If I were a tree, I would be a great willow.
I’ve always loved the softness of their tiny leaves, the flexibility of their branches and their melancholy, weeping appearance.
When I was a little girl, I swung from the branches of three willows in my grandmother’s yard.
I hid amongst the sweeping, canopy in the summer afternoons of visits to Michigan.
This winter has left our trees snapped, cracked and broken. Branches are lying in the snow. The ice was too heavy for their boughs and even in the lit up, crystal beauty of the storm, injury occurred.
I have always hidden my broken branches.
In middle school, while girls giggled about their first kisses and sexual experiences, I struggled to know enough to be cool and not enough to be considered a slut.
When I was triggered by my relationship with people, places or things in the world, I withdrew. I asked my mother to pretend to tell me that I couldn’t go out so I could avoid seeing anyone.
I didn’t know the word ‘trigger’ at the time though.
As we approach the 6 month anniversary of The Firecracker Foundation, I have experienced what I can only compare to the feeling of astonishment. After we met our fundraising goal last year, I felt stunned.
I felt paralyzed. I didn’t want to move. I didn’t want to breathe, or bend or stretch.
I wanted to be still.
What is this that I am feeling? Why am I afraid to move?
I felt as if my movement would shatter the world.
I felt like if I stretched everyone would finally see all of the broken branches at my feet. I felt like my warm breath would melt the snow that had hidden them so well.
Because I am broken. Right?
That’s what I’ve been surviving. I’ve been healing all of the things torn away from me in childhood. I’ve been mending, bandaging and wrapping up wounds.
I’ve been hoping, for the most part, that I hid it well.
Look at that smile. Look at that capable, smart, creative girl. Look at that mother and wife. Look at that derby girl. Look at that giving, compassion loving lady.
Look but don’t look down. There are branches scattered all around me.
Sure, I’ve shared pieces of what I’m healing and where in this blog. I’ve definitely had tearful heart to hearts with friends too.
I still maintain that I have never met a thought I couldn’t share.
However, in some ways I’m still that 8-year-old girl hoping no one notices she’s really just dirty and broken.
Some of the branches I lopped off myself. Self destruction and worthlessness can make you try and burn off the things you’ve been convinced are wrong with you. True or not, the shears come out and you prune like Edward Scissorhands to make yourself normal like everyone else.
Or normal like no one else but less like you.
Here I am after the launch of an incredibly supported and embraced foundation and I am feeling through it all.
What is this frozen, stunned, catatonic state? Why does this growth and expansion make me so uncomfortable? Where has this journey brought me?
It has brought me to discover and examine the possibility that maybe, just maybe, I am not broken.
Maybe the branches at my feet are broken but I am still the tall, sweeping willow tree.
Is it possible that I have been hiding a secret deformation that never existed in the first place?
Is it possible that the abuse I suffered did not make me inherently dirty, misshapen, worthless, incompetent or broken at the core?
It is possible.
It is possible to heal from an injury without always thinking that injury somehow makes you a lesser human being.
It is possible for branches to break off of a strong, living tree. It is possible to love the deep, digging roots, the thick trunk and the wide spreading canopy of leaves without assessing it a lower value because of unexpected and undeserved losses.
I’m still pulling the word broken out of my trunk like a fence line tangled too close.
I’m figuring this one out. I’m letting it sink in.
It’s a whisper. It’s a half question, a wonderment. It’s the possibility that I made a false agreement with myself under duress.
I’m toying with a declaration:
I am not broken.
From the roots to the tree, let it be.
Love from the branches of a weeping willow,