I’ve Seen This Tree: A Lesson in the Patterns of Our Lives

At the beginning of Gilmore Girls season 4, Rory moves to Yale. Lorelai convinces Luke to let her borrow his truck for one day to transport Rory’s new mattress to her dorm room, not anticipating the need to remove the one provided by the school. When the day is over, Lorelai has not managed to dispose of the dorm mattress. Luke will not take his truck back unless the mattress is gone, Lorelai says she cannot dispose of the mattress unless she is given more time with the truck. Classic Gilmore repartee ensues, the two arguing in circles, repeating their side of the debate, until Lorelai finally cuts in, exasperated,

“I’ve seen this tree!”

It’s like when you’re lost on a road trip. And you’re going in circles. And you KNOW you’ve seen that tree before.

My girlfriend Georgia and I used to talk a lot about the patterns in our lives, and how we kept making the same mistakes over and over and over again. She dated guys who leave and I had emotional relationships with guys who didn’t want to date me. We would talk and analyze and do what girls do, when one day we put it all together.

We had seen that tree. And we hated that tree.

It became a joke.

A typical text from GeorgiaA typical text


My mom gave me three pieces of advice I took with me into my adult years.

1. Start saving your money now.

2. Floss.

3. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different result.

When I was in college I loved a boy who did not love me back. I convinced myself we could “just be friends” and “it didn’t bother me.” Every time we hung out I was on cloud nine, every time after, I hated myself because we were not together. A few days would pass, the pain would ease, I convinced myself we could “just be friends,” and once again, I would walk before the firing squad. Five years went by. And after five years, I was tired. And a tiny bit smarter. I had been watching Gilmore Girls and talking to my mom after all. And hearing poems like this one by Portia Nelson:

Autobiography in Five Chapters

Chapter One:
I walk down the street.
There’s a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I’m lost.
I’m helpless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

Chapter Two:
I walk down the same street.
There’s a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I’m in this same place.
But it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

Chapter Three:
I walk down the same street.
There’s a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I fall in.
It’s a habit.
But my eyes are open.
It is my fault and I get out immediately.

Chapter Four:
I walk down the same street.
There’s a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

Chapter Five:
I try walking down a different street.

A roommate told me once people don’t do anything in life unless they’re getting some sort of a cookie. Ultimately, they might be suffering, but presently, they’re getting some sort of return. What this means is while it’s easy to look down on someone repeatedly making a stupid decision, this is far more complex than masochism. Change takes more than just being weary of trees and holes. You have to be willing to give up the cookie too. For me, that was the hardest part. I had to come to terms with the fact that the low left me lower than the high left me high. And the situation was not about to alter itself for me. If things were going to change, I was going to have to force myself to actively make different choices. Even if I didn’t know what the “right” choice was (and most of the time, I don’t), I could at the very least make a different one.

On my last visit to California, when the boy I could not help how I felt about asked to hang out, it took everything I had to say no. And now he is not speaking to me. I can’t say the situation is better, but at least it is different. And a sequence of events followed causing a revelation that has forever changed how I do friendships with guys, which would not have happened otherwise. This is how we break patterns.

People. Our lives won’t change until WE CHANGE. I am no expert. But I am trying. Because I am tired of the trees, tired of the holes, tired of the insanity. And the cookies just aren’t worth it.

My sister once told me we want to think we change because we are inspired to move towards our goals, but in reality we do not change until we are completely and utterly dissatisfied with where we already are. Much less glamorous, but oh-how-accurate.

It is impossible to move forward if you are going in circles. If you find yourself stuck on the same path, stop walking, sit down, and don’t move until you have a plan for changing your direction. It’s going to suck. It’s not going to be easy. You have been walking your path for years now, so no doubt the dirt is packed down and it’s easy going. But, now that you’re sitting, I have one question for you:

How much do you hate that tree?

This entry was published on February 3, 2013 at 11:19 am and is filed under Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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