Today I looked out the window and I saw a tree. A deformed gnome, squatting and scraggly. It’s been growing too close to a building. The tree didn’t choose to be planted there. The tree didn’t choose to have the sun blocked out for much of the day. The tree didn’t choose to have its branches sheared away when they got too close to the building.
The building is scheduled for removal and I can’t help but wonder what will happen to the tree. Will it be so accustomed to surviving with the building there that it stays a deformed gnome? Will it ever gain the courage to stretch out its branches, despite the fact that every other time it’s done so they get cut off? If I come back in a year, will the tree look the same–constrained by all the choices it didn’t have before now, trapped in a reality that exists only in the tree’s memory?
It’s a terrifying thing to break free from the past and there are days when I’m completely unable to discern reality. Do I have a choice? Do I dare make the choice? Or am I so conditioned by my previous traumas that I passively keep making the same supposedly safe choice over and over just because I don’t know, can’t know, that the building is gone now? Stretching my branches to the heavens is a terrifying task. But I can’t know in my being that it’s safe until I try it.
That is the catch-22 of being a victim. There is no safety. There are a only a host of terrifying choices and a mind that can no longer tell the difference between survival and thriving. There is only the day-in, day-out decision between having the courage to try again–to fight the fear of history repeating itself and do something that may cost you another part of your self; the same something that has already cost you a part of your self in the past–or to live as a pale, deformed shadow of the being you were created to be. Alive, but not living. Safe, but terrified. Alone, closed-off, without a welcoming embrace, unable to give oxygen and shade. Or to do neither–to escape from it all because the choice is too hard, whether that’s via alcohol, sex, drugs, computer games, work, books, TV, food, or some other coping mechanism–to make different bad choices because you’re so busy trying to avoid making any choices.
The sad part is that as a victim, I actually miss my building on some level. I may not have been safe, but things were familiar–I knew how to survive. Now I don’t know. I can’t even tell how to grow without it there. The world is safer, but it’s not. It’s full of unknowns.
The life of a victim has no easy choices.