Content warning: assault, sexual assault, eating disorder, mental illness
My days are all the same and yet they are all different.
Every day, I sit in the same spot in the same room next to the same window where the light of the same sun penetrates from the same angle at the same time every time. I sit between the same sofa on my right and the same armchair on my left which is always occupied by the same middle aged woman in her formal wear scribbling on the same notebook with the same pen. The occupants of the sofa however are not always the same. Every once in a while, we welcome someone new. A new person. A new story.
I can’t tell for sure a good day from a bad day. Does spending the day listening to human suffering and misery count as good or bad? It’s a little bit of both I guess. Bittersweet.
Oh you wouldn’t believe some of the stories I’ve heard. But then again, you are your own person with your own story. Just remember that whatever I will tell you doesn’t make your story any less significant and doesn’t make you any less worthy of being heard.
I can tell you the story of a woman who is physically, verbally and sexually abused by her husband but can’t leave him because if she did, he would take her son away from her and forbid her from ever seeing him again. She used to say, “My son is my only reason for living. Without him I’d die.” Would she? I don’t know. I always wondered whether this was true. It always astonished me how fragile humans are and yet how strong. What a contradicting combination!
I can also tell you the story of a thirteen year old boy who stopped talking after having witnessed a traumatic event. A couple of men broke into their apartment few years back and beat him and his siblings as a threat to their father. I mean, who would do that to children? Humans can be cruel and yet they can also be compassionate and merciful. Which reminds me of the story of a teenage girl with a broken heart who thinks that her boyfriend left her because she isn’t good enough. How can humans, such small creatures, be capable of a love bigger than themselves? How can love, the engine of life, reach such self-destructive measures?
Which brings me to the girl who starved herself until her ribcage protruded from her chest and every bone in her body became visible. Not to mention the girl who forced her finger down her throat every night trying and succeeding to vomit everything she ate. They were both incredibly beautiful by the way. And I wanted them to know that. I wanted to grab their shoulders, look them in the eyes and tell them how beautiful they are. But I couldn’t do that. Why are humans so fixated on reaching perfection? How foolish of them! Can’t they see that even Mother Nature, their cradle, isn’t perfect? Haven’t they witnessed enough volcano eruptions, tsunamis, tornadoes, earthquakes, for them to conclude the imperfection and the flaws of nature itself?
There was also this boy who was suffering from depression because his parents and his community were not accepting of his sexual identity. He kept repeating over and over again “what’s wrong with me? Why am I not normal? Why can’t I be normal?” And I wanted so desperately to shout but you are! You are normal! There’s absolutely nothing wrong with you. What does it mean to be normal anyway? Being normal is overrated. But I couldn’t do that either. Humans fear what goes against nature, what they call “unnatural” and yet they have a need to conform. How? Can’t they see that conformity goes against nature? They know perfectly well that no two snowflakes are alike and yet they spend their lives cutting away parts of themselves in order to fit in society’s idea of who they should be.
What pains me most is the story of the refugee who watched his family being killed, fled the war in Syria and came to a country where he experienced discrimination, abuse and a daily struggle to get the bare minimum of his basic rights as a human being on this planet. So basically, he escaped imminent death only to find another slower kind of death awaiting him. You can’t escape the inevitable. You can’t outrun death. Especially if death is another human being.
Yes, I am not like any other tree. I didn’t have the privilege of casting my shadow over a farmer or a shepherd as a cool haven from the sun. I never knew the touch of a blade carving the initials of two lovers on my trunk. I never held the nest of birds and I was never the refuge for squirrels. Some may even say that I never fulfilled my purpose.
However on the other hand, I sit there every day listening to different stories from the most magnificent human beings. I give them the privilege and the right of being heard. I may not have a soul but I touch their souls. I am not human but I retrieve their humanity. I don’t care for dignity but I give their dignity back to them. I don’t have eyes but I show them kindness. I absorb their toxic air and breathe life into them. I wither under the weight of their suffering. I carry their misery. And I send them home with a sense of internal peace and a slight smile on their faces. So yeah my day may not be so good but it is not so bad either. My days may seem the same but they are different. And they make a difference.
Those people who find their way into our clinic may wonder about the purpose of their lives. They may wonder about the point of being alive. I used to wonder about that too, back when I envied the other trees who got to be in nature where they belong. But now I realize that my purpose is listening to them and their purpose is allowing me to fulfill mine. They water me with their tears and I give them the breath they didn’t realize they were holding all these years.