Money Tree

“It’s okay, I won’t tell anyone.”

This is me talking to my tree.

My tree and I had just been through a stressful move, type of move that left me surrounded by packed boxes in my new apartment, desperately searching for sweatpants.

My tree and I met last year at Ikea. It’s one of those braided Money Trees, with juicy green leaves.

I grew to love this tree, as it sprouted each day toward the light in my old apartment, stretching and reaching, happily creating new leaves.

In the midst of our move three weeks ago, I pulled the tree out of the backseat of my car and heard a snap-pop, as one of its three braided branches broke completely off against the roof of the car.

I brought the tree inside, gave her some water, and told her I was sorry. I told her the move was over, and that she was safe in our new home.

But over the course of the next seven days, the tree lost every single one of her willowy green leaves. Each day, I picked up a small pile of crackly, shriveled leaf remains from the floor beneath her.

When the tree became nothing more than two empty branches, my fiancé declared her “dead.”

“Don’t say that!” I shot back, stroking the tree’s empty branches.

So I kept watering the tree, cooing and telling her I knew she was alive.

And life prevailed. As of this morning, my tree has 46 new, juicy leaves.

This, of course, is a story about resilience. About the power of life to prevail and thrive under difficult circumstances.

And it’s also a story about shame.

Which brings me back to yesterday, when I assured my tree, “It’s okay, I won’t tell anyone.”

I was looking down at the tree, thinking through everything she had been through and the moment when she appeared to be nothing more than a naked pole; for some reason I felt like the tree would be embarrassed if anyone found out what she had looked like in that moment, raw and afraid.

And then I started thinking… Why did I want to keep her nakedness a secret? Why did I assume this sweet plant would be ashamed about losing her leaves during a stressful life event?

I realized I was projecting because I have a shameful secret myself – I was sexually assaulted when I was just a little kid, and it left me naked, afraid, and wounded.

By God’s grace (and lots of therapy), I’m okay now; but I still sometimes feel ashamed when I think about what happened.

Even though one in four women experience sexual abuse, there’s still a veil of silence around their experiences. Like somehow it’s not appropriate to tell our stories.

I am done being silent. Not just for me, but for the millions of women around the world who are survivors. Our stories are powerful, and we deserve to be heard.

Because I saw my tree come back from her lowest point, I now feel camaraderie with her. I celebrate each of her new leaves in a way that I never did before she lost them all.

And as she blooms, I feel my own leaves growing, stretching, and reaching. Unfolding little by little, day by day.