The Funnel or the Tree?

{This post was originally published on May 20, 2011.)

I recently read an article in the April Redbook about Ashley Madison, the dating site for cheaters.  I read it when the magazine first arrived in March, and since then I’ve been hearing about the site all over the mainstream media. Little “did you knows” on HLN, attacks from conservative groups trying to shut it down, outrage from the religious community.  I find the entire thing absolutely fascinating, so today I pulled out the article and took another look.  I was struck by this quote:

Have you heard the analogy that life is like a funnel? That you start off with such a wide range of possibilities, and as you tie yourself to things through the years (spouse, bills, house, kids, career), the range narrows until one day you’re pretty much completely restricted at the tip of the funnel?”

When I read that quote I sighed and thought for a moment – just one moment – this is SO TRUE.  And then I stopped and realized that the opposite is in fact true.  Life isn’t a funnel…it’s a tree.

When life starts out, it isn’t really about a wide range of possibilities at all.  In fact, life is really very small, the world is what’s just outside your door.  Even in the supposed glory days of the teen years, you are limited by money, rules, reach.  A trip thirty minutes to the next town might be the biggest excitement in your month.  Sure, less doors are closed to you.  But it doesn’t mean they are open.  They just aren’t there yet.

As you begin to tie yourself to things through the years, possibilities suddenly open up before you, your life branching out in new directions.  You meet classmates and professors who introduce you to new subjects, new towns, new job possibilities.  Eventually you tie yourself to a spouse, and his or her world becomes yours, doubling your collective experience.  Then you begin to build a family with that person, one child, then two.  Suddenly you are no longer an individual but a team, each one of you bringing experiences to the whole, the doors of possibility flung wide open! It was as a mom that I began to see what my life could be and that it could change in an instant to something completely different.

Being tied to other people has taken me in so many amazing directions that I could never have predicted my life as it is today ten or even five years ago.

I’ve been a full time stay at home mom, a teacher, a writer, a business owner, a public speaker. I’ve worked with Walt Disney World, been on the TODAY show, parent helped in my daughter’s reading class, slept in on a Sunday just because, and slip-covered an entire sectional couch without any real knowledge of upholstery.

I’ve woken up on a Tuesday and decided that two Saturdays later I would take my entire family for a weekend at Disney without telling anyone.  And then I did it.

The decisions that I’ve made – the things and the people and the choices that have tied me down as this man would have me believe – have been the inspiration that has driven my life.

My life is a tree, not a funnel.  And I can’t wait to see what blooms next.

Leave a Reply


  • well said, lady. well said!

  • A funnel? Their life must blow. No seriously, you have it so right, life is about the choices we make and whom we choose to share it with. If you want to “funnel” your life through a cone of unhappy things and responsibility, go for it. I choose to that the “crap” life tosses in my direction and fertilize that happiness that grows like a tree.

  • I think it’s all about how you look at it. Some people live the tree life, others the funnel life. I’m glad yours grew into the tree.

  • Wow, talk about glass half empty. Poor guy w/the funnel life. I’d have to agree w/your tree analogy!! Well put.

  • april yedinak

    I love this and it is so true. It wasn’t until I had children that I began to realize my full potential.

  • Guess I’m one of the lucky ones who’s life grew into a tree. Great post Amy! Thank you

  • Love this! My Ketubah (Jewish marriage contract) is a beautiful painting of the Tree of Life.
    I agree with you. It’s not a funnel. It’s a tree with endless possibilities branching off at every step.

  • The funnel attitude is something I hear from a LOT of men in their 20s-40s. Maybe they feel an outward sense of responsibility differently than we do. They have so bought into the idea that they’re just working to support their wife, family, car payments, that they feel restricted. It starts with their buddies telling them they’re settling down or getting a ball & chain on their wedding day.

    Find a spouse that wants to grow WITH you, not spiral ever downwards with you. Find a job that lifts you up, doesn’t pigeon-hole you.

    And above all else, know that we have to have roots to grow strong branches. Our roots aren’t holding us captive, they’re feeding us so we can keep growing. Ever see a tree pulled out of the ground in a wind storm? With stronger roots, trees can make it through nearly anything that comes their way 🙂

  • Wow… what an amazing post. I think you have it exactly right, and I especially relate to not being able to have predicted this life I have now… I love my life and it’s the life I have because of the people and places I’ve tied myself to. It’s not what I expected, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Thanks for a very nice aha moment. 🙂

  • I agree with the tree analogy. When we get trapped in a funnel and don’t branch in our marriage, places like Ashley Madison gain more power.

    I’m not looking to sequester myself in a narrow funnel (claustrophobia seems to help that!), but to continue growing and evolving.

  • What a beautiful analogy! Thanks for sharing.

  • Great post! I agree with you, its tree not a funnel.

  • Carrie Netschi

    What a great post! I have it bookmarked and will reference this post whenever I need a reminder that, one’s perspective on life can literally change a life! Thank you! =)