I passed a weeping willow tree on my way home from work today. It took me back to the huge, beautiful, towering weeping willow tree that stood by the water at the yellow house on the river.
I loved that tree! The branches, long and flowing, were always waving a warm welcome to me as I strutted my little five year old self down toward the dock. I remember thinking that it was protecting me from the “bad guys” when I was out on that dock catching bluegills.
I met another memory of the yellow house tonight when I showed up to bowl my second week on the summer league. The bowling alley manager filled the empty spot on my team with a man who is a regular at the alley. I knew something was off about him when he wouldn’t make eye contact with me so that I could introduce myself and say hello.
We started bowling and the memories started to creep their way in. He was angry. Really angry.
When he didn’t bowl a strike, he punched his fist into the table. As the night went on, his anger greatly increased.
It didn’t take long for his anger to trigger a response in my body that I was unaware of until it overtook my mind. I realized that I was shaking, and my heart was beating really fast. When my thoughts caught up with my body’s reaction, I felt an intense fear. I wanted to run.
When he picked up the chair a few inches off the ground and then slammed it back down, I had to walk away. I felt nauseous. I thought that chair was headed toward me.
The weeping willow tree wasn’t there to protect me from whatever this man was capable of doing.
I wanted to be unassailable, invulnerable, safe, and secure.
I wanted to be stronger than the trigger that took me back to the days of my youth when I feared someone close to me. Someone who was unpredictable. Someone who reminded me of a raging bull, especially when he was drunk.
I wanted to run back to the dock and go fishing with the weeping willow tree.
The hardest part about tonight was realizing that nothing could have shielded me from this experience. I had to go through it to grow from it. I wish it hadn’t happened, because it is not easy to face, but it taught me something about myself.
I am not completely healed.
I am ok with that.
I am proud of myself for mustering up enough courage to tell the bowling alley manager about the man’s behavior, my past, and how he was affecting my ability to take part in the league. The manager, full of compassion in his eyes, firmly stated that he would not be allowed back the following week.
He took the place of the weeping willow tree for a moment tonight.
As I drove home from the bowling alley with my window down, the breeze brought me peace. It reminded me that healing is a process, and that there is hope because of an unending love that pours down from heaven.
I am so thankful for the strength that I have been given as a gift. It allows me to get back up when I get knocked down, ready to face the next unexpected trigger.
I don’t think I will ever be unassailable, but I know that I am loved by the One who is.