the giving tree.

Our lives are series of symbiotic relationships.

Depression has been a constant companion for half my life, a kind of parasite that feeds off low self-esteem and anxiety.

I’ve sought ways to cure the depression beyond the daily doses of my SSRI. The danger is always there of giving in to the medication, of letting it solve everything for you, at least for me. And so I seek solace in other ways: through a friend, a relationship, an addiction.

England has been all three of those for me. Once upon a time when I came to this country, I felt like everything was right. But I grew up and inevitably that relationship between myself and England has changed.

It’s taken me months of living in the UK again to come to terms with the fact that I have changed irrevocably. To take a page from the book in the title: as a girl, I was the child in Silverstein’s classic and England was the tree. England gave me its pieces of history and pop culture like so many apples I pulled from a tree of life. In 2008, I felt like I gave back some of what I got from England. I gave it my joy and my heart and my mornings and afternoons and days. It’s the closest to a reciprocal sort of happiness I’ve ever felt.

This time when I came, I think I’ve asked too much of England. I’ve asked to cut down the tree and build the boat, as if that will solve my problems.

We know how Silverstein’s book ends: the child, now an old man, visits his giving tree only to see a stump. As adults we understand the selfishness of what a child asks, but how can children understand the destruction they will cause? I’m not that old man yet and England is not a stump. It’s altered; there are fewer branches and fewer apples for me. But there may be a day when I come back and there’s nothing left except a gnarled wooden seat in an empty forest, the trials of a life having passed me by.

At that time, I hope I will have the presence of mind to sit and rest.


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