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Trees: A Guest Post from Jacklyn

This week's blog post comes from Jacklyn from In honor of Caregiver Month, I have asked her to blog about support. If you haven't yet, please check out her blog and follow her on Twitter (@flareuphope). She's super sweet and friendly... Not to mention beautiful!!!

Jacklyn from shows us her "Tree" pose!!!

I’ve been attempting to write this blog for the past month about how important a support system is for someone fighting IBD, and I keep coming back to this tree metaphor. Everyone, please put on your imagination cap, and let us become trees for a little bit. 

I’ve always had a strange obsession with trees. I’ve taken pictures of them since I was a little girl. Trees with snow, tree stumps, looking up at the trees, climbing the trees, sitting under the trees, looking at the bark, wondering how long they’ve been there, what have they seen, what is their story, what do they feel. I have pictures of sap dripping from trees, of ice melting, of leaves falling. There was this tree in Nashville that was so enormous and lovely and had been there for over two hundred years and I texted my boyfriend and told him that he had met his match; I was in love with a tree.

I love the idea of trees representing your life, your body rooted into the earth and the rest of you trying to reach the sky, branching out in different directions and finding support and beauty along the way, always growing, always evolving. Did you know that trees never stop growing? When I think of all the branches of the tree as a symbol of all of the relationships I have, and some of the ventures this life has taken me on, I can begin to picture my tree. Some of the branches of fallen off. Some have twisted together and gone off in their own direction. There are some new buds on some parts that just made it through a winter storm. Some of the branches have leaves that are bright and vibrant and full of all the colors of autumn. Some are bright green like the first spring day after a hard winter. Some of my roots have surfaced and scream pay attention to me when someone trips over them as they walk along. 

Others are buried deep below and keep me rooted and standing strong. So my support system is a tree. And it starts at the roots. My family, buried in the dirt below the surface, but strong enough to withstand the strongest storm. Family can come in many forms, but for me, my roots consist of my mom, my dad and my grandparents. 

To quote Tuesday’s with Morrie “The fact is, there is no foundation, no secure ground, upon which people may stand today if it isn’t the family. If you don’t have the support and love and caring and concern that you get from a family, you don’t have much at all.”

Without them, I would not be standing tall like I am. If I ever try to drift too far one way or the other, my roots bring me back and keep me anchored and remind me where I came from. My roots are my source of strength when I feel weak and can’t stand on my own. Tree roots need nutrients and water to survive. They provide the rest of the tree with what it needs to grow. My family does just that. When I was in the hospital and couldn’t eat any of the food that was provided there, my mom brought me real steak and potatoes from home. She read me Bible verses and prayed with me. My grandma came over and held my hand and paced her basement and prayed and hugged me and sent me emails and visited. My dad sat by my side and reminded me of who I was and what I was capable of. He let me cry when I couldn’t take keeping smile on my face for that day. He wrote my blog for me when I didn’t have the energy to do it myself. They all gave me what I needed to get through the days there. They kept me grounded and kept me safe.

Leading up from my roots to my branches would be my trunk. My branches cannot be supported without a strong trunk, and that is the strength and support I give myself. Sometimes this is the hardest part, but ultimately, if you don’t take care of yourself, you are of no use to anyone else. I tend to support myself the most with journal entries, a solid spiritual founding, and my yoga practice, and a lot of self-improvement exercises. If I’m not challenging myself, I’m not living right. Everything must evolve or else perish. I think that was from a book I ready back in high school, but for the life of me I can’t remember the title. Anyway, that’s how I take care of myself. I make sure I’m giving my body what it needs to thrive and that I’m bringing as much love and good into the world as possible. Love creates love. Good relationships, good food, good spirit and good mindset forged together give me the foundation I need to fight my disease, and to grow outward and onward.  

Reaching out from my trunk to others are my limbs. My branches are all roles and relationships I have in my life. All of my other support systems. This includes my boyfriend, my best friends, my twitter IBD family, my dog, my Instagram IBD family, my yogis, my mentors and so much more. Each one has a little bit of a different role in providing support, and for the sake of this post I’ll focus on two. 

My most solid and brightly colored branch belongs to my relationship with my boyfriend. This branch has withstood many harsh bare winters and beautiful vibrant summers. We’ve been together for over 4 years now, and he’s been involved with every stage of this disease, from diagnosis to hospitalization to Remicade infusions to remission(?)  I know that I could get through this disease without him (hence my solid trunk) but I wouldn’t want to. When I’m feeling weak, he has the ability to just hold my hand and tell me it is okay to be sad, to be scared, and it is okay to mourn the loss of my old life. And then he makes me laugh and smile and reminds me of all the great things to focus on. Everyone should have someone like this in their life. It could be a pet or a person, someone who can bring a little light and a little color when all you see is darkness and black and white. This is one of those branches that have the greenest leaves that go out and grab the sunlight and give the rest of the tree the strength it needs to keep going. He’s there when I don’t want to be strong on my own, and he helps me when I need it. I’m so blessed to have him as a part of my life, and I’m so thankful to have him to help me fight this battle. 

Another one of my branches includes my IBD family. This branch would have lots of little branches stemming out of it, some would have carvings and scars, some would have knobs or aches, some might be dealing with side effects from pesticides, but all of them would have the brightest colored leaves and strongest core. I have NEVER met any of these people in person, but they have all touched by heart in ways I couldn’t have predicted or imagined. This disease is lonely, unpredictable and hard for people to relate to, unless you’re going through it. If I hadn’t connected to the people I did through social media platforms like twitter or Instagram, I really don’t think I would have a strong of a mindset or the determination I have to help others fight this disease. These beautiful strangers made me smile while I was sitting in the hospital being told the doctor didn’t know what to do with me. They prayed for me. They continue to reach out and check in to see how I’m doing, how each other are doing. They bring tears to my eyes with their compassion and generosity. They relate to strange toilet issues, and aren’t embarrassed or disgusted to talk about it. They want to talk about it. They want to reach out and grow and help others. I’m still struck my how beautiful these people are, and I’m so happy I have them as part of my tree and my life. I know for a fact that I would not be the same person I am now, without their influence and support. 

To conclude, my support system is a tree. It starts with my roots, has a solid trunk, and is still growing onwards and upwards with vibrant colors and bountiful branches. What would your tree look like? Is it solid? Or does it have some storm damage and need some time to heal?  

Advice From a Tree by Ilan Shamir. 

Dear Friend

Stand tall and proud

Sink your roots deeply into the earth

Reflect the light of your true nature

Think long term

Go out on a limb

Remember your place among all living beings

Embrace with joy the changing seasons

For each yields its own abundance

The energy and birth of spring

The growth and contentment of summer

The wisdom to let go the leaves in the fall

The rest and quiet renewal of winter

Feel the wind and the sun

And delight in their presence

Look up at the moon that shines down upon you

And the mystery of the stars at night

Seek nourishment from the good things in life

Simple pleasures

Earth, fresh air, light

Be content with your natural beauty

Drink plenty of water

Let your limbs sway and dance in the breezes

Be flexible

Remember your roots

Enjoy the view!

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