Overcoming obstacles with Optimism

Video EEG April 20, 2011

Eight years….eight amazing years completely free of seizures!  Four years….four years of my mind not being slowed and my body not being burdened by medication.  Prior to these years, for fifteen years, my life consisted of making sure I was properly medicated and being concerned when the next seizure would attack my brain.  Now, please, do not misunderstand me.  Epilepsy never hampered me from living a full life.  Epilepsy did, however, leave me always wondering when the next seizure would come, and what adverse side effects it would create causing confusion within my body.  So trust me, for the past eight years I have held onto the independence, happiness and freedom that came with living a life free of medical conditions!  Since my epilepsy surgery in 2003, not one day has been taken for granted.  I have remembered how lucky I am living a healthy life.

This past week I battled an unexpected but always feared storm.  While lying in a hospital bed, I held tight to lessons that I have learned regarding the strength of a willow tree.  Like the tree, I found a way to bend.  I held on tight.  Seizures again battered my brain and my body. Unexpectedly, I went from enjoying a beautiful spring day outside with my children to feeling a tingling sensation in my left fingers and toes.  The next conscious thought I have was being rolled on a stretcher from the ambulance into the emergency room.  I remain grateful for the strong roots I have cultivated in family and friends.  For six days, I rested in a hospital bed connected to a video EEG hoping to catch some record of the electrical storm that has again taken hold of my mind.  I was able to bend with this storm and still arrive on the other side with barely a bruise left on me.

So what are these lessons I recalled from a willow tree?  A willow tree appears to hardly have a trunk.  It is very small and narrow compared to its long, weepy branches.  If you look at its unimposing trunk, it appears to be weak and even fragile.  Yet, it is not a fragile living plant.  It is one of the toughest.  As the wind blows, as storms rage on in the world, the willow tree will bend and will remain strong.  Rarely, can the fierce storm cause it to break.  You see, there is a secret that the willow tree has learned over the centuries.  The secret lies in its roots.  As bendable as the willow tree may appear to be, deep beneath Earth the roots of the tree are strong, solid and secure.  The tree can bend, but it will not break because of the invisible strength holding onto what we mistake as a frail trunk.  Other trees that grow strong and solid contain a massive trunk.  They look mighty, but in the storms they will snap.  The roots will pull from the ground. 

Even the sad-looking branches of a willow tree contain hope and purpose.  The long, lazy branches allow room for the centered trunk to bend and space for the tree to stretch and move.  We can all learn from this tree.  The lessons of a simple trunk and strong roots to keep us grounded can show us all direction during the storm.  My seizures have returned.  My body will again need medication.  I have a strong center though.  The roots of my family and friends will hold me tight.  My optimism will ensure I have space to keep hope and purpose.  My optimism will allow me to overcome tremendous obstacles.  The returning seizures will not hamper my life.  Like the willow tree, I will continue to weather the storm.

Comments on: "Lessons from the Willow Tree" (31)

  1. I see a beautiful poem in this ‘Willow Tree’ lesson…glad to hear you are resilient. With my daughter, I also had to bend as things went this way and that way…you remind me to keep my heart open and be aware of others strengths, we can help each other…silently, but helping none the less…

  2. If prayers and good wishes and thoughts beamed your way count for anything, know that you have them.
    You are your own Legend of the Willow Tree —

    • Judith,

      Thank you so much for stopping by! I was up and about today. I went for my first walk I have had in a few weeks. Huge step!!! I needed it. I am getting a bit stronger each day.

      I will soon be back to the blogging world. I have missed reading your words of wisdom. Soon enough….I will be logging on to read the happy and thoughtful words your blog delivers to us.

      Thank you for stopping by and offering your support. It really means a lot to me!


  3. You are so amazing Tara. I shall remember your optimism when I run a bit low.
    Keep on swaying with breezes.

  4. Tara, how are you feeling now? Do the doctors know why the seizure resumed 8 years later? Do they think you will have any more? I’d love to hear any developments you are willing to share. I’m thinking about you…


    • Stef,

      I am doing better now. It has certainly been a whirlwind and emotional roller-coaster around here the past few weeks! The seizure was my lowest of lows. I spent a week in the hospital having many tests leaving with no answers. We really do not know why the seizures have picked this year to return. Yet, it is not that uncommon for them to redevelop after surgery. In cutting away the scar tissue from the brain, more is created and left behind. The hope is that a smaller amount of the scar is left and it becomes easier to control. I will now be back on medication for probably the rest of my life.

      I am fortunate that the tonic-clonic seizure I had was no where near as severe as those I had previously. In the past, every seizure could have easily taken my life. This seizure last month was just enough to severely scare us. I feel worse for my daughters seeing it than anything else! Chances are likely I will have more episodes now that I have had the first one. Knowing now that this is a likely occurrence, I will be better prepared and ready to handle the situation. Your concern is greatly appreciated!


  5. Hugggs and love to you my willow tree 🙂

    • Thank you for that nice virtual hug! It is very much appreciated!!! 😀

      I am much better now. The medicine is slowly becoming regulated, and I feel less tired. I have been having other, much more enjoyable, events to focus on. It is great to have positive distractions!


  6. Good luck.

  7. Lauren Goldstein said:

    This is amazing!! I used to work in Pediatric Neurology in Epilepsy Research so seizures have a special place in my heart! Beautiful!

    • Thanks Laura. Anyone that works with Pediatric Neurology must have tough skin and a soft heart. I hope the research was successful. Now is such a great time in the world of research and unlocking secrets of the brain. I know how grateful families are for people like you.

      Thank you for stopping by to visit my blog. I appreciate you took the time to leave this comment!


  8. Tara,
    I am so disappointed to hear about the return of a seizure. Your life and writings are great lessons from which I have learned much. I wish more people had the opportunity to learn from you. I found your post about a willow so timely. I have always thought willow trees were beautiful until it came time to deal with the falling leaves and twigs. I can say the same thing about oak trees. However, with oak trees there are two additional downsides. I was talking with my neighbor this week a down sidest in his mind. He was complaining as he slowly walked through his entire yard picking up the alcorns that the enmorous oak tree in his yead had deposited on his yard. He was picking up acorns because he didn’t want to run over them with his mover because an acorn coming out of the discharge shoot of a mover can do a lot of damage to any person or object unfortunate enough to be in its path. But as with much of life, downsides for one individual can be an upside for another. The neighborhood squirrels were having a grand time picking up acorns as they dropped. You should have seen them scurrying around trying to pick-up as many as they could, but they still couldn’t keep up with all the dropping acorns.. It was fun to watch them work. Even though they were working, they looked like they were having fun. However, you should have seen their exorbitance when they found the uncovered bucket of acorns that my neighbor had picked-up and and had left out for the weekly trash pick-up. I could hear the squirrels chattering from my house, as if they were saying thanks for doing all this work that they wouldn’t have to do now. Isn’t it amazing how many human characteristics we read into animal behavior?

    In your post you so expertly explained the second downsize of oak trees and one of the greatest upsides of willows. This lesson was illustrated to me recently in the yard of a house near our church. It had a huge willow tree and oak tree standing side by side in its yard. The willow tree although it was massive in height and breadth was dwafted in both dimensions by the oak tree that stood beside it. After an night of wind gusts that exceeded 80 mph, my wife and I were taken by the sight when we drove by this house recently. The willow tree had stood its ground with no appartent damage. The bending strength of the willow tree with its deep, strong roots, overcame the battle. While half of the oak tree was sprewn all over the yard, soon to be headed for the wood pile and eventually the fireplace or woodstove.The home owner was already out in his yard with his chain saw working on the debris. The brittle, stiff strength of the oak tree, with its root system close to the surface lost its battle.While the willow tree withstood the storm and was ready to provide shade for the home owner for many years to come.

  9. This was an incredibly moving post. I happen to love willow trees, and I always remember eating lunch under them in elementary school. Now I will have an even greater association with them. You remind us that we can’t change our circumstances, but we can change our outlook.

    • Life is all about the choices we are given. I love that you used to eat lunch under willow trees. What a beautiful image to create in our minds. Very peaceful! Thanks, Tracy, for taking the time to stop by. It was kind of you to leave such a nice comment. Thank you!


  10. Tara, you always touch us with your honesty and attitude. Praying for you and your sweet family as you bend but do not break under the return of seizures to your life. Be safe, dear one! hugs!

  11. lindaluke said:

    Thank you for sharing your powerful story. You amaze me!

  12. […] My seizures did return April 18, 2011.  There is till no regret at all for having had surgery for my epilepsy. Please […]

  13. […] thing I remember was I was sitting outside on the chair. Are my kids okay?  How and why did my seizures come back?  What can we […]

  14. […] 2.)    Most Viewed Post: Lessons from the Willow Tree […]

  15. I love this! It’s true that flexibility, bending with the wind, makes life a lot better, regardless of what those winds are. 🙂 Glad you made it through. Thanks for coming by my blog too 🙂 Angie

  16. Wow, this is amazing. Thank you for sharing your own personal, heart-felt journey. You certainly have deeply touched me.

  17. I’m sending you prayers for strength and courage and beautiful thoughts on which to float. You are a gallant lady.

  18. What a lovely and strong analogy, Tara. Not only are they strong, they are beautiful, too.

    Wishing you the best.

    Donna O’Donnell Figurski

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