A few days ago, I broke down at the base of a tree so large I couldn’t even see the top. Covered in the greenest moss I’d seen in months at the edge of a winding, quiet road on the edge of Butchart Gardens near Victoria on Vancouver Island, I openly sobbed and wept with one hand against the ancient evergreen, doubled over, as cool, refreshing BC rain washed over us both.
I didn’t mean to. That hadn’t been my intention as I strapped up my running shoes in my hotel room and mentally prepped to go for a run. I’d just landed on the island, never having visited before. I wanted to explore a little and also knew I needed to clear my head after a long day of travel and an upsetting conversation (for me anyways).
Running soothes me. It’s been the one thing I could turn to in the last few years that’s truly been mine. It’s all mine. Running is completely selfish. I can shut down when I run. Not think about Owen. Not think about work. Not think about bills. Not think about anything but: right foot, left foot, right foot, left foot, breathe in, breathe out. It’s wonderful.
I knew I needed that more than anything that afternoon. Rain or shine, I needed it.
And so I went. Armed with a set of poorly explained directions printed out on a sheet from the hotel reception, I left the resort and ventured out into the Brentwood Bay area.
I came across my Sobbing Tree completely by accident.
When faced with the choice to go left or right after getting completely lost thanks to the sad set of directions, I chose left and was met with a steep incline and a winding, twisty road. Large, ancient trees covered in vibrantly green moss lined each side of said road. Before running (as best I could) into the green abyss, I removed my headphones. Rain was falling at a steady pace. No cars appeared. All I could hear was my own raged breath and the rain hitting the leaves in the canopy. It was a beautifully stifling silence.
And so I set out, up the hill and onto the forest-lined road.
As the incline increased and the burn in my thighs and calves became ever more present, my lungs struggled for air, the rain mixed with sweat and ran into my eyes burning them ever so slight, my hands clenched tighter and my arms began to burn, too; and my brain suddenly came to life with every struggle and upset I’d had in the past few months — scratch that, past few years. Every misstep, every uncertainty, every unknown came crashing down on me in mere minutes.
I just quit my current job, which means I start a brand new one in a few weeks. A new job I know nothing about. This panics me a great deal. I’ve kept this panic at bay for now, but as I rose up the hill, so too did the anxiety I feel towards this new venture.
Writing is my escape. It’s the one time I’m me, fully me. I need it to survive, I need it to function. I need it to be Miranda. But am I good at it? I read as much as I write — no, that’s a lie. I read more than I write. I read a lot of very good writing, and I read a lot of really shit writing. And I wonder, where do I fall on that scale? I find myself talking about writers who are complete crap but who’ve published books that I’m reading. Am I like that? Do I shock and surprise the reading world that I’ve “made it” and that they’re reading me instead of someone with actual word power? I clenched my fists tighter as my strides became shorter up the steep hill, pumping my arms hard, feeling my shoulders ache as I felt the anger swell: Don’t ever be one of those writers, Miranda. Don’t let it happen. Unless it already has? Clench tighter.
I don’t have the balls to say the words “I love you” to someone I actually love. I can’t make my lips push the words out, and I know in a few very short months when everything changes for good that I’ll regret it for the rest of my life. The fact that I can’t grow a pair and fucking tell him eats away at me. I’m letting my past get the best of my future. I’m scared of the consequences, scared of the result, the empty silence that could hang in the air after I say it. The possible rejection that I’m not so sure I’m stable enough to handle just yet. As the burn in my thighs grew to epic proportions, to an almost unbearable point, so too did the burn in my heart telling me to actually express myself, properly.
Being a mostly single parent is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life. I question my methods, abilities, and choices every single day. Do I say the right things? Do I teach him enough? Am I involved enough? Am I providing well enough for my son? Am I a good mother? These questions circle my brain more than I’d like to admit. Knowing someone’s life and well-being is really and truly in my hands, MY HANDS, it’s fucking scary. Petrifying really. Every day. As my lungs heaved and struggled for every breath, my worries and questions heaved from within too, bubbling to the surface.
The past few years have been a massive balancing act for me. From learning how to live alone for the first time ever in my 32 years to entering the dating world for the first time since I was 17 (and let’s be honest, I wasn’t really part of it before that, either) to learning how to be a fully functioning adult (I say “learning,” but really I’ve not even opened the manual yet) to working my way through a divorce and all the wonderfully shitty things that go along with that to growing my career then deciding to change my path ever so slightly to figuring myself out and discovering who I AM in all of this … fuck. It’s been huge. It’s been heavy. Supremely heavy. Soul-crushingly heavy, actually.
And it all came crashing down on me in staggering succession as I reached the top of the hill and stumbled up to my Sobbing Tree.
A huge, heaving breath escaped me suddenly, and all I could do was double over. My hand shot out to stop myself from toppling forward, and I caught the edge of my Sobbing Tree. My finger nails dug into the moss, feeling the soft, wet shrubbery. And I wept. Openly, loudly, I wept. Crouching down I put both hands into the muddy earth at the base of the Sobbing Tree. Watching my bright purple nails sink into the rich, dark earth, rain pelting away on my exposed skin and fingers, I tried my best to breathe.
Deep, shuddering breaths were all I could manage. My shoulder pressed against my Sobbing Tree. And I looked up, into the rain, into the foliage, into the nature that surrounded me. And I felt small. My glasses caught drops of rain, and my breath caused the lenses to fog over. I was blinded momentarily, listening to only my whimpering breath and the creaks, shuffles, drips, groans, and sighs of nature around me.
For all the largeness of my problems, I felt tiny. Like nothing. Like a gnat on the surface of Mars. Minute. Microscopic. How could I let my troubles feel so large when I was so fucking small?
Before I left my Sobbing Tree, I touched my forehead to its mossy surface as a kind of thank you. I took one final deep, long, steady breath tasting its earthy scent and feeling the clean, cool air fill my desperate lungs. My Sobbing Tree grounded me in those moments. It brought me back to a reality I wasn’t quite ready to face, a reality I’d tried hard to push aside.