in the fetal position under bushes, which are under the trees, which are under even more trees.

We’ve all been told that it is dangerous to get to a point where we “can’t see the forest for the trees.” When this happens, we become a bit myopic and don’t have a good perspective on the overall picture.

I agree.

But I also wonder if both views don’t have value?

The individual trees have the ability to bring a specific opportunity – usually by getting through something tough.

The old Me would have wanted to just chop down each tree in my way until I had simply eliminated the forest.

tree stump

No forest, no trouble.


But their is also value is seeing the whole forest, and the adjoining meadows, brings an understanding each of us needs to find.

You know, perspective.

The new Me has learned that I can’t cut down the trees in my way.

Some of my trees aren’t meant to be cut down. It would kind of be like me using the tree as the punching bag for my head.

I can hit it all I want to, but it is only going to keep hurting me.

light through darknessBut what I can do is some pruning, working to make paths to get to the other side. Funny, but this also creates breaks in the foliage that let the forest floor be bathed in splashes of light.

The trick is, to not get hung up on that particular tree in my way. Maybe step back and let a few of the other trees enter my view.

And figure out a path through.


So, I may not ever be out of the woods. There may be periods that I really can only see the trees.

What matters is I know that there is indeed a forest, and a meadow, and a fierce sun that can penetrate even the darkest points, if I work to move what is blocking its rays.

Rather than holding my breath, and not relaxing until I’m out of the woods, I think I’ll choose to learn how to live in the woods for now.

How about you?

pathway2Are you only seeing the trees?

Or are you perched high and can view the entire forest?

Or, are you like me and find yourself somewhere in between?

If so, let’s get up off the ground and keep walking. It’s amazing the things we will see as we move through the trees.


2 thoughts on “Living in the Woods”

  1. Thanks for the great post Greg. I really liked your idea of staying in the forest and I am like you -in the middle- and I will keep trying to look at other trees and to let some light shine through. I’m going to keep walking and walking and walking!

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