I’m not amazing at self-care. Honestly. I’m not really good at nurturing my own growth, taking the time to be deliberate and caring, and being aware of the ways I take care of my physical being.
But I’m great with plants.
My plants are bountiful, green, tall, and lush for one reason and one reason only: because when I’m stressed out, depressed, or spiraling with anxiety, my first impulse is to water my plants.
YOU’RE WELCOME, PLANTS!
My unlikely urban garden of thriving succulents owes their very lives to my inability to maintain a perfectly stable state of “mental health.” Oh overall I think I’m pretty okay, partly because taking the time to pause and water my abundant windowsill jungle gives me the time to shift focus from my issues and onto my plants. Quid pro quo, I keep my plants alive, and my plants keep me alive.
And why? Because when I’m stressed out, I wet my plants.
I don’t know what YOUR therapist tells you to do when you’re having a mental health crisis, but my therapist… definitely didn’t tell me to water my plants. It’s not even an option on this website about self-care. I don’t even think it was a conscious decision, to make my plants my mental-health-intervention-crutch, but for some reason, when I’m panicked or depressed, my mind first goes to watering my plants. The time it takes to tend to my garden is exactly the time it takes to ground myself and snap out of crisis mode.
And to be fair, that’s a fair bit of waterin’, given the amount of plants I have.
You can yell at me all day, every day, to be more hydrated, but I will continue to drink water when I’m thirsty and not a moment before!!! But I will 100% overwater my plants — most of whom are again, succulents — before I drink the daily recommended amount of water. It’s easier, for me, to take care of something else than to take care of myself, for sure. And I can be gentler with my plants than I am to myself: my plants are unruly, leggy, and probably unhealthy, but I’m proud as heck for them thriving AT ALL on the windowsill of my un-insulated, brick loft. They press their little faces on the window overlooking the garbage alley, craning their stems to get closer to any little bit of Brooklyn sunshine they can absorb. They’re fighting against the odds, those babies. And I’m proud of ’em!
I know that my de facto mode is to take care of others before myself — it’s always been my downfall. It’s what almost killed me as a teacher, what makes me lose myself in bad relationships. Humans, though, exploit your kindness. Plants can’t do that. They don’t ask for anything. That’s why they make such good crutches! When I tend my plants, I’m tending both my plants, and myself. If anything, I’m exploiting them!
I supposed the irony is, I could absolutely be kinder to myself. I could stand to drink more water, sure, but I’m a Brooklyn (trans)plant myself! Thriving in the city isn’t easy for a plant, or a 34-year-old. Me and my plants, we need each other. The End.