Lessons my plants taught me

(Just look at them, plotting to take over the world..lol..and my curtains…)

It was the day of my father’s memorial service. Everything was moving so fast. I don’t even remember who had my purse or the keys to my car. Someone could have ran off with everything I owned and I honestly wouldn’t have cared. Nothing mattered except that huge poster sized image of my dad looking back at me at the funeral home. I mustered up enough courage to greet guests, receive flowers, cards and words of comfort. After the day’s events, I found the keys to my car after family members briskly moved around to help clean up the recreation hall after the repast. I went to my car and plopped down into the driver seat looking for solace in a sliver of quiet only to notice there were two large spathiphyllum plants (i.e. “Peace Lillies”) on my backseat. I don’t know how they got there or who put them there but there they were, blocking my back window while their two huge lily blooms were staring right back at me saying “feed us, clothe us, love us.”

I cringed.

I didn’t do well with plants. I bought a few before but they didn’t last a month. Because of that, I figured I’d be hauling the stowaways to the dumpster in a few weeks. After my family went back to their homes around the world and the well-wishers moved on with their lives, the plants took up residence in my living room. Their lily blooms longingly looked at me. Every morning, every evening. There was no turning back. They claimed me and I was now their property. Weeks later, one grew faster than the other that was placed at the side of my entertainment center. The little one needed sunlight but I wanted it to thrive where I put it. I didn’t feel like tripping over a plant when I wanted to go to my balcony. So putting it in a corner where I thought it had enough light was sufficient for my needs. That bundle of foliage was not having that and put up wilted leaves in protest. Looking back, it was at that moment those plants started to teach me some valuable lessons. The first lesson was it’s ok to adjust so others can grow. I didn’t have to run the show all day every day. It was ok to ebb and flow with those around me. It can be overbearing to be around a bossy person day in and day out. Not saying that I am, but I’m sure those plants wanted to be elsewhere than inside of my living room (like next to the sliding window where the main light source is) instead of holding court next to the entertainment center just because I wanted them there for my own viewing pleasure.

Months later, the kids and I got into somewhat of a routine. I water them, they fan their leaves out. If I didn’t water them, they would wilt in dissatisfaction and they had no problem telling me they were not here for my antics (like forgetting to water them or even trim back dead stalks). When I had guests over for Christmas, my friend’s husband said “Ummm, those plants look sick,” then he proceed to ask me “are you trying to kill them?”. I was embarrassed but I kept watering and sunning them to no avail. Their leaves kept yellowing and I felt like a failure. My peace lilies were giving me absolutely no peace. It was getting attached and I wasn’t ready to haul them to them dumpster. After my pity party about the plants that found themselves in my backseat after my dad’s memorial service, I did what any plant mother would do. I called someone with a green thumb. The person happened to be my mom!

This woman has a botanical garden at her house that rivals the stuff you see in magazines. So, I brought her over to observe my wilting kids and in one glance she said, “the roots are wet and the pot is too small.” We immediately went to Home Depot and bought two huge plant containers, a sack of potting soil and a bottle of rooting powder. We transferred the kids to their new pots with fresh soil. A week later, the yellowing stopped and their leaves stood straight up again. Soon after that, the leaves were plush green. Even the little one started to grow in height. “Sometimes, you just have to try something new,” my mother said after I told her the good news. “We all need a change, if we don’t change something we too will be like those plants, yellowing and sickly,” she sad before rushing me off the phone to watch CNN. Hmpf! The plants taught me another lesson: change is good and bringing in expert help is an added bonus. I thought about my own life that went on autopilot after losing my dad then going into surgery a few months after. I wasn’t sure on how to move forward so I kept up the status quo not knowing I wasn’t growing and neither were the plants. I looked at my kids who were relieved with fresh soil and a new pot to sprawl out in. Sometimes we need someone on the outside to give a fresh perspective on a dormant situation in order for change to happen.

It was now spring of the following year and I was about to release my first book. I made my first ever vision board and pulled myself out of autopilot and started flying into life. My plants were green and lively but there was one problem; they did not make a flower. Not a single one. There were other similar plants that sprouted flowers but not my kids. Nope. Once again, they were doing what they wanted to do. I kept watering and sunning them. They got bigger and bigger with no flower bud in sight. I finally settled on the fact that as long as they are green and healthy I was victorious in my plant mothering efforts. I accepted their behavior but stayed faithful to their needs of water, sunlight and most of all love. I continued on with my life. It was sprouting flowers of its own. That summer my book was released, career progression was positively mobile and life as I knew it was sprinkled with all sorts of wonderful. There were things that worked out and others just needed more time and effort, but nonetheless, there was life to be had and it was all mine for the taking. The plants again taught me yet another lesson: don’t forget to live while waiting for the flowers in life.
Fast forward a year.

I was doing the usual: starting the day and watering the plants before leaving for work. As I looked around their leaves for dry spots and branches that needed to be cut, I found two tiny white sprouts. The kids, now adults after almost two years in my care were finally blooming. I was so excited that a life other than mine was thriving in my home. I’ve gotten so used to seeing their big green leaves that those little white buds looked so foreign. In a matter of days, they sprung up tall and wide. The lilies looked at me as if to say, well done good and faithful Tracey. They tested me. They wanted to see if I was gonna give up or shift when things weren’t working out as planned but I didn’t. I passed their test with the lessons they taught me.

Those plants, with their big flowers, taught me their final lesson: I couldn’t force anything to happen in my life before the appointed time. It is so easy to be fooled by some of the things advertised in the media like “Get your best life now”, ” Loose 10 pounds in a week”, ” Hack your life with this 10-minute trick.” Things don’t happen in and for the now. They happen for the future. Life events occur in seasons where there are no specific time limits, no matter what the calendar says.

My plants also taught me even though there were no visible flowers, it didn’t mean nothing was happening. Things were taking place that was invisible to the naked eye. Every one of my efforts, large or small nourished the fruit or flower I desired to have in my life and in due season, the harvest will come. For two years, the plants and I were on a journey. Grief, yellowing leaves, highs, lows, you name it we traveled on it. They were riding shotgun to my verbal “after-work” thoughts, phone calls and general “woo saaahh” sessions on the couch in my living room. Through my plants, I realized if I stopped seeking growth and suspend any efforts to improve my life, the “flower” I could not see that was on its way would  die.

Those two peace lilies that found their way onto the back seat of my car and into my heart gave me more than peace, they taught me valuable lessons for the price of a sack of soil, two large plant pots, plenty of water and a lot of love.