abstract tree wall mural in garden station dayton ohio

the tree

There are times in our lives when we feel like we have nothing left to give, and also nothing left to lose. We feel depleted. People have come into our lives and taken so much that there isn’t much left to give. There’s a book by Shel Silverstein called The Giving Tree that tells the story of a tree who loves a little boy…and initially the boy comes and plays on the tree, swings on the branches, naps in the shade, takes comfort in the tree- and they’re both happy. Then as he grows up, he only comes back to the tree when he needs something – and the tree (because she’s so happy he came back) gives everything she can, each time, and is happy because she gave him what he needed…apples to sell in the city, branches to build a house with, her trunk with which to build him a boat. Eventually he takes so much from the tree that all that’s left is a stump- she has literally given everything of herself to make him happy. She doesn’t know any other way to be than to just keep giving of herself when he needs it- and what she really wants most is just to be loved in return.

There have been a few times in my life when I’ve existed in this deeply emotional place where it’s hard to not feel like the tree. Many of you may be able to relate to that…People have come into our lives and taken whatever they wanted, leaving us with less than before. Depleting us. And it feels as though there is nothing left to give anymore. And when you feel like you have nothing left to give, you have nothing left to lose.

Once again, my life is in flux right now; it’s hard to not reflect on where I’ve been over the last few years, and how during those years there were times when I have felt like the tree. While material objects still remain, I have very little left emotionally. I sit here looking around at my house at the four walls and the furniture, the garage and all the tools, the things hanging on the walls. And I realize that very little of it matters. It’s all just stuff from a life that doesn’t exist anymore. This house is a shell of a life that used to be. It holds the scars of the things that have happened here, the ghosts of the people who have spent time here, and the memories that are at times difficult to escape.

There have been several situations that have tried my soul over the past 24 months. And just when I thought one storm had passed, another blew in to take its place. It seemed at the start of each new situation that I was doing things differently than before…that this time it would surely be different…it had to be. And as I carried with me the memories of the past, I grew more and more cautious with every new person who came into my life. I didn’t trust easily. I didn’t believe their intentions were honest, so I didn’t open myself up right away. I wrapped myself in a shell of armor to avoid being hurt again.

But over time I slowly unraveled the blanket of armor, and I allowed myself to grow closer to certain people, letting them into my life one at a time, inviting them into my inner circle…trusting that they knew what they were doing, and how high the stakes were for me. But no matter how hard I tried to make sure I was doing things differently- so carefully- I failed yet again.

I realized that things aren’t always what they seem, no matter how much I wanted to believe it. No matter how much I wanted this one to be different, or how much I thought I had earned it. It sounds selfish maybe. To think I somehow deserve to get it right. There are plenty of people who are in the same boat-I know I’m not unique in that respect. I’m just reflecting on my own inability to do things differently.

I don’t enjoy wallowing. I don’t like feeling depleted, empty or like I have nothing left to give. Right now though, I feel disappointed in myself for not being able to break the cycle. I feel as though I’ve let myself down again. I have failed to learn from my mistakes yet again.

Despite all of that, I’m desperately trying to trust that eventually that well will fill back up again, and I’ll find something inside me to give when the time is right. But right now, all I want to do is strip my life bare, look at it as honestly as possible, and try to build it back up again. But first…I need to purge it all.

As I sit and look around my house, realizing it’s full of irrelevant objects, and that the real things that mean anything in life are those that are felt with the soul, not seen…all I see are shadows of memories that belong to another life. This house bears the scars of the last few years and the people and experiences that have left their marks here. And maybe that’s why I’m getting rid of everything. Maybe it’s a metaphor for all the emotional purging I’ve done over the past few years, and the fact that at this point, today, I feel completely depleted.

And the only thing I can think to do is get rid of it all, find somewhere to go and start again. It’s time to move on.


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