Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Giving Tree- An Open Letter to the Amazing Women in My Life

This morning I had a moment. A moment when I thought to myself, after sitting in traffic for over an hour to go only six miles on my morning commute into work, "How did I get here?'
Then I thought, "Damn, I already finished my coffee."
And then I thought, "I really hope traffic clears because I have to go to the bathroom something fierce."
As I sat there in my car, bored and frustrated, with a full bladder, my mind wandered to a passage from the book Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf...
And this morning, I thought..It is very dangerous to live even one day. If Virgina Woolf had lived today, I imagine that the character of Mrs. Dalloway would spend her hours sitting in traffic contemplating life's greater questions instead of a parlor.

It is so easy to get caught up in fulfilling my perceived expectations as a woman, as a mother, as a wife, as an employee that I often loose sight of what my very own expectations of my life were, are, could potentially be...and that is dangerous.

We are so busy rushing around to take care of our kids, our husbands, our homes, our work, and our obligations, whatever they may be, that we forget to take care of ourselves. The women I know give their all to this thing we call life- they worry and fret over every detail from unanswered emails for work to missed recitals at school. 

But, it is difficult in this attempt to take care of those things that we love more than ourselves not to end up as a stump.More times than I would like to admit, I have found myself bleary eyed, sleep deprived, crying in my car at the impossible feats I have to accomplish in one day. And it is in those moments I feel like a stump. 
What do I mean by feeling like a stump? 

First, I have a confession- I simply detest reading The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein.  The books starts off innocently enough when this tree loves a little boy very much more than she ever loved herself. And that is something I think all the women I know can relate to.

We all have something or someone we have loved more than ourselves. The problem is, though, that this tree kept giving so much of herself that by the end of the book she was only a stump.
 And that is stupid.
 I think Shel Silverstein meant for the book to be ironic, but I worry about how the message may be interpreted. Will my girls interpret the expectation to be that we as women should give selflessly until there is nothing left to give? Unfortunately, stump is really no longer any help to herself or anyone else when every piece of her has been cut away.

Thinking of the many times that I have ended up as a stump from spreading myself far too thin trying to be everything to everyone, again my thoughts turned back to Virginia Woolf. My freshman year of college I attended an all girls school where we had to read A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf for our Freshman colloquium. At 18, I understood nothing about having a room of one's own. At 18, I could do anything, and I had no obligations

But years later, I understand. My heart aches for a room of one's own.

Rereading the text, I am struck by how relevant the book is even today. I want to destroy the illusion of what I am supposed to be, what I imagine others think I should be, and what society thinks I should be, and instead somehow find the courage to become the person I know I can become.

 I often find myself saying, "I cannot afford the time to do things for myself." However, I realize I should instead be saying, "I cannot afford to not take the time to do something just for myself."

The other day I went for a run in the woods.
It was a much needed respite for the daily rush- it is my equivalent of a room of one's own.
During my run, I came across this tree.
I was struck by the bent shape of the trunk. I spent some time thinking about the shape of the trunk, and how it appeared that the tree bent itself to be able to reach the sunlight. It was then that it occurred to me that no matter how firmly rooted we may feel in our current situation, even this tree with its roots firmly stuck in the ground was able to find a way to reroute itself to find the sun.

We owe it to all those amazing people and things that we love more than ourselves to take the time to reroute towards the sun so that we may continue not only giving of ourselves but to also show others how to reach for the sun. 

May you find a way to reroute yourself to reach towards the sun, even on the darkest of days.


  1. thank you for being brave and posting this. very relevant to me, and I'm sure to others, right now. beautiful

  2. The story of The Giving Tree always bothered me and I felt a little guilty about it, so I enjoyed reading that you thought maybe it was meant to be ironic.

    Along those same lines, I manage to do more things for myself as my kids get older. Perhaps too much for myself. You see, I fear I'm taking too much time for myself, being selfish. Balance isn't easy.

    Cheers! And a shorter commute tomorrow! Or maybe not. Then we couldn't hear such great thoughts!

    1. Thanks. I am glad to hear I am not the only person with mixed feelings about The Giving Tree.
      Balance is that even unachievable feat. Maybe someday...


I would love to hear your thoughts.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...