What Kind of Story Will You Tell?

Shouldn’t there be leaves?

Our 100-year-old walnut tree was sick. We tried to save it with special fertilizer and extra summer watering, but the arborist said that it had a virus. It got sicker and sicker and over the winter it died.

That’s when the City of Portland said we would have to replace it as part of their Urban Forestry program. They said someone would come out and tell us what kind of tree we needed to plant and where to situate it on our property. There would be a $100 “Tree Removal and Replanting Application” fee.

A fee for them making us plant a tree in our own yard? Really?

There was a rush to the internet to verify that they can do this (they can) and a search to see if we really have to replace the tree (we do, or they’ll fine us).

Oh my, the story we started telling about the City of Portland! How they were making us change our yard. How our choice of trees was limited (you have to pick from a list). How the “system” was working against us. Imagine: the City of Portland dictating how our yard should look!

We researched how to appeal these outrageous rules. We read about what would happen to us if we ignored them. We spent a lot of time being angry and complaining. Our story was “The City of Portland is violating our rights!”

Finally, I realized that we weren’t going to be able to the change the City or its rules. I also realized that I didn’t like being upset over this situation.

That’s when I remembered the Serenity Prayer:

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Oh yeah: Acceptance! Time to put away the old story of anger and outrage. Those emotions helped us to clarify that the City’s rules couldn’t be changed.

But our story could. And so could our reactions and emotions.

Our new story is “We get to pick out a new tree for our yard.” We’re favoring Crape Myrtles because they bloom in the summer, have beautiful fall foliage, and have an interesting peeling bark pattern.

Which do you like better? The red or the purple?

Crape Myrtle “Tonto”
Crape Myrtle “Twilight”