How Not to be a Tree Stump

By Karen Cheney

It recently occurred to me that I am a tree stump.  I wasn’t born this way; it’s something that happened to me gradually over time.  As an empath I absorb the emotions and feelings of others and intuitively know things about them just by observing tiny details in their behavior.

These qualities served me well when I was working as a nurse.  On the hospital day shifts I was able to multi-task well while still picking up on changes that needed critical interventions. On the evening shifts, when the pace slowed down, the halls fell silent and the lights were low, patients and family would open up to me and I became both their counselor and confidant.

There was something so peacefully powerful in those intimate moments that I keep them always as warm embers in my heart.

As a child I had a knack for finding lost and injured things.  It didn’t matter if they were animal, insect or human.  If it was hurting or lost I would give it comfort and care.  I always kept a cardboard box hidden under our porch which served as both a shelter and sick bay for whatever critter-in-need I found.

As an adult, I still have a critter box under my porch and a place in my heart for all who are lost and broken.

You’re probably wondering what any of this has to do with me being a tree stump.  So I will tell you now.  There are people in this world whose hearts are dark and they prey on people like me. They use and abuse for selfish gain and leave scars and pain and dirty stains in the wake of their manipulative madness.  I was born into a family of people like this and also had the madness of mind to marry one.

It wasn’t until I reread the book “The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein that a light in my attic went on.  It was then that I realized that I was the stump in his book on which that boy selfishly sat.

As a child I had the heart and mind of a child and, much like the tree, I was taken advantage of until there was nothing left but a mere stump of myself. Still I let them sit on me.

It wasn’t until I was much older that I realized two truths: First, I am not responsible for other people’s happiness–they are.  And second, I need to put my oxygen mask on first before I can help others with theirs.  It’s not selfish, it’s a necessity.

I want to spend the rest of my life re-growing into the beautiful tree they cut down with new roots so well-grounded I can weather any storm.  I want my canopy to be broad to shelter others from storms, my fruit to be plentiful to share with the hungry, my example to teach others to be strong and to learn to let go so my heart can finally find the peace it so desperately seeks.

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