I have a close friend who is usually so upbeat that she had the nickname “Sunshine” in high school. Nothing fazed her; everything had a win-win solution. It was actually quite amazing to see. And frankly, it often inspired the rest of us over the years. Nausea about this attitude was mentioned only a few times, and they were far between.
Last weekend I dropped off something I knew she needed and was amazed at the change in her demeanor. “Sunshine” had turned to “Stormy.”
Never one to be shy, I asked “What in the world is wrong with you?” This seemed a fair question and I expected…well, something really terrible, I guess for her to look so down.
“They killed my tree,” she said.
“What?” I had absolutely no clue who either “they” were or that she had her own tree.
“The big oak that shades my deck and makes it livable in the summer. They killed it.”
At this point, I was just going with it. “Who killed it?”
“The tree trimmers. They came around in the fall and just lobbed off branches. Evidently it was too big a shock to the tree. Look around. Every other tree is full of green leafy branches but the oak! Its leaves are all brown.” She really did look heartbroken.
I walked across the deck, up real close to the tree, and looked closely. Yep. Everything was brown. But ironically, the leaves were a cool and pliable brown, not a crispy brown. It seemed to me that meant there was still life in the tree. It just needed more time to bloom.
So at that point, I’m the one who turned into “Sunshine.” I refused to give up on this big strong tree. After all, over the years it had probably already survived multiple storms, inept tree trimmers, squirrels, owls, and even an occasional raccoon. “Why don’t you wait another week or so. I think it’s still alive.”
“Really?” She still didn’t sound convinced.
“Yep. I think it just needs a little extra time after the shock of the trimming.” (I made that up, since I know squat about trees, but it seemed logical.)
So I went home, she went inside, and that was that. For a week.
This morning she called me, all excited and sunshiny. “Guess what?”
I played along. “What?”
“It’s in full bloom. The tree. It’s in full green glorious bloom.”
“I knew it wasn’t dead. It’s an oak. That means it’s strong. Can’t keep a good tree down.”
“Oh, gotta run. Later.”
That was quick. After I hung up I realized how after trauma, especially domestic violence, sexual assault, or violation of our personal safety in any way, some victims heal faster than others. They move from victim to survivor right before our eyes. And eventually they go on to lead exemplary thriving lives.
Others are more fragile. They take time to let the sap rise from the strength of their roots. They will, most likely, one day be as strong and beautiful as the mighty oak, even sheltering others under cooling branches. But they need time, patience, and above all, understanding. Not every leaf turns green at the same time, but few are really totally dead.
Think about it. Be kind to yourself. Give yourself, and others, the time that’s needed. It’s perhaps the greatest gift of all, and the results are definitely worth the wait.
Till next time, Coretta
Coretta Dixon is a highly regarded businesswoman and sexual assault survivor. Her own traumatic experiences and exemplary work done through the healing process, along with her Master’s Degree and business experience in Change Management, equip her well to act as a coach to those who have done the work of healing and now wish to “thrive.” She can be reached at email@example.com.