Learning Not to Give Until You're Gone


Chrissy Kelly

I recently reread the children’s classic, The Giving Tree. Different than I remembered, it is so melancholy. It hit much closer to home than it ever had in the past.

I’m trudging my way through a breakup right now – aren’t we all though, in some way? It was pretty serious. The worst I’ve been through to date, at least. After nearly three years, a shared apartment, a cross-country move, and a ring design where a family diamond was about to be nestled, we were finally honest enough—I guess I should say HE was finally honest enough, to admit that he didn’t ever want children. If I recall correctly, his exact words were “If I’m not hungry now, how should I know if I’ll want pizza later?” Let’s be clear on one thing, my future offspring are going to be quirky, no doubt, but they are not pizza.

The more I’ve dissected the words, actions, looks and feelings; I’ve realized the pizza-babies were not our demise. I had been dulling myself. I was under valued, under appreciated and used up. I was the Giving Tree. I gave and gave and took care of everything and made sure that his needs were met, and he was happy, satisfied, fulfilled and at peace. Meanwhile, he, knowingly or unknowingly, took my apples, my branches and my trunk, leaving the tattered, used, scraps of my soul, of my heart, of me. I can’t blame him. I gave it all willingly – everything down to my last shred of self worth.

I think for a long time I believed that I had to prove myself as a lover and as a partner. I gave to prove I was worth being with. I gave in return for companionship because I believed that was necessary. The more I gave away, the more that was true. There is a lot of talk recently about settling, or not settling more appropriately. For me, and maybe for some of you, I felt like I was the one who was being ‘settled on’. I think for many of us it is about not being afraid to admit what we are worth and what will keep us whole.

In the weeks since the break up and the break down, I’ve had the people who are closest to me in my life say things like, “You’re back!” and “I’m so glad you’re here again!” as if I just returned from a 3 year trek through the most remote parts of Northern Russia. Had I known, had I understood that I was living in a wasteland, holding together fractured pieces of myself with “good enough” plans and hopes that he would change and dreams (who am I kidding, I had thrown dreams out the window long ago), I would have been sprinting as fast as I could to get back.

Isn’t that always the worst? When others see you so clearly from the outside but you’re too close, too deep, too lost to make sense of it. Nevertheless, here I am – back – and learning that every apple given needs some water on the roots and sunshine on the leaves in return; learning that no two people need to settle on each other. I’m relieved that I didn’t get what I thought I deserved.

More than ever now, I don’t think I believe in soul mates and Mr. Right and one true love. I have hope that another person exists who will enhance the very best parts of me. And with that person, I will thrive, shine brightly and challenge myself daily to show off that sparkle a little more. There is someone out there who I will give to, not because he asks or expects it, but because he builds me up so completely and gives me so much that I have a surplus to share. I don’t have to be reduced to a withering stump again, and knowing that helps me grow and rebuild. Believing that is helping me to mend.

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