It was a warm Indian Summer afternoon. I was about 8 years old and my mom and dad took me to a local park to feed the ducks. The hazy sun played peek a boo around the large willow tree.
“Never plant a willow tree, Kristy,” my mom told me. “They don’t have deep roots and one big storm, whoosh,” my mom, Sally made a large sweeping motion with her arms, “Gone. And gone with it any structure near it. They are destructive.”
“But they look so magical,” I argued.
Of course, I argued with my mom. It was constant banter. She likened to the negative, and I always tried to see the positive and with it tried for her to see the positive. Round and round we’d go. I continued to gawk at the curtains of willow branches like fingers gliding against the top of the small river. The swans danced in and out of the shadows. So elegant and mysterious.
“And buggy,” she continued her debate, interrupting my fairy tale thoughts. “Hear that?”
As if my mom were the cicada charmer, the chorus of what sounded like hundreds, if not thousands, of bugs began to rattle in unison.
“Willows are dangerous,” my mom emphasized, taking my hand, we continued on our walk.
When I was pregnant with my daughter, as moms often do, I jotted down possible names. Samantha. Scarlet. Autumn. Ronni. Willow. And I made the mistake of sharing my ideas with my mom.
“Willow?” she huffed. “What kind of name is Willow?”
Mom was never one to keep her opinion to herself.
“Those drooping branches represent tears of sadness. The roots are short, unlike an Oak tree that has deep roots. But don’t call her Oak either,” mom nervously laughed when she thought I might be taking it as a name suggestion.
“In China, Willows represent rebirth,” I retorted.
I had a miscarriage right before this pregnancy, and because of that was told I’d likely never get pregnant. This baby was a miracle, and what we in this era refer to as a rainbow baby. So Willow was appropriate.
“And although they have a different root system than an Oak tree, they actively seek out water and survival any way they can,” I added, proud of myself for remembering my botany class. Who said my college botany class would be useless?
“Kristy,” mom sighed, irritated with my argument and knowing I’d likely try and have the last word, she let it go.
I ended up naming my baby girl Micaela and not Willow (although I still love the name).
Saturday morning, I had a bit of a breakdown. And by breakdown, I mean, laying on the shower floor in a tangle of tears. I’m transparent (maybe too transparent) and shared my feelings on social media. I made the mistake of reading comments and messages later that night. From opinions that my husband’s cancer could’ve been caused by a demon, to comments that I knew how and where to reach out, my emotions lingered somewhere between depression and anger. Demons didn’t cause my husband to have cancer. Good ole genetics did. So maybe an ancient family curse then? Yeah, no, not that either. But the “just reach out, you know where I am” made me swallow hard. People mean well most of the time. Probably even the person claiming we had a demon, or that if we didn’t have bad luck we’d have no luck at all , and the person reminding me that when it rained, it poured and that it was pouring all over us.
If you’ve ever been in a breakdown mode, there’s no ability to reach out. There’s no words to speak (even when you get paid to pretend to be a wordsmith). There’s ego. There’s pride. There’s emptiness. There’s a blur of emotions that are like tangled Christmas lights. Some people are patient at untangling and others throw them away in a fit. There’s awareness that no matter what you say or do, it won’t take the pain away, delete the past, or change the now. Isn’t that the complaint of survivors of those stolen from suicide? Why didn’t they just get help? Why didn’t they reach out? They could’ve called that hotline number, or a therapist, or someone. Look at all the help out there! The problem with breakdowns is you are broken and not thinking. You don’t see any way around the pieces nor can you see that anyone else has the fix it combination. You are afraid to move you might get more broken, or more cut. I yelled at the screen, “Instead of saying – “I’m here for you” or “How can I help?”, just help. Just do. Don’t wait for the broken to drink a cup of common sense!”
I fell asleep with a hangover-like headache, that didn’t involve any alcohol, only a lot of residual emotions I had to purge. I awoke to my husband sound asleep next to me with a black and white cat snuggled on top of him. The lightning struck and the wind tried to sweep up my emotions with thunder following. I gazed out of my bedroom window. My clock read 1:35 in the morning. In the distance, I saw my neighbor’s willow tree that sat upon the lake (that he calls his swamp). Its branches bent in a frenzy, staying flexible to the uprising, and dancing along with the music of the storm.
“See, mom,” I whispered to the heavens, “The willow survived. Maybe the thunder, lightning, and wind aren’t the enemy, but the reminder of its strength.”
We can allow the depression of our past and present to shield our view of the beauty around us; dulling our senses like faded curtains. We can see sadness, or new beginnings. We can see a fight, or peace. We can see sickness, or healing. We have the ultimate choice of which perspective we decide to see. And breakdowns aren’t bad, they often result in breakthroughs.