My name is Karen and I am a plant killer.
There. I said it.
In my defense, I commit this crime inadvertently. All plants enter my home in the same state – alive. And I determine to water them the perfect, not-too-much amount. I seek the delicate balance between drowning and neglect and hope for a happy ending.
I have managed to keep four children thriving, so how hard could it be, right?
And yet, plant after plant has died in my care. It breaks my heart. But it really breaks my mother-in-law’s heart.
Since I have accepted the likely demise of all things green, I have moved to the next stage of Never Purchase a Living Thing Again. Which was working really well until that day.
My mother-in-law and I were shopping for lights at Rona. She patiently endured multiple stops, trying to help me find the best light at a reasonable price. So while I confidently browsed for something I have never killed, she spotted the perfect plant. And worse – she decided to buy it for me. With real dollars.
You may have read my mother-in-law’s debut on the blog here. It involves the Men’s underwear section in Target and stockpiling curbside items.
She truly is the best. She flies across Canada once a year to visit and fill our home with homemade spaghetti sauce and chicken pot pies. She works tirelessly to make sure my family will not starve during her absence.
Once she even noted, “It’s okay that you can’t cook. You have lots of other good qualities,” which I still tease her about. #imokay
So when she offered to buy me a plant, how can I refuse?
As she dragged it to the checkout, I am certain I saw the plant eye me suspiciously. Word gets around.
With stressed out gratitude, I mumbled appreciation and brought this very alive plant home. To represent the only green thing in my care.
We transferred it to a
casket planter and found a spot on our porch for the mild season. It really was a lovely plant. It cast an illusion of competence for passerbys.
A few weeks later, when my mother-in-law was back in her own kitchen, she called me.
Her: Have you moved the plant inside yet?
Her: For when it gets cold.
Me: It’s only June.
Her: But you will bring the plant in when the frost comes, right?
And so the stress began. The pending sense of doom that our days with the tropical plant were numbered. The realization that soon this plant would have to come inside into my actual care. And many phone calls ended the same way until the frost arrived and I moved it through the front door.
Just in time I had a chorophylled epiphany. I remembered something important about myself. Something that would guarantee success for this plant’s longevity.
I almost missed an obvious solution
I am visual.
I am an out-of-sight, out-of-mind person. I need visible, tangible reminders of things that are important.
Which is why visual cues remind me of pending tasks:
- Library book to return? Stick it inside the boot I will be wearing the next day.
- Gift to deliver to a friend? Place it by my toothbrush.
- Random important thing to do? Place it on the driver’s seat so I will sit on it then remember to do the thing.
I wonder if that’s why my four boys have fared so well. They hover around me, reminding me of their presence and their need to eat. I also wonder if that’s why plants perish in my care. They can be tucked away in a sweet nook or behind a curtain, out of sight.
With this in mind, I planned the perfect place for Tropical Ted. I could name him, now that his future was secure. I reassured him all the way up the stairs. “Sh, sh. There, there. Don’t be stressed the rain can’t water you in here. Don’t be alarmed that there are no other green creatures in this home. I have the ultimate plan to not make you dead.”
Ted was skeptical but I wouldn’t be deterred. I placed my plant in the most prominent spot I would pass by every single day. Right beside my bed.
It was brilliant. Every day I go to bed and every day I wake up. This certainly meant I would walk boldly past Ted twice a day. And more if I took a nap. This plan could not fail. I could not possibly forget to water something that was in my presence so regularly.
This plant was going to live to be passed down to my grandchildren.
With a spring in my step, I set out my jug and faithfully watered Ted, effortlessly keeping him alive for several weeks. We had this beautiful ritual of me seeing him, then tending to his needs. And in return he grinned a beautiful bright green.
But over time a strange thing happened.
In the mundane routine of walking past Ted daily, I gradually then abruptly stopped seeing him. He became like wallpaper to me.
I still went to bed and I still woke up, but I no longer saw the plant before my eyes. I rushed past, onto the urgent beckon of my day. And I collapsed into bed without giving Ted a thought. I started forgetting to water it. To do the basic nurturing that had once worked so well.
Can you relate? Is there a ‘plant’ in your life that you were once keenly aware of, but then weren’t? Is there beauty in your life you no longer see? A friendship? A spouse? Or, as one sister confessed to me, an actual plant?
I should not have been surprised by this shift in caring for Ted because doesn’t that shift occur subtly, especially in marriage?
The importance of nurturing marriages
In the early days, nurturing our marriage comes easily, almost effortlessly. We encourage and invest kindness and our spouse blooms. He grows strong when we attend to spoken needs, and anticipate those not even shared.
Yet this same spouse stands defeated when we begin to walk past and forget to connect. He quietly wilts and may even resign himself to this new reality. It doesn’t happen overnight. But it can happen. Easily. One missed opportunity after another.
Even when we are in proximity, we can forget to care. We can stop looking up and really seeing each other. We can miss simple life-giving gestures. We may walk towards other things that are not our person and invest our time and attention there. We forget to water.
The change in Ted was so visible that my husband noticed our plant was looking less alive, and brownish. Perhaps even more brown than ish.
In light of soil-coloured leaves, I did what any desperate gardener would do. I pulled out scissors and cut off Ted’s brown bits. I completely removed the dead looking pieces and stuffed them in the compost. And while Ted looks a bit scalped, he is now more alive than dead.
Then I asked my husband if we could go out for a long overdue coffee.
What steps can we take today to see the beauty in front of us?
Do we need to tend to our own needs so we can nurture marriages and friendships from a place of health?
How can we help ‘our person’ thrive?
I’d love to hear your insights in the comments below.
Related posts of hope and humor for all our marriages: