Tonight I wandered my subconscious world, now a beautiful place where I tend a farm of attributes, sail with people from my childhood whom I dearly loved and who loved me, and stroll though the seaport village of my tamed ego to shop the finest of craftsman creations. Somewhere between all that, I was led to a tree, and handed an axe. “The blade will sharpen with your determination,” said my guide. I reached out and grasped the wooden handle, then studied the tree. “It’s the tree of self destruction,” my guide went on. “It was planted here in your childhood by the people who raised you.” He paused and gave a look of concern. “They were wrong to do what they did.” I knew I had to chop it down, pull the roots with my bare hands, and then fill the hole. “You’ll need no shovel, and you will need no gloves. Just dig in. Give it all you have and those roots will come out.” Then he pointed to a nearby fire pit. “Burn every bit of it over there.” With that, my guide disappeared into my beautiful world. The tree that stood in front of me was tall and gaunt, it’s branches thick and void of leaves, it’s color closer to black than any kind of natural brown. The sky directly above it was dark, a dark grey, the kind you see in horror movies. And there was a chill in the air, the kind that goes right through to your bones and lingers.
The tree had been there all the time, right between everything, as I had built this subconscious haven retreat. I knew it was there - I felt it, but dared not look at it. I have felt it for as long as I can remember. When I was a child I used to have a recurring dream. A vampire would chase me in a small dark room, around and around in circles. As I ran I would look back in terror and see his long fingers only inches from my shoulders, clawing at me, but never making contact. We ran in circles for years. That energy fed the seeds of this tree, and as it grew in the middle of that circle it did so in fear and terror. There is no comfort in that fear, but there is a sense of familiarity. I was just six then, and by the time I was eight that tree was being watered with a translation of the fear of life, with buckets labeled “You’re not good enough,” and “You’ll never amount to anything.” Not just by others, but by me, too.
Now it was time to acknowledge it. It’s a part of me that simply has to go.
I began to swing the axe. The wood is hard, and barely gives after crashing with the blade. But with each heave I am more determined, and the bark begins to chip away, and the axe begins to sink deeper. This will take some time. There are a lot of tough days ahead.
This morning I stood at the tree. As I swung the axe it’s branches attacked me. I battled with them and hacked them into submission. And the vampire that chased me around in that circle of fear all those years screamed at me from within the trunk But my swings were beginning to make some damage. And the vampire was beginning to bleed. I felt empowered. The blade of the axe sent off a bright gleam of light. It was becoming sharper. With each swing I dug deeper. I found myself being observed by all the people in my life that loved me. They were watching, grunting with me as I exerted all my energy, taking a breath in with me at the sound of each thud, cheering me when the chips of wood flew. “Keep swinging, keep going,” they would yell in unison. “He’s making progress,” one side of the large group voiced to the other, And I saw that I was making progress. As I did, the axe felt lighter in my hand, my arms felt empowered, and the swings became more frequent. The blade glowed bright from the fast paced friction, the dense wood of the tree melting in the now razor sharp blade’s path. “He’s past halfway through!” someone yelled. I stood tall and swung with all my might. “He’s almost there, the tree is leaning!” I heard the crowd from my past share the moment with me. The tree fell, and they cheered one last time. “He’s got it now,” one said, “the vampire is dead,” said another, and with that they all turned to go back to their places in my subconscious world. A craftsman from the town of my ego doubled back. “Use this to haul your tree to the fire,” and with that he handed over a sturdy harness made of strong leather and bound to a long rope fitted with brass hooks at the end. I began the hundred foot trek to the fire pit, first lining the ground with branches from the fallen tree, creating a road on which to slide the weighty trunk over with less struggle. I towed one end of the tree, then attached the other end and towed it to even the two ends out, repeating the difficult process over and over again. I leaned forward with all my might, grateful for the moment, keeping in mind the soon to come exuberance of the flamed filled outcome. After hours of toil I felt only stronger and more resolved. The tree was in place. The gas I poured ignited. The sky above turned black, then as the smoke dissipated the blueness of my perfect world over this little patch was restored. I ran back to the stump of the now dead tree of self destruction and began to dig at the roots.
With the axe I loosened the ground, and with my bare hands I cleared away the soil. “You need to feel every moment of this,” said a voice from somewhere. I did need to feel it. For with every handful of dirt I threw off the roots I not only threw what was there but also the fear that once was embedded.
With the roots clear I used the axe to destroy their connections. I stood over the stump and made my way around until it was left to its own. Then I doused the stump and severed roots with gasoline and lit them up.
The entire thing burned all night. In the morning I lit it all up again. I burned the ashes into dust. I sifted the dust with my hands, feeling nothing but the softness of what once was so dark, dense, and destructive. I filled the trench the tree had met it’s final demise in with buckets of love from the well to the sky at the gate of my farm. Then I filled the deep hole the trunk once grew from, where the severed roots had burned into fine dust, with more of that love. I used a tractor to push new soil into the watery holes, displacing some of the love to the edges where it seeped into the surrounding earth, and pounded it down. Then I tilled it all by hand, taking the time to blend it into the existing farm. I planted Love, Strength, and Persistence. It looked and felt like it all should have been there all along.
Then I realized, and had for a moment a sense of hollow loneliness, that I could not go back to that self destruction ever again. A sense of fear hit me. “I have to go forward now,” I thought. “There is no quitting now. There is no place to go but ahead.” It was late. In the coolness of the night I walked in circles around this part of my farm, and weighed in on what I had done. “That’s good,” a voice came from behind me. “Slow down, breathe the fresh air, and enjoy this new thing,” it continued. The voice was right. Going back to self destruction, embracing the fear, and living in the constant misery was no way to exist. The option to go there that went poof with the tree were, in moments, replaced by new options, ones that were much more peaceful, fulfilling, empowering. Something tells me I will enjoy the serenity that comes with powering through an idea and seeing it come alive. And I’ll enjoy the peace in the mind and heart of working so hard that I can’t work any more, then working some more, and giving life to what is in my mind, creating a reality where there once was none. I’m so glad I cut that tree down.