Sunday, November 02, 2008

Breaking point

Right outside of my apartment there is this tall, skinny, awkward tree that grows up right in the little nook where the two adjoining buildings opposite mine meet at a right angle. It is an unobtrusive corner, walled in by spiny hedges all around. There are strings of ivy creeping up the building, even right over the window-shutters. And standing only inches away from those tucked-away walls is this tree--perhaps a birch, though it is hard to tell from where I sit and observe her. But her scrawny limbs sag just slightly, as if the leaves which are her lot in life are just a bit too heavy. She strains, not wishing for anyone to learn of her secret weakness, to lift those limbs with a sort of dignified grace. But at the very ends her limbs droop, only just--discrete but unmistakable.

I like to sit out upon my porch in the evenings and look on while she stands there, quiet and proud, even in her odd place in the world. On still, tranquil summer nights she would stand motionless, statuesque. As the thin ribbon of light in the blue-gray sky would descend lower and lower, her limbs would become entangled deeper and deeper with the darkness. Yet she always remains unmoving, watchful, attentive.

Her name is Eleanor, this tree, and she and I are kindred spirits in some ways. Both of us know something of isolation, of not really fitting into the hole that has been made for us. Both of us are strong, strong enough to stand against many storms and face the aftermath with some reservoir of grace that we are able to find within ourselves. Both of us, Eleanor and I, stand before the world proud of who we are, even when the winds of adversity threaten to tear us from the ground. And the world doesn't see what goes on inside.

But all creatures have a breaking point. Eleanor and I are no different, though our breaking points have not been identified yet. I have come dangerously close to breaking, but I have not broken. Some days the world seems heavier than other days; some days I droop a little more, betray a little more of the screaming, trembling little child who lives inside of me--the side of me that I don't let anyone see, the side that stings my heart knowingly whenever someone tells me how strong, how resilient I am. The weakness in my heart knows that the strength is just a front I put up for the benefit of the world, the world where I am supposed to be strong, because people would rather not have to deal with the weakness of their fellow human creatures.

We're going to be alright, Eleanor and me. Life is a hell of a thing to be charged with, day in and day out, and it is a wonder that any of us on this earth can make it. But somehow we do. And we come out alright. If we don't break first.

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