Life lesson 17: Trying to impress people often leads to pain that is slow to wane

As the youngest child in my family while growing up, I often tried to prove myself to my siblings and parents.

Now that I am older and more mature, that trait has only grown stronger and I still find myself taking on various challenges to impress them.

So when I heard recently that a pine tree had blown down in my mom’s yard, I knew that I would need to be the one to remove it. My sister suggested getting someone to cut it up and take away the wood, but I was confident that I could just drag the tree back into the woods.

“It will probably take about 5 minutes,” I thought to myself. “My sister and Mom will be impressed this time for sure. And boy, my brothers sure will be jealous when they hear how I helped out Mom!”

When I got to her house, I saw branches down all over the yard and spied the pine tree that had blown over. It looked like a big tree, but I figured that picking up sticks would be the tougher job so I did that first.

“My stupid brothers, they won’t believe it when they hear I moved a whole tree in Mom’s yard,” I thought to myself. “I will have to remind them about how I pushed over a tree in my own yard last year.” I really did do that, by the way. It was a small tree, but I find it important to talk about it as much as possible.

So, when I finally got done picking up all of the sticks and had the yard looking nice, which took forever, I went over to get to work on the tree.

I grabbed one end of it and started pulling and pulling, but it didn’t move.

“It must be stuck,” I thought, so I tried to turn it and move it in different ways. As much as I tried, though, it would not budge.

“Well, this must be an extra heavy pine tree,” I thought to myself. “Maybe I should chop it in half. Wait until my siblings hear about that! They will be so jealous!”


So I got the 40-year-old ax out of the garage and went to work cutting the tree in half. I worked for quite a while, chopping a bunch of times in a row, resting, chopping a bunch more times in a row, resting and so on, and after about 30 minutes of hard work I was nowhere close to cutting the tree in half.

“This is tougher than I thought it would be. It must be an extra strong tree, too. Or am I doing this wrong? Is this ax backwards? Is that what that saying means? Have I been saying that wrong all of these years? What was I thinking about again? Oh yeah, I am making some progress, probably a lot more than my dumb siblings would have made so far, I should keep going,” I thought to myself.

After that I chopped and chopped and chopped and rested and rested and rested and then chopped some more and finally I had cut the tree in half. As soon as I finished bowing and celebrating my tremendous accomplishment, I went to pull the top half back to the woods, but it also seemed to be stuck.

I moved it about a foot, and then finally realized I needed to chop it in half again.

“I bet my siblings wouldn’t have been able to move it that foot,” I thought to myself as I got to work chopping the half in half. “Why is this tree so heavy? Has my mom been watering it with deuterium oxide?”

That high school chemistry joke gave me great energy, and the chopping went very smoothly this time. Soon I was dragging one quarter of the tree back to the woods. Then, I strained and pulled the other quarter back to the woods.

Naturally, while pulling the two quarters of the tree back to the woods, I left all kinds of branches and twigs all over the yard that I had previously cleaned up.


After that, I went back to work chopping up the other half of the tree, only this time I decided to cut the half into thirds, which means that I was cutting the actual tree up into sixths? Is that right? I was told there would be no math.

This part of the tree was thicker, so it took even longer to chop up than the original half. I was extremely tired, my arms were aching and I noticed that my left hand was pretty much stuck in the shape of a C.

“How am I going to explain that I can’t move my hand anymore? Maybe people will think it’s on purpose for Claussen,” I thought as I rested. It was also getting cold, I was wet and muddy, and my need to prove my siblings wrong was beginning to wane.

“I bet my siblings would have waned way earlier,” I thought to myself while seeing how often I could use the word “wane.” I kept going, though, and after quite a while I had finally cut off one of the thirds, or sixths or whatever the demon piece of wood was. After the elation of finally chopping through the wood waned, I pulled and rested and pulled some more and finally got that part back to the woods.


Finally, I started to work on what I was hoping would be the final piece of wood to cut. I started off at a good pace, but then my back started to hurt. I smartly thought about stopping, but stupidly decided I would try to chop a little more and see if the pain would go away.

Yep, it definitely hurt more, but I wanted to keep going anyway. I was so close to finishing and I really, really wanted to be able to get the extra heavy tree out of the yard for my Mom. So, I kept chopping and chopping and resting and resting, while also trying to straighten out my back and my left hand during the rest periods.

Eventually, my mom came outside to see why I had been out there for so many hours and remind me that we were supposed to have dinner about 50 minutes earlier.

“I’m almost done,” I said. I looked at the tree, realized I really was not even close to done and finally gave up knowing that I was way too sore and tired. At least I had a good excuse to stop.

After dragging my body inside, I gingerly collapsed onto the sofa to try to ease the pain in my back. I knew that resting for the rest of the evening would help the pain to wane.


Resting, of course, just made everything worse and the next day I was even more crooked and sore.

That day, I was supposed to go to with my mom to meet my sister at a buffet restaurant. I previously had planned that the event would be a crowning achievement where I could tell her about how I had singlehandedly moved the tree out of Mom’s yard. Instead, it turned into a visit where I was jealous of how she was able to stand up straight and walk without wincing. Stupid siblings with their abilities to walk upright and even carry food around at a buffet!

After a few days, though, my back finally felt better, I could straighten out my left hand again and I was pretty much back to normal. While lying around on the floor while recovering, though, I had a lot of time to think, and I decided that I needed to do a better job of listening to my body and to not push myself so much anymore.

I also realized that I probably didn’t need to try to prove myself to my siblings and my Mom, and that I should just be happy with who I am.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I realized that my siblings would never have learned such important lessons as well as I had, and I knew that they would be incredibly impressed when they heard that I had moved 67 percent of a tree out of my Mom’s yard.

I bet their jealousy will never wane! They are so ax backwards.

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